It is difficult to calculate how many revenue-boosting initiatives that the Ukrainian Railways joint-stock company (JSC Ukrzaliznytsia) has announced this this year. This time, Ukrzaliznytsia is considering transporting mail. The idea is to attach modernized flatcars on passenger bogies to some passenger trains. The principle is the same as in car transporters, only these flatcars will carry containers containing mail. According to Ukrzaliznytsia, this should have a positive effect on the speed and timeliness of mail delivery without affecting the quality and speed of passenger transportation.
"The sender wants to be sure that a container that is loaded onto a flatcar in the evening will arrive at its destination at a specific time in the morning. Otherwise, it is more convenient for the sender to use road transport. Therefore, we are now considering upgrading the existing flatcars and attaching them to passenger trains (just like flatcars carrying cars),” JSC Ukrzaliznytsia’s Operating Director Viacheslav Yeremin said.
According to Ukrzaliznytsia’s management, postal operators are interested in this service primarily because their customers will always be able to receive their cargoes on time, regardless of the weather and the other factors that affect transportation by road. For this project, Ukrzaliznytsia wants to choose exactly those areas that have problems with roads. The idea is still under development, and is only just being discussed with postal operators. Nevertheless, Yeremin said, “We will soon be able to offer quality and reliable transportation to businesses.”
The CFTS asked postal operators whether they were really interested in this new service and whether they were already negotiating with Ukrzaliznytsia.
A couple of years ago, the Ukrposhta postal company’s First Deputy Director General Oleksandr Pertsovskyi told the CFTS, "Currently, it is simply unprofitable to transport mail by rail. All calculations confirm this." For this reason, the company transports mail by road.
Commenting on Ukrzaliznytsia’s latest initiative, Ukrposhta noted that it historically used the railway as its main mode of transportation. However, the company completed the transition to mail transportation by road in 2001 because it wanted to speed up mail delivery throughout the country and introduce delivery schedules that are more flexible.
"Currently, transportation of mail by road is optimal in most areas of Ukraine in terms of price and speed. However, it may be advisable to use Ukrzaliznytsia’s services during peak periods and bad weather in the areas with the most problematic road conditions. Ukrposhta’s sorting facilities are located near railway junctions, so we are open to such proposals," Pertsovskyi said in comments to the CFTS.
However, according to him, it is important for the tariff to be attractive and for a simple process for loading/unloading postal containers to be introduced. It is also important for the timetables to be in line with the requirements of logistics operators. As a rule, this involves transportation of mail at night to ensure that it reaches its destinations early in the morning.
The In Time postal company said that the Ukrzaliznytsia project could be potentially interesting in certain areas and types of delivery but only if the price and time of delivery are competitive compared with mail transportation by road.
Speaking of deadlines, the company cited the Kyiv – Mukacheve route as an example. "The delivery time should not be longer than 10-12 hours," the company’s General Director Serhii Hrachev said.
According to Hrachev, the company is not currently holding talks with Ukrzaliznytsia.
The Meest Express company is also not negotiating with Ukrzaliznytsia, at least for now. Ukrzaliznytsia made the relevant proposal to the company about two years ago.
"We have not received any proposals this time. Therefore, we cannot comment on whether we are interested in it. When we receive a proposal, we will definitely consider it," the company said.
The Nova Poshta postal company declined to comment.
Freight operators on the market also note that this could potentially be a good product specifically for mail, that is, for parcels, packages, and groupage cargoes. “The passenger train has a timetable and a set travel time. If the goods in a container can travel 500-700 kilometers in 8 hours, then this is a good and competitive product (if a container is loaded in Odesa in the evening and it reaches Kyiv in the morning),” said Oleksandr Tkachuk, the head of the Kvadro Center company. However, he agreed with postal operators that the cost of transporting cargo in such a fast way remains an open question. In addition, according to him, "the container loading/unloading infrastructure, which does not exist in Ukraine, is in question!"
The Levada Cargo company also believes that this is a project for mail but not for bulk cargoes because shunting operations will "kill the entire economy in minus.”
To summarize, we can say that the project will be of interest to postal operators under certain conditions if Ukrzaliznytsia can manage the delivery times, including loading/unloading, and offer a tariff that is acceptable to operators.