On Monday, July 20, 2020, many media outlets published the news that several freight cars derailed in the Dnipropetrovsk region. The cause of the accident was a freight car of 1987 year of manufacture, which literally fell to pieces on the move. As a result of the crash, neighboring rail cars, as well as the locomotive of the oncoming freight train, were damaged. Just by a fortunate coincidence, it was not a passenger train that was moving towards it!

The above incident revealed a real abscess that had been festering the country for several years. It is essential to immediately take a decision on the step-by-step decommissioning of expired rail cars before the problem becomes global.

Let’s analyze the existing facts.

Today in Ukraine there is a critical degree of wear and tear of freight cars running along the railways of Ukraine: more than 90 thousand cars, or over 40% of the country’s car fleet, have already exhausted the service life limits and have the status of rail cars with extended periods beyond the standard. Like the rail car, which fell apart, a universal gondola car, which is already 33 years old, with a standard service life of 22 years.

According to the MICC of JSC “Ukrzaliznytsia”, the rail car that fell to pieces on the move underwent routine maintenance on January 23, 2020, and only for the period from June 13 to July 9, that is, within a month, this car was sent to the depot THREE TIMES, where it was undergoing maintenance. What is interesting, the car came in precisely because of the violation of the integrity of the railcar’s walls, and, judging by the photo from the site of the crash, where the thoroughly rusted side walls are clearly visible, and in some places even with gaping holes, one can assert that the maintenance has been rather provisional.

In addition, this rail car is just one of those 18,000 units decommissioned in the Russian Federation and brought to Ukraine in recent years. Let me remind you that in Russia, as in most CIS countries though, it is forbidden to extend the service life of a rail car. After the expiration of its service life, and often even earlier, the rail car is simply cut into scrap. Such a car does not have the right to run on the railway of the Russian Federation, but here in Ukraine, it is welcome.

These facts confirm the extremely acute phase of the chronic disease of Ukrainian railroad transportation. The obsolete car fleet in Ukraine has been formed thus far not even because of its weak renewal, but because of the uncontrolled increase due to the import of cars decommissioned in the Russian Federation! And I would like to dwell on this in particular.

Today, rail car manufacturers, together with representatives of JSC “Ukrzaliznytsia”, the Ministry of Infrastructure, the deputy corps, the Federation of Employers of Ukraine, have developed a whole range of solutions that will radically change the situation on the freight market, which will directly have a positive impact, including on the safety of transportation within the country,  –  but they can all remain on paper, as there is active opposition.

The enterprises-members of the Federation of Employers of Ukraine initiated the development of a national state program for the development of rail car manufacturing, and representatives of JSC “Ukrzaliznytsia” reacted by offering the “State program for renewing the fleet of freight cars for 2021-2025” for discussion, which contains step-by-step decommissioning of freight cars with extended service life, attracting financing from state banks on a preferential basis for the purchase of new domestic cars and a number of other issues. In general, the program is designed for 5 years and is aimed at updating the fleet of freight cars, reducing the average wear and, respectively, the age of rail cars.

However, both with the above program and with absolutely correct for the industry and the country’s economy other protective initiatives, such as the ban on the import of decommissioned rail cars from the Russian Federation and the restriction of their operation in the “lease” mode, some major participants of the freight market are openly fighting. A striking last example – contrary to the current convention ban, 539 old freight cars were imported to Ukraine from the Russian Federation. At the same time, at least 20,000 Ukrainian freight cars are currently idle.

As you can see, using the schemes and imperfection of legislation, a number of companies, instead of operating these rail cars when transporting goods, continue to lobby for the import of rail cars decommissioned in the Russian Federation and defend the possibility of uncontrolled leasing of rail cars from Russian companies in order to operate them instead of Ukrainian ones.

As a result, the currency is washed out of the country, the beneficiaries of these operations are the citizens of Russia, while the tax base in Ukraine is shrinking. It is obvious that the problem of the obsolete car fleet in Ukraine has ceased to be an industry problem. Today, it poses a real threat to people’s lives, and in fact is a vivid example of de facto sabotage actions in relation to the reform of the Ukrainian railway as a whole.

Alona Lebedieva, owner of Aurum Group