Deutsche Bahn has pledged long-term assistance and support to Ukrzaliznytsia (UZ), Ukraine's state-owned rail company. The CEOs of the two companies – Dr. Richard Lutz from DB and Oleksandr Kamyshin from UZ – met in Berlin today to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in which they agreed to deepen their partnership. The agreement will ensure that UZ receives assistance with rebuilding the Ukrainian rail system. It also covers collaboration to expand rail freight corridors and terminal capacity, as well as extensive consulting services for the introduction of European standards for rail operations and management.
DB CEO Dr. Richard Lutz said: "We have the utmost respect for how unwavering and courageous our Ukrainian colleagues have been in doing their jobs under wartime conditions. For millions of people, rail is the only means of transportation; for the economy, it is the most important lifeline. A functioning rail system will be essential as Ukraine rebuilds. DB and the entire European rail family are keenly aware of this fact, and we stand in firm support of our colleagues in Ukraine. It is both an honor and our duty to partner with UZ on its pathway to a bright future."
Oleksandr Kamyshin, CEO of Ukrzaliznytsia, said: "In fostering independence from Russia's harmful influence, reorienting the European rail system to new opportunities needs to be the priority. I am confident that a partnership between DB and Ukrzaliznytsia can offer major benefits to both sides in expanding freight transport and grain exports to Europe. There is no doubt that DB is an expert in this area. I am confident that our partnership can bring forth valuable results. Powerful synergies can be drawn from DB's professionalism and follow-through, coupled with UZ's courage and motivation, and these synergies can offer Europe and Europeans new resilience and more options for shifting traffic to rail. I would like thank Dr. Lutz and DB's employees for supporting Ukraine."
Dr. Volker Wissing, German Federal Minister for Digital and Transport, said: "I have been deeply moved by the incredible courage and perseverance which rail employees in Ukraine have shown in transporting countless people to safety and keeping supply chains running in their country, in collaboration with colleagues throughout Europe. As far as I am concerned, Ukraine will continue to receive all the support we can offer. Long-term civilian partnerships like this one, which will strengthen the country during this crucial phase of the war and beyond, are an important factor in this regard."
DB and UZ began working together to modernize and reform Ukraine's rail system even before Russia began its war of aggression. The new partnership aims to improve rail freight transport in general and agricultural transport in particular. Experts from DB Cargo will help develop and upgrade freight corridors for transshipment between broad gauge and standard gauge.
It is already possible to access some major freight hubs in Ukraine's western rail network with European standard-gauge freight cars, and this greatly lowers transport times. The option of using Ukrainian hopper cars is being considered as a way to increase grain exports to the European Union, since these cars can hold much higher volumes of grain than containers can. DB Cargo's Polish and Romanian subsidiaries in particular are already using rail networks close to the border to transport large quantities of grain. This rail service offers a useful alternative to the sea route from Ukraine, since that route remains difficult to use.
DB will continue to assist UZ in establishing corporate structures, which, among other things, are a requirement if Ukraine is to receive financial assistance for rebuilding. DB also plans to provide UZ with spare parts, and it is assessing the option of providing freight cars, though they would need to be retrofitted to broad gauge, which would be a complex undertaking.
DB has already provided UZ with some 500,000 euros' worth of protective clothing. At the Vienna meeting of the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) in July, rail companies committed to providing emergency aid and called for sufficient funding for the Rebuild Ukraine plan.
With its 22,300 kilometers of track and some 250,000 employees, UZ is one of the most important rail companies in Eastern Europe.