UHHRU concerned over consequences of railway cuts
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union has issued a statement expressing concern over the significant decrease in the number of train routes offered by Ukrainian Railways [Ukrzaliznytsa] and is asking the company’s management to reconsider.
UHHRU explains that 23 train routes are to be cut altogether, another 13 – reduced, while extra carriages for another 50 destinations will be removed.
This is no small matter in a country where railway transport is effectively the only means of reaching some places. UHHRU therefore considers that such cuts will be a serious impediment to people’s right to freedom of movement, and prevent people reaching public authorities. The statement lists just some of the places which would be totally cut off. Virtually any area in Ukraine can already be experiencing serious difficulties with the beginning of this reduction in train numbers.
UHHRU points out that a very significant number of people simply cannot afford other more expensive forms of transport. “Development of transport infrastructure must take into account the real level of income of the majority of people and the level of poverty in the country. It is rather strange when a trip to Kyiv and back costs more than half the minimum pay”.
UHHRU stresses that movement around the country is no whim or luxury, with people forced to travel, whether to work or to maintain family and social relations, not to mention when there are reasons for approaching a public body, court etc.
The State therefore has a duty to ensure transport facilities throughout the country, not only in the capital.
Ukrzaliznytsa has a monopoly position on the market and must therefore also fulfil an important social function, providing services to all citizens without exception. The cost of such services cannot exceed the capacity to pay of normal members of the public.
There are ways around the situation, when, for example, individual costs are subsidized in part at the expensive of higher transportation fees for businesses, etc.
“Any attempt to get rid of socially important passenger routes in connection with their low profitability, without providing an adequate alternative, can be seen as abuse by Ukrzaliznytsa of its monopoly of the market”.
UHHRU points to information suggesting that the reduction in number of trains is linked with the planned use of Korean trains in 2012, with new routes to operate. More importantly the cost of such trips will be approximately twice as much as normal tickets. They will thus effectively increase the price without the agreement envisaged by law, while also reducing the availability of such transport. It is not known at present which routes the new trains will offer, however in any case it is quite unacceptable to remove the present routes without providing alternatives since people need to move about now, not many months from now.
With such cuts planned, there needed at very least to be coordination with the local authorities in order to ensure bus and coach transport was increased to compensate. This has not been done. Some local authorities have expressed concern themselves.
This trend towards reduction in train routes with no alternatives provided is dangerous and must have serious consequences for contact between regions of the country, the development of tourism and also worsen the transport infrastructure in Ukraine.
According to Ukrzaliznytsa trade unions, the cuts will also result in a minimum of 25 thousand out of the overall 80 thousand working losing their jobs.
For the above reasons, the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union is calling on the President, the Cabinet of Ministers; the Verkhovna Rada and Ministry on Infrastructure to intervene to prevent the serious cut in services which Ukrzaliznytsa is planning.
UHHRU is also approaching the Antimonopoly Committee and asking them to respond to unlawful actions by Ukrzaliznytsa as an enterprise which has the monopoly on train services for both passenger and freight transport. The appeal is signed by UHHRU Executive Secretary, Volodymyr Yavorsky.