14 September 2023

UK train firms fund thousands of food parcels for Ukrainian rail workers

14 September 2023

Thousands of food parcels for Ukrainian railway workers and their families have been paid for by UK train companies.

Industry body Rail Partners said its fundraising received nearly £106,000 in donations to support the scheme.

This means 7,056 food parcels will be delivered to Ukrainian railway employees and their loved ones through the Global Ukraine Rail Task Force.

The country’s rail network has been under huge pressure since Russia’s invasion in February last year.

It helped coordinate the mass evacuation of people in the early stages of the war and has suffered major infrastructure damage from bombings.

The sector has also been forced to deal with the loss of workers who have gone to fight on the front line, and the reduction in revenue from freight and passenger usage.

Each food package costs around £15 and consists of staples, such as flour, rice, pasta and tinned fish and meat, all sourced in Ukraine.

They have been funded by the private sector members of Rail Partners, such as Arriva and FirstGroup.

Oleg Yakovenko, director of strategy and transformation at JSC Ukrainian Railways, the company operating the country’s railways, told the PA news agency: “We are not saying that these families are starving. We had some acute situations last year but this year it’s better.

“However, we have to say that the average salary of the workers on Ukrainian railways are quite low by European standards, and we had inflation and devaluation (of Ukrainian currency) because of the war.

“More than 10,000 of our colleagues are serving right now in the army, and their families are with us and we don’t forget about them, so these food packages will find the way to those people who are in the most need.”

Mr Yakovenko said Network Rail has provided vital support to restore infrastructure attacked by Russian bombings.

“One of the important areas for us is the bridges because that’s where Russians are targeting,” he explained.

“Network Rail know what is important so they help us on the machinery which is required to repair the damaged sections.”

Rail Partners chief executive Andy Bagnall said: “Running a railway on a daily basis in normal conditions means hundreds of individual operational decisions taken to deliver for passengers and freight customers.

“That is why, in the midst of the current conflict with Russia, the efforts of our colleagues at Ukrainian Railways are remarkable.

“The railway has been, and is, a critical means to transport vital supplies, evacuate civilians and support the wider economy.

“Ukrainian rail workers have stepped up to deliver for their country alongside the Ukrainian armed forces.

“The decisions they make and the work they do are more important than ever before.

“That is why as an industry we came together to support this great cause.”

Steve Montgomery, managing director of FirstGroup’s rail business and chairman of Rail Partners, said: “The UK rail industry will continue to share expertise, partner with colleagues and do what we can to help.

“The ‘iron people’ of Ukraine have the full support of their railway family in Britain, and we are inspired by their commitment, ambition and resilience in the most testing of times.”

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