On June 21, 2022, the second edition of the “Railway Border Crossings” conference was held. The event was initiated by the Polish ProKolej Foundation, which works to strengthen the capabilities and public perception of the rail transport sector. The conference discussions focused on railway border crossings in Europe and beyond. Irena Topalova, Head of the China-EU Rail Division at AsstrA-Associated Traffic AG, relates her key takeways from these discussions as well as how she sees the current situation faced by owners of transportation and logistics companies.
In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, key logistics providers and small transport companies are actively searching for alternative rail transport routes bypassing Russia. The Northern Corridor has taken years to develop, and finding alternatives in the coming years will not be an easy task.
“Transport capabilities via the Trans-Caspian (Middle) Corridor continue to grow. The multimodal route, including rail and sea transport, has become an alternative to the main route through Russia and Belarus. However, the corridor is still not suitable for the transportation of large volumes of goods. Since the beginning of March, container traffic through the Trans-Caspian Corridor has increased by nearly 30% compared to the same period last year,” emphasizes Irena Topalova.
In response to growing interest in the Middle Corridor, on March 31 Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Türkiye signed a joint declaration on improving transportation potential. There are plans to expand and modernize the railway line between Baku, Tbilisi, and the Türkish city of Kars.
“As a result of the blockade of Ukrainian ports, Poland has become an important partner to Ukraine in both the export of agricultural and industrial products as well as the transportation of vital humanitarian aid from abroad. Poland's infrastructure makes it possible to transport much larger volumes compared to how much is actually being transported today. Unfortunately there are difficulties with border capacity and the availability of empty wagons for transshipment,” adds Irena Topalova.
The modernization of the Rail Baltica railway line was also discussed at the conference. The line is part of the Trans-European Transport Corridor, which in the future will connect Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Finland. The reconstruction of Rail Baltica is one of the most important railway investments in Europe. It will shorten travel time for both passenger and freight trains.
“Times are changing and with them the needs of our customers. Nowadays, transport companies’ priority is to stay flexible so as to create or find non-traditional routes for the delivery of goods. We focus on offering the maximum possible amount of available and safe transportation options based on each customer’s unique requirements,” concludes Irena Topalova.
Author: Kamila Rynkiewicz.