• Could Ukraine Change to Standard Gauge?

  • Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of Canada and the United States.
Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of Canada and the United States.

Moderators: Komachi, David Benton

  by kato
The NYT article fails to mention that grain exports from Ukraine to all neighboring Eastern-European EU members (Poland, Slovakia, Hungaria, Romania, Bulgaria) are currently legally banned. This is since the massively increased Ukrainian exports were ruining the markets and filling up depots there - for example corn exports to these countries rose from a few thousand tons to several million tons annually after the war started. Transits to western European EU countries are still allowed and heavily used. For example shipping of Ukrainian grain on the Danube is at 3 million tons per month now, i.e. the equivalent of 40 freight trains per day.

The EU and Turkey currently account for close to 75% of Ukrainian grain exports combined, compared to 5% in the five years before the war. When considering long-term logistics infrastructure investment (i.e. regauging or building new lines) it should be kept in mind that postwar it is extremely likely that this proportion would swing the other way around again.
  by Gilbert B Norman
Mr. Kato, as The Journal reports, The War appears stalemated.

Fair Use:
BRUSSELS—When Ukraine launched its big counteroffensive this spring, Western military officials knew Kyiv didn’t have all the training or weapons—from shells to warplanes—that it needed to dislodge Russian forces. But they hoped Ukrainian courage and resourcefulness would carry the day.

They haven’t. Deep and deadly minefields, extensive fortifications and Russian air power have combined to largely block significant advances by Ukrainian troops. Instead, the campaign risks descending into a stalemate with the potential to burn through lives and equipment without a major shift in momentum.

As the likelihood of any large-scale breakthrough by the Ukrainians this year dims, it raises the unsettling prospect for Washington and its allies of a longer war—one that would require a huge new infusion of sophisticated armaments and more training to give Kyiv a chance at victory.

The political calculus for the Biden administration is complicated. President Biden is up for re-election in the fall of 2024 and many in Washington believe concerns in the White House about the war’s impact on the campaign are prompting growing caution on the amount of support to offer Kyiv.
The next battle in this conflict will be at the table. The Ukrainians will certainly want Joe to win next year, as Trump has stated "I'll have it over in 24 hours", or otherwise withdrawal of any US support.

I would think that a negotiated settlement will require Ukraine to give up their culturally Russian territory in the East, which will include possibly all Black Sea maritime ports other than Odesa. While the blockade Russia has imposed on shipping will be lifted, there is simply not capacity at Odesa to meet the humanitarian requirement needed to "feed the Third World" (or whatever the newspeak term for that is nowadays). So much of these agricultural products will have to move through European maritime ports.

Now as Mr. Kato notes, the EU could well impose restrictions on how much of these products can be sold within their jurisdiction, to physically move these agricultural products will require railroad transportation. The thought of having to transload at the Polish or former Yugoslavian borders from the 5ft Russian gauge to Standard gauge any appreciable volume is simply unthinkable. There is simply no alternative other than adoption of Standard gauge within Ukraine to reach these frontiers.

While I don't mean to sound like The Times' humanitarian concerned columnist Nicholas Kristof, my case presented here is rested. Regarding economic reasons, absent any negotiated settlement provisions prohibiting Ukraine from joining the EU (as distinct from NATO), compatibly gauged railroads will only enhance the attractiveness of Ukrainian manufactured goods on the world markets.
  by Gilbert B Norman
Additional reporting from The Times that The War is stalemated:

Fair Use:
A month of reporting by New York Times journalists found the fighting mostly stalemated and Ukraine facing an array of obstacles against a determined foe.
All told, I'm not Times columnist Nicholas Kristof (I often read his stuff that I promptly dismiss), but I can foresee a negotiated settlement to The War in which Russia will keep control of the captured Black Sea ports. Lest a famine in Africa be avoided, Ukranian agricultural products need reach a European maritime port - and that means "standard gauging" the Ukranian Railways to expediently get shipments to such.
  by Gilbert B Norman
Here is an article from The Times confirming Mr. Kato's report that several EU member countries have placed restrictions on the sale of Ukranian agriculture products, but are allowing the export of such through their ports:

Fair Use:
Since the start of the war, Ukraine has sent more than 20 million tons of grain to foreign markets through Romania and millions more by train through Poland, a inflow that infuriated East European farmers who said it drove down local prices. After protests in some E.U. countries, the bloc allowed Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia to ban domestic sales of Ukrainian wheat, corn, rapeseed and sunflower seeds, though it continued to allow the transit of those items for export elsewhere.
  by Greg
A photo and some videos crossing from Ukraine to Poland on a recent trip with truck changes, the equipment used and traversing the yard:
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  by Gilbert B Norman
Article in The Times today, that Overland transport of, non-EU Ukranian agricultural products brings out a host of, to me, "petty issues" that have no place regarding a neighboring sovereign state fighting for its survival - and keeping Vladimir The Great from becoming your new neighbor.

Fair Use:
In the past 19 months, Ukraine, with the cooperation of the European Union, has increased its overland grain exports, as well as shipments from its ports on the Danube River. But the effort has been complicated by resistance from farmers in neighboring countries who say that Ukrainian crops arriving by road and rail are undercutting domestic producers.

In the latest clash, the governments of Poland, Hungary and Slovakia said this week that they would defy a decision by Brussels to lift a temporary ban on Ukrainian grain imports. In response, Ukraine filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization against the three countries.