The desire is understandable, but the goal is completely unrealistic. This is about the advance launched last week by the All-Ukrainian Agrarian Council (BAP), to extend the broad-gauge rail track from the Ukrainian border, across Poland, to the port of Gdansk on the Baltic Sea. An understandable move, since sea transports of Ukrainian wheat and other mass products across the Black Sea and the Bosporus Strait, risk being attacked by Russian military vessels or rockets. Hence, exports of agricultural goods via one of the Polish ports would be a safer option.
The problem is that, in Poland, as in most EU countries, the standard rail track gauge has a width of 1435 mm, whereas the 22,300 km Ukrainian rail network was built in line with the Russian
broad gauge model of 1520 mm. As a result, all freight trains running from east to west and vice versa, must be regauged at EU border crossings or have to reload their goods. This procedure
considerably delays rail transports. Even if the desire of Ukrainian agricultural producers is understandable for economic reasons, the BAP advance to extend the broad-gauge routes across Poland
and into the Baltic States is futile.
Warsaw opposes any broad-gauge plans…
Particularly Poland has voiced maximum criticism of Russia's war on Ukraine. Meanwhile, the government has begun training civilians to use weapons, so that, in the event of an expansion of the war, volunteer units can be deployed alongside the regular army to stop any invader. In view of this bellicose situation, Poland will not permit any broad-gauge expansion. It ups the military risk considerably because Russian troops could quickly enter Poland and penetrate large parts of the country, without being stopped at borders by different rail track gauges.
… so does the EU
The BAP proposal also contradicts a resolution of the EU Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB) for better rail connectivity in Europe. To this end, they have submitted a pre-feasibility study with the aim of better interlinking the railway networks of Ukraine and Moldova, and connecting them to the existing large-scale Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). In concrete terms, this means that a completely new rail network with the European standard gauge of 1,435 mm would have to be built in the two countries mentioned or - alternatively - the existing tracks would have to be gradually upgraded step by step, based on European guidelines.
Kosice - and no further
The BAP initiative is already the second attempt to expand broad gauge tracks beyond the existing network. The previous scheme aimed at extending the tracks from Kosice in Slovakia, their current end, to 370 km distant Vienna in Austria. To realize this infrastructural plan, a consortium had already been formed consisting of the state rail companies of Slovakia, Russia, Ukraine, and the Austrian infrastructure company, ÖBB. However, the financing of the infrastructure measure remained unclear. Then came Russia's attack on Ukraine and with it the end of that project.
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