Five instead of one: new border crossings between Poland and Belarus are required to speed up China-EU rail freight

2021/07/21 at 8:11 AM

To launch more trains between China and the European Union, there should be opened much more railway border crossings between Belarus and Poland. Currently, the Brest-Terespol checkpoint serves as a key facility for processing the container trains on the New Silk Road. However, there could be much more border crossings, up to five, to accelerate this rail freight traffic.

Despite the political tensions between Belarus and the European Union, forwarders and shippers involved in container transport via the New Silk Road are still interested in moving boxes via Belarus. Around 100 container trains from China to Europe run via the mentioned country weekly. The vast majority of them are transhipped at the Brest/Terespol border crossing. For the further development of the China-EU rail freight traffic, more checkpoints are needed on the border between Poland and Belarus. Where could they be opened?

In favour but without containers

Over two years ago Belarusian Railway and PKP PLK, the Polish rail infrastructure manager, initiated the revitalisation of the Visoko-Litovsk/Czeremcha railway crossing that has been abandoned since 2011. The facility is located around 50 kilometres northwest from Brest. Both parties intend to use this checkpoint for handling wagons with bulk. This will allow decongesting the Brest/Terespol checkpoint and using it only for operations with containers. It is worth noting that similar practice is currently at the road border crossings in the vicinity of Brest. Particularly, the Brest road checkpoint, which is located closer to the city, is dedicated to personal cars and buses while the Kozlovichi point handles only trucks.

Visoko-Litovsk Czeremcha railway crossing on the border between Poland and Belarus, source: Michał Markiewicz / Ogólnopolska Baza Kolejowa

The Visoko-Litovsk/Czeremcha railway border crossing has tracks with both gauges, 1,435 and 1,520 millimetres. At the same time, the facility lacks efficient cranes to move containers between the trains. In early 2019 this issue was discussed at the joint meetings of Belarusian Railway and PKP PLK. The parties even agreed to launch the railway checkpoint by the end of the mentioned year. However, this intention did not come true. As of today, the future of the Visoko-Litovsk/Czeremcha is unclear due to the lack of dialogue between both railway companies.

Direct link to Białystok

Another potential railway border crossing could be open in around 70 kilometres southwards from Grodno. It is the abandoned Zubki Białostockie-Bierestowica checkpoint, which is located on the Białystok – Zubki Białostockie single-track non-electrified line. Before the Soviet Union collapsed, the railway was actively used for transporting freight to Poland and Eastern Germany. Afterwards, the freight traffic was suspended. The passenger trains have been running until the 2000s. In 2010 the railway was partially dismantled on the Polish side, namely on the section between Waliły Las and the state border.

Abandoned Zubki Białostockie-Bierestowica railway border crossing, source: Wikimedia Commons

The situation started to gradually change in recent years. In summer 2016 the passenger trains returned on the survived section of the Białystok – Zubki Białostockie line, namely on the stretch between Białystok and Waliły. They run on the route seasonally, during summers. As for cross-border freight traffic, it could be also relaunched but this requires some infrastructure investments to restore over 8 kilometres of tracks between Waliły Las and the state border. This will allow freight forwarders to secure a new direct link to Białystok and thence to Warsaw, the Tri-City ports and throughout Poland.

Successful developments

Some success has been already achieved in terms of the development of the railway border crossings between Poland and Belarus. This is about the Bruzgi/Kuznica and Svisloch/Siemianówka points, which are located in the Grodno region. Around 10 years ago, Belarusian Railway together with the Russian and Polish partners began to adopt these checkpoints for processing container trains from China to Europe. In July 2012 Belarusian Railway together PCC Intermodal and DB Schenker Rail Polska (now DB Cargo Polska) organised the test rail shipment of the containers from the Moscow region in Russia to the Kutno intermodal terminal in Poland via the Bruzgi/Kuznica checkpoint.

Chinese locomotive BKG-1 hauls container train in Belarus, source: Timoshenkov007 / trainpix.org

A few years ago, in 2017-2018, the border crossings appeared on the Chinese maps of the important points. Currently, both checkpoints are being used for cross-border operations at more than half of their capacity: the Bruzgi/Kuznica crossing has 41.5 per cent of free capacity while the Svisloch/Siemianówka point has 45 per cent of free capacity. Therefore, Belarusian Railway once again called freight forwarders to move containers via this location.

Are you interested to know more about the railway border crossings on the border between Poland and Belarus? IntermodalNews.pl, the Polish-speaking sister title of IntermodalNews.eu, in a partnership with the ProKolej Foundation will carry out a dedicated event to take place on 20-22 October in Małaszewicze, Janów Podlaski and Terespol.

You can register by following the link

More information is also available via the e-mail: malaszewicze@kolej365.pl

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