Posted by: Michele Smith and Anatoliy Sakhno, U.S. Commercial Service Ukraine
This fall Ukraine kicked-off the modernization of its locomotive and wagon fleet by testing General Electric’s (GE) TE33А freight diesel locomotive. In late September, George Kent, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, participated in a press conference held by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Ukrzaliznytsya at Kyiv’s central train station to unveil the new locomotive to the public. According to Kent, “This new engine is a reminder of Ukraine’s recovering economy, an economy that is rebounding in nearly every sector after two difficult years.” Kent also said that he hoped that after GE demonstrates its value with its locomotive that the partnership will between GE and Ukraine would expand into many other areas.
GE hopes that this demonstration project will show to Ukrzaliznytsya and the country the benefits of modernizing its locomotive fleet with U.S. technology. Ukrzaliznytsya will test GE’s engine for four months and use data collected during this period to evaluate the efficiency and cost savings that this new locomotive could bring to Ukraine. Initial tests are already showing that the new engine uses 20 to 30 percent less fuel and hauls twice as much as the locomotives Ukraine currently uses. Maxat Kabashev, Vice President of Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ), also participated in the conference and confirmed that since KTZ began using GE locomotives, it has saved over $300 million in fuel costs in five years and has set up a GE production plant in Almaty to produce locomotives.
In addition to serving as a symbol of economic recovery and as proof of the cost savings Ukraine could enjoy through modernization, this demonstration project also symbolizes a step forward in the creation of commercial relationships between U.S. and Ukrainian companies. Though GE has cooperated for years with the governments of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, this demonstration project is GE’s first major step into the Ukrainian market. The Government of Ukraine and the U.S. Embassy are fully supportive of this cooperation given the scale and urgency of rail modernization in Ukraine.
According to the Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine, Volodymyr Omelyan, after GE demonstrates its value with this locomotive, this partnership is likely to expand into many other areas. “We believe that the locomotive presented by General Electric will be a success. I would like that General Electric was not only a strategic partner of the Olympic Games but a strategic partner of Ukraine. The corporation has all facilities for this. There are enough directions for cooperation: railways, aviation, other spheres where this corporation has proved to be a global leader,” the Minister Omelyan said.