Plan B for Ukrzaliznytsia: diesel and… steam locomotives?
In order to keep the operation of Ukrainian trains, when most of the energy infrastructure is destroyed, Ukrzaliznytsia is placing reserve diesel locomotives on de-energized sections of the railway. It is reported by Railway Supply magazine with reference to RailTech.
Nearly 30-40% of Ukraine’s energy system has been destroyed in recent Russian missile and drone attacks, President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a meeting with European Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson last week. Therefore, an alternative to electric trains should be ready as a reserve. “When the Russians shell our energy infrastructure, we switch to diesel locomotives and continue to work,” Alexander Kamyshin, head of Ukrzaliznytsia, tweeted.
On October 28, Ukrzaliznytsia introduced a new train schedule with 14 new services, including 4 international trains to Chisinau in Moldova (for the first time since 1998), Przemysl and Chelm in Poland, and Vienna, the capital of Austria. When publishing the updated timetable, UZ noted that the number of cars on 17 operating trains has been doubled at stations with the highest passenger traffic. This allows more efficient use of the locomotive fleet and reduces the consumption of electricity for traction, and also saves 25,000 kWh per day.
With much of the energy infrastructure damaged, rail stations are also facing power outages. Therefore, at the end of October, UZ received 35 generators for the smooth operation of Ukrainian railway stations from the Ukrainian Red Cross. These generators will make the stations independent of possible enemy attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure. Points will be installed at the stations where people can drink tea, coffee and warm up. The total cost of humanitarian aid is about 300 thousand euros.
Earlier last month, Ukrzaliznytsia also received 154 water heaters from the Ukrainian Red Cross, which were distributed to 79 stations. They provide a continuous supply of hot water to rest rooms, rooms for passengers with children and other areas of the station, which is especially critical in the approaching winter period.
In some cases, a damaged contact network also causes problems. On November 3, Ukrzaliznytsia resumed rail links with Kupyansk, a city in the Kharkiv region on the border with Lugansk, which was liberated at the end of September. The restoration of the section was completed just a day before the restart of the communication. “We restored the two sections of the track that were attacked and eliminated a total of 49 damages, with the restoration of more than 70 kilometers of the contact network,” Kamyshin said the day before the restart. The restoration of the blown up railway bridge on the route will take longer, but Ukrzaliznytsia has already opened a route covering 95 percent of the way by train, and the last kilometers from Osinovo to Kupyansk on free buses.
Ukrzaliznytsia is doing everything to keep trains running regardless of the circumstances. UZ has recently resumed the competition between depots for the repair of locomotives, including electric locomotives that can still run. “I like it, because this is how we get the best results, and the depots exchange experience. We must take good care of our old fleet until we get a new one,” Kamyshin said.
The head of Ukrzaliznytsia revealed on Twitter that he recently spent 5 out of 7 nights on the train, saying it was “the best way to check the level of service on the spot.” On Sunday, Kamyshin posted a video of a steam locomotive in motion, saying he was “checking Plan B for diesel locomotives today.” The question is to what extent steam locomotives can really be used for regular rail traffic, since they run on a small narrow gauge railway of which only a few sections remain. Kamyshin even jokingly shared a unique recipe for railway scrambled eggs: “The recipe is simple: they fry eggs in lard on a shovel in a locomotive furnace.”
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