Thousands of tons of iron ore from rich deposits in eastern Ukraine are transported daily along the broad-gauge line (ŠRT) in the east of Slovakia. The line ends in Haniska near Košice - here the ore is processed into iron and steel. Less well known are the transports that take place on this line with other commodities - and are served by the only carrier on this line, ZSSK CARGO.
The broad-gauge line, which runs from the Ukrainian border to Haniska near Košice, was built so that the cargo of iron ore would not have to be transferred from broad gauge to European gauge before unloading it at the steel mill in Košice. After eight kilometers on Ukrainian soil, the single-track line winds 90 km from the Uzhhorod / Maťovce border crossing along the standard gauge line from Veľké Kapušany, past Vojany and Trebišov. Later, it runs parallel to the standard gauge line, leading from the Čierna nad Tisou border crossing, to overcome the rise and fall through the Slanské hills and end up in Haniska pri Košiciach, in the immediate vicinity of the local steel mill. The broad-gauge line has five transport and two handling tracks here.
The dominance of the 4,500 tonnes trains
The track was completed after a year of construction in 1966 and was also electrified in 1978. And although freight trains run here at a maximum speed of only 50-60 km/h, they can have a total weight of up to 4,500 tons. In the past, pusher locomotives were deployed from the Trebišov junction to the Slančík junction, which is located at the top of the 17 ‰ ascent over Slanské pass. Today, trains with Ukrainian wagons are arranged in such a way that two pairs of ZSSK CARGO Class 125.8 locomotives are arranged at the front of the train and one pusher pair at the end of these trains along the entire length of the route.
Not only iron ore but also grains and fuel
Slovakia's eastern border is the largest dry port in the country, where a lot of goods are transferred and continue to the west and east. This year, fuel is also intensively transhipped in Eastern Slovakian transshipment yards and on private sidings. Ukraine used to import most of its fuel from Russia and Belarus, but after cutting off these suppliers, it is up to producers in Central and Eastern Europe to ensure enough fuel for this hard-pressed country.
However, the broad-gauge line itself is not only used for transporting iron ore. Most recently, trains loaded with corn and cereals, whose exports are a challenge for the entire logistics industry due to the freezing of exports from Ukrainian Black Sea ports, were also guided along it. The container transport terminal in Dobrá near Čierna nad Tisou was also used for this, as there is also a broad-gauge and a regular track. Ukrainian wagons loaded with grain can be docked there and loaded directly into standard gauge wagons. However, other than unit trains also appear on the broad-gauge line itself. ZSSK CARGO also operates lesser-known local trains here.
Freight terminals on the broad-gauge line
There are also several freight terminals along the broad-gauge line, where goods of various types are transhipped.
The first of them is the transshipment terminal of the company PREMAKO, located close to the Ukrainian border in Velké Kapušany. Up to 1,350,000 tons of goods can be transferred here annually thanks to gantry and bridge cranes, forklifts and a reachstacker. Commodities are, as usual, dry bulk, but also metallurgical products, wood and wood chips, paper, palletized goods and goods placed in big bags. Transshipment of containers up to a gross weight of 18 tons is also possible. During the intensification of iron ore transports for the pre-stocking of metallurgical enterprises, iron ore is also piled here this year, and the terminal thus serves as an intermediate warehouse.
A little further west, there is a siding leading from the broad-gauge line to the power plant in Vojany. It used to be intensively supplied with coal through the broad-gauge line, but today these volumes have ceased to exist. However, there are still wagons loaded with briquettes and pellets shunted here, and there is a great potential for the possible energy recovery of waste in the local power plant, the logistics of which, of course, should include the railway.
In Trebišov there is a Tatravagónka siding on the broad-gauge line, but less well known are the handling tracks leading to the Preterm freight terminal, just east of the station. This terminal currently handles two commodities in particular: open wagons of Ukrzaliznitsya (Ukrainian Railways) are loaded here with hardwood, which is used to make furniture in Ukrainian enterprises. At the same time, the gases required for heating are intensively reloaded here. The direction of these commodities has turned and they no longer flow from the east and north, but from the west. Ukrainian households need these substances for heating and cooking, and businesses for their energy needs. It is pumped here not only from standard-gauge wagons, but also from tank trucks, and since the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine, it is vibrant with activity here. Up to 26 wagons can fit on the siding, and in addition to the aforementioned commodities, products from the chemical or food industry are also transhipped here.
The most famous freight terminal located on the broad-gauge line is Interport at the end station in Haniska pri Košiciach. Unit trains with corn for transshipment are also headed here. Similar to Veľké Kapušany, mainly dry bulk, packed also in big-bags, iron products, but also other commodities go here. There is also a container terminal for transshipment between the two gauges using a gantry crane and a reachstacker.
Local Trains Operated by ZSSK CARGO
Strengthening ties to Ukraine also means a growing demand for transportation. Commodity types grow from the one-way flow of iron ore. And not only in unit grain trains from Ukraine and fuel to Ukraine. There are also groups of wagons. ZSSK CARGO takes care of servicing the aforementioned cargo terminals and the shunting of freight wagons. Ageing diesel broad gauge locomotives of the Class 770.8 and 771.8 regularly appear on trains serving all four freight transshipment terminals. And although they have been in service for more than half a century, they can still handle a greater load and load than is the case today. They help intensify goods flows and facilitate smoother border crossings where trucks have to wait hours or days. The locomotives are used not only for shunting at stations and terminals but also in mainline service between Haniska pri Košiciach and Veľké Kapušany. The local trains, wedged between the iron ore shipments, serve all four loading and unloading points on the broad-gauge line.
For your inquiries about the possibilities of your transports using the broad-gauge line in Slovakia and its freight terminals, please contact the sales manager for the Košice region, Renáta Ihnatová, at tel. +421 903 721 626, or by email at email@example.com.
Photo: Nikolaj Šeršeň, Viktor Šesták