Rail could be solution to long queues of trucks on border between Poland and Belarus
Several hundreds of trucks have been accumulated on the Polish-Belarusian border. This is a result of closing the Kuźnica-Bruzgi road checkpoint. More and more trucks are arriving at the Bobrowniki-Berastavitsa border crossing, the nearest alternative way in around 50 kilometres southward. Meanwhile, the freight trains are running stable without any delays and moving more containers to Europe.
The Kuźnica-Bruzgi road border crossing and the nearby areas became the epicentre of the migrant crisis that has been taking place on the border between Poland and Belarus since summer. As the Belarusian disputed president stimulates the flow of immigrants from Iraq and Syria to the European Union, more and more people continue to arrive in Belarus. The local authorities provide a green corridor to them from the capital city of Minsk directly to the border. According to Poland’s Border Guard, several thousands of refugees, mainly Kurds from Iraq, camped not far from the mentioned border crossing.
After numerous attempts to break the border fence, Poland was forced to close the road border checkpoint starting from the early morning of 9 November. “Due to the situation on the Polish-Belarusian border, from 07:00 on 9 November of this year, the border traffic at the road border crossing in Kuźnica will be suspended until further notice. Travellers should drive to the border crossing in Terespol and Bobrowniki,” the Polish authorities announced. Since the Bobrowniki-Berastavitsa border crossing is located closer to Kuźnica than that in Terespol, most of the truckers redirected their vehicles to Bobrowniki.
Longer and longer queues
Starting from 9 November, media from both countries began to report on huge queues of trucks on the border. As a result, there have been set several records during the week. On 10 November, there were more than 1,200 trucks from the Polish side idling to enter Belarus. The waiting time doubled from around 40 to over 80 hours. A similar situation is on the Belarusian side. The local media informed about the very same numbers and the 26-kilometre-long queues of trucks.
It is unclear when the situation will be normalised. Meanwhile, the logistics companies are losing their money. According to the Russian division of FM Logistic, one day of a truck staying idle costs 500 euro. Some companies are considering the options to use other routes, via Latvia or Ukraine. The first alternative is more expensive due to a longer distance while the second one is mostly closed due to the Ukrainian sanctions on Russian goods. Even this option is available, it also costs much more. Consequently, the road freight companies have no choice, just wait.
Growing rail freight
Rail could be a possible solution for this stalemate as there is no delay in freight traffic on tracks. It is even quite opposite: the railway companies of Russia, Belarus and Poland have reported the growing volumes of containers running to the European Union despite the migrant crisis. Thus, Belarusian Railway transported 1 million TEU by mid-October. In 2020 it set this result only in late December.
The basis for the increase is secured by the transit traffic from China to Europe. Russian Railways (RZD) increased the transit container traffic in ten months of the current year by almost 40 per cent, up to 889,000 TEU, compared to 637,000 TEU in the same period of the previous year. Most of these boxes run via Poland. The numbers could be much higher if the logistics providers shift their goods from trucks to tracks. To do this, the railway undertakings should invest more in developing intermodal terminals on both sides of the Polish-Belarusian border.