Comfortable rail transport: not only passengers will benefit
Alexander Krasnoshtan, Transport industry expert
Motion is life. At the same time, this expression is valid not only for the individual - it is also true for society: society develops only through movement, rapprochement, communication.
Without properly organized passenger transportation within the country, it is useless to talk about balanced economic development of the regions, the strengthening of interregional economic and socio-cultural cooperation. Without this, you can forget about domestic tourism. Especially for children's health tourism - because it is difficult to imagine the transportation of a group of children from, e.g. Mariupol to Lviv on a bus tour - it is more than one and a half thousand kilometers and more than 24 hoours in on the way.
As we see, the governments of all developed countries are investing huge amounts in the development of the high-speed rail network. The same is true for countries that are showing intensive development and want to become developed in the long run. And if we want to see Ukraine as a developed and prosperous country, our government has no alternative then to invest taxpayers' money from the state budget in the development of passenger rail transport.
We often hear the question: can private business invest in the development of passenger transport? And here follows an unequivocal answer - no! After all, the only and main goal of any business is to make a profit. In turn, passenger rail transport is unprofitable in almost all countries of the world. They are deeply unprofitable in Ukraine as well - after all, the tariff paid by the passenger covers less than half of the transportation costs. Accordingly, there is no alternative to public investment for their development.
In fact, for the operator, including Ukrzaliznytsia, passenger transportation is a loss-making business. Thus, in 2019, UZ's losses from passenger traffic exceeded UAH 12 billion, and the state currently does not compensate for these losses. The railway covers these costs at the expense of freight profits. But this is not a panacea, but rather a pernicious practice: these funds are used to cover costs, instead of being directed to the renewal and development of means of production - especially infrastructure and locomotives. This is partly the reason for the virtually complete lack of development and renewal of fixed assets of the railway.
At present, passenger traffic in Ukraine is in the process of degradation. If in 2015-2019 the passenger flow, albeit slightly, but increased (this was achieved through more efficient operation of existing passenger cars), then from 2020 there is a reverse trend. This is due to the reduction in the number of passengers suitable for carriage, so UZ will no longer be able to maintain the level of traffic, and it will decrease. If decisive measures are not taken immediately, in 3… 4 years no more than 1,200 of today's 2,900 passenger cars will remain. As a result, long-distance traffic will be reduced from the current 55 million passengers a year to 20 million passengers. In other words, 2/3 of the traffic will be lost. In suburban communication, the situation is even worse.
The need for today in the renewal of passenger rolling stock UZ for the coming years is:
- passenger wagons - 3000 units. These are 200 trains that will replace the rolling stock in the existing areas, which is subject to excluding from operational fleet. Moreover, there is a need to strengthen passenger traffic in many regions, in particular Zhytomyr, Sumy, Chernihiv, Cherkasy, Chernivtsi. Connection with Donbass remains very important. It is necessary to organize the trains operation that will connect remote regions of our country.
- high-speed trains - 30 units. Even today there is a need to increase the frequency of communication on existing routes from Kiev to Konstantinovka, Kharkov, Lviv, Dnipro, Kryvyi Rig and Zaporizhzhya. There are also many perspective areas for the development of high-speed traffic: Cherkasy, Mykolayiv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Sumy (after the completion of electrification), Rivne, Lutsk and other areas.
- suburban electric and diesel trains - 1000 units. Their use is especially relevant in the suburban area of large cities: Kyiv, Kharkiv, Dnipro, Zaporizhzhya, Lviv, as well as other large cities.
Ensuring the purchase of such a number of rolling stock with the correct organization of its operation would allow to carry at least 130 million passengers a year in long-distance communication, and in suburban - at least 200 million passengers.
Why is investing in the development of rolling stock benificial for the state and what will the citizens and the state get as a result? Let's find out!
First of all, it is necessary to take into account the fact that the allocated budget funds will be used to purchase the means of production. With their help, the railway will provide a service, which is an added cost and the corresponding taxes. Funds invested from the budget for the purchase of a passenger car will be returned to the budget in the form of taxes on services provided by this car for 7 years. In the following years (the service life of the passenger car is at least 28 years), the budget will receive funds from this, 3 times the amount of investment. That is, we are talking about a pure kind of public investment. It is public investment that creates a reliable source of budget replenishment plus comfortable conditions for citizens to travel. Obviously, for this reason the current Law "On Railway Transport" provides for the use of state budget funds for the purchase of passenger cars. Article 10 of this law contains such a direct rule.
The next important point is the formation of the internal market. After all, the cost of purchasing the necessary passenger rolling stock is estimated at 14… 15 billion dollars - a very significant amount. It will provide stable orders for the car building industry for the next 10 years. Moreover, it will enable the industry to engage in its own innovative development, which will allow it to plan a systemic expansion into world rolling stock markets.
A very important aspect is job creation. Thus, at least 5,000 new jobs will be created directly in production to secure such orders (if the program is designed for 10 years). But that's not all! Jobs will be created and in operation - and this is at least 35,000 jobs. After all, each passenger car is 5 jobs, a high-speed train is 50, and a commuter train is 20 jobs.
It is equally important to mention import substitution. Today Ukraine has the opportunity to produce passenger rolling stock with a level of localization of at least 80%. But here, as in the case of job creation, we need to remember about import substitution in operation, because spare parts, materials and electricity for traction are produced in Ukraine. If the same number of people will be transported by road (rolling stock, spare parts and fuel mainly imported), the import of spare parts and materials will need to spend $ 600 million a year. In this case, the money will actually be withdrawn from the economic.
We should not forget about the energy balance. A lot of material has already been written about the fact that in Ukraine there is a difficult situation with a surplus of electricity generation. More than 90% of passenger traffic is carried out using electric traction. That is, the implementation of the program for the development of passenger traffic will increase electricity consumption by at least 1 billion kilowatt-hours. This will have a very positive effect on the country's energy balance.
Of course, ecology will benefit from the development of passenger rail transport.
But most importantly - people will win. Citizens will be able to travel comfortably and quickly across the country. Territories will receive a new impetus. The regions that have a well-developed communication also have the best indicators of economic development. Conversely, regions in "transport isolation", even with strong potential, often cannot realize it. A very good example is the Chernivtsi region: until the issue of fast and comfortable communication of the region with the capital and other regions is resolved, there can be no question of any intensive development of tourism in the region.
The development of suburban communication is in fact the only chance for megacities to get rid of "traffic jams" at the entrances to the city. In particular, without the systematic development of suburban rail transport, the problem of reducing transport problems in Kiev has no solution.
What will happen if the government does not intervene and the degradation of the passenger rail system continues? Of course, people will travel - this markret will be occupied by road transport. At the same time will do it with some pleasure, because it is a good piece of the market. Legal and illegal carriers, Bla-Bla-Car, Uber and other services will all benefit. But the country as a whole will be more reminiscent of sub-Saharan Africa in terms of transport security. more and more often we will receive news about terrible accidents involving buses and dozens of victims, we will periodically hear about situations similar to what happened recently in Brovary. Residents of megacities and their suburbs will continue to spend hundreds of hours of their lives each year in traffic jams at the entrances to cities. And people who have economic potential, but do not want to spend part of their time in wheeled barns called "minibuses", will simply leave and take their potential to those countries where the government cares about the comfort and safety of its citizens.