U.S. rail stakeholders partner with ALLRAIL to form International Support Ukraine Rail Task Force

March 22, 2022
The task force provides a forum for government, passenger rail and freight rail entities to discuss effective ways to support the Ukrainian rail sector.

A group of five freight and passenger rail stakeholders are partnering with the Alliance of Passenger Rail New Entrants in Europe (ALLRAIL) to launch an international task force focused on providing “a forum for government organizations and passenger and freight rail associations to discuss Russia’s aggressive invasion of Ukraine and the most effective ways to support the Ukrainian rail sector.”

The International Support Ukraine Rail Task Force outlined four initial objectives it will address including full and complete sanctions on Russian and Belarusian railways, efforts to aid Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war, move oil and gas supplies by rail to replace Russian exports and plan for the required infrastructure investment that will be needed on Ukrainian railways when the war ends.

The taskforce will be chaired by Jolene Molitoris, former administrator for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). She is joined on the task force by Co-Chair Nick Brooks, who serves as secretary general at ALLRAIL. Additional members of the task force include:

Task Force Vice Chair and Lead-Passenger Rail Ray Chambers, who is owner of RBC Transportation Solutions and president of the Association for Innovative Passenger Rail Operations;

Task Force Vice Chair and Lead-Freight Robert VanderClute, who is former senior vice president at the Association of American Railroads and president of First Rail International LLC;

Task Force Lead – Track Reconstruction Jon M. McGrath, who is president and CEO of McGrath Rail and former chair of the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association;

Task Force Lead – Workforce Issues Charles Hogue, who is former national director government affairs for the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division-International Brotherhood of Teamsters and vice president labor outreach for the Association for Innovative Passenger Rail Operations.

“We are horrified by the unprovoked invasion of a free and independent country,” said Molitoris, “The task force will coordinate efforts to ensure the Ukrainian rail network has the immediate technical support to continue in service. In the near term, the task force will work with lawmakers and regulators to provide on-going assistance.”

The task force points to the need to increase humanitarian trains moving Ukrainian refugees away from the country’s borders.

As of March 20, the United Nations Refugee Agency reports nearly 3.5 million people have fled Ukraine since Feb. 24. Approximately 60 percent of the refugees, more than two million, have entered Poland; Romania is a distant second at more than 535,000. As previously reported, European transport operators have offered Ukrainian citizens free passage on various networks and Ukraine Railways continues to operate service to move refugees out of Ukraine and bring humanitarian supplies into the country.

The task force explains certain countries, such as Germany, Austria and Poland, have only awarded contracts for dedicated evacuation trains to a subset of rail operators. Those operators have needed several days to begin operations, which the task force notes has resulted in hundreds of suitable rail coaches remaining unused.

“Instead, contracts for evacuation trains should be made available to all rail operators that have available rolling stock. Also: every EU country should offer such a contract - even if the train is only transiting its territory. This will help move more refugees west,” the task force said. “With a consistent and non-discriminatory approach, the European rail system can maximize the number of people getting rescued. Longer term, we will help Ukraine rebuild and renew with its rail system as a central part of the recovery.”

The task force will be meeting with stakeholders in Europe and the United States to discuss these issues. It will also expand its outreach to other industry leaders to further coordinate efforts.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.