Flag of the Ukraine

Railways in

Ukraine

Borzhava Narrow Gauge Railway
A train on Borzhava Narrow Gauge Railway, which continues to operate a seasonal local and tourist service.
The locomotive is ТУ2 034, a 300hp 750mm gauge diesel electric, built in the 1950s at the Kaluga Engineering Works in Russia.

A military railway was constructed by British forces in Crimea (present day Krym) during the Crimean War in 1855. It was built to Indian (1675mm) gauge to take advantage of equipment then under construction for the subcontinent which could readily be diverted to Crimea. The completed railway totalled about 23 km. On the cessation of hostilities the following year, the railway was dismantled and all its assets dispersed.

The first public railway to open in present day Ukraine, and the oldest surviving railway, runs from the Polish border near Przemyśl to Lviv. It opened in 1861, the last section of a line from Kraków to Lemberg (Lviv), when both cities were in Galicia, a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The territory formed part of Poland from 1922 until the Second World War, after which it was partitioned between Poland and the Ukrainian SSR of the former Soviet Union, with the SSR becoming the independent republic of Ukraine in 1991.

The original line was built to the standard gauge of 1435mm, as were most other lines in the same region, whereas lines in those parts of Ukraine that were formerly part of the Russian Empire were for the most part built to the Russian standard gauge of 1520mm gauge. A few narrow gauge forestry and industrial lines were built to 750mm, 760mm, or even 600mm gauge.

After the Second World War, the Soviet administration converted almost all the remaining 1435mm gauge lines in the Ukraine to 1520mm. This is therefore the predominant gauge today. During the same period, remaining 760mm gauge lines were converted to 750mm gauge.

Following independence in 1991, Ukrainian Railways was created, which remains the infrastructure authority and the predominant operator of the national network, although in recent years a few independent freight operators have started to provide services.

In 2014, following Russian military occupation and a referendum of disputed legality, Krym declared its independence from Ukraine and resolved to become part of the Russian Federation. The Union was ratified by Russia but has not been recognized by Ukraine nor by the greater part of the international community. However, the region effectively came under Russian control. Cross-border traffic between Krym and the rest of Ukraine almost entirely ceased. Rail services were transferred to a new Russian based company, Crimea Railway. The region being cut off from direct rail access to Russia became heavily dependent on a ferry service across the Kerch Strait. As a result, the Russian authorities constructed two new bridges across the Strait, a road bridge opening in 2018, and a parallel rail bridge in 2019.

Also in 2014, pro-Russian separatists staged a series uprisings in the Donbas region (Oblasts of Donećk and Luhansk) bringing roughly half of the region under separatist control. Cease fire agreements in 2014 and 2015 failed to hold, and sporadic fighting continued along the border between the separatist controlled area and the rest of Ukraine until the Russian invasion of 2022. Much rail infrastructure in the area was destroyed during the uprising, but rail connections with Russia were maintained. Rail operations in the occupied area were continued by the local administration of Donets Railway, which had been the regional subsidiary of Ukrainian Railways with headquarters in Donećk. In December 2014 a new regional headquarters for that part of Donets Railway remaining under Ukrainian control was established in Krasnyi Lyman. Krasnyi Lyman had been captured by secessionists early in the uprising but had returned to Ukrainian control in June 2014. The city officially changed its name to Lyman in 2016. Lyman was taken by advancing Russian forces in May, 2022.

2022 Invasion

The 2022 invasion by Russian forces has obviously caused significant damage in and near the areas where conflict has taken place on the ground. Elsewhere damage to rail infrastructure has been, with just a few exceptions, fairly minimal. Analysts believe that this is because the Russian forces initially intended to use the rail network to assist the progress of their invasion.

A missile attack against railway infrastructure in the Lviv area on 17 May, which amongst other things destroyed a key electrical substation, is believed to have been an attempt to limit military supplies and humanitarian aid entering the country from Poland. Damaged infrastructure was either quickly repaired or circumvented.

A number of rocket attacks have taken place against passenger station facilities, often when the stations in question were crowded with civilians attempting to leave the area. Most significant among these were Kramatorsk on 8 April, leading to over 50 deaths, and Chaplyne on 24 August, killing more than 25. There must be strong suspicion that these attacks were deliberately targeting civilians, although this is denied by the Russian authorities.

During March, 2022, Belarusian rail workers intiated a number of sabotage attacks against their own infrastructure, in an attempt to thwart the Russian advance into Ukraine. The long term effect of these actions is unknown, but with the Russian withdrawal from its attempts to capture Kyiv it is no longer immediately relevant. The cross-border rail links with Belarus remain closed.

In August a number of explosions damaged rail infrastructure in Krym. Speculation continues regarding who initiated these explosions and it is not known whether permanent damage resulted. Russian residents of Krym, some of whom had settled there since the annexation of 2014, were reported to be leaving for Russia via the Kerch Strait Bridge.

From early September, Ukrainian forces launched a major counter-offensive in the east and northeast, aimed at capturing or disabling the supply lines serving the occupying Russian forces in Donbas. At the beginning of October, Ukrainian forces retook control of the city of Lyman, which had been a major logistics hub on the Russian supply lines, and the location of an important railway junction in Donbas.

In the early morning of 8 October, an explosion on the bridge over the Kerch Strait connecting Russia with Krym, causing several spans of the road bridge to collapse. Debris from the explosion spread to the adjacent rail bridge, setting fire to a train of fuel tank wagons. According to Russian state news media, the explosion was caused by a truck bomb, although CCTV images that have been published of the event do not make it clear whether the explosion actually originated with a truck on the Russia to Krym bound carriageway or whether the truck simply happened to be in the place where the explosion took place. No entity has claimed responsibility for the blast. Both road and rail bridges were reported to have reopened within 24 hours, but the road bridge is limited to light traffic on a single carriageway, while rail traffic is using a single track owing to fire damage of the other track. In early October, Russian authorities revealed that repairs to the road bridge will not be completed before March 2023, while repairs to the rail bridge are contracted to be completed by September. This of course significantly impairs the function of the bridge in maintaining supplies to Krym and to Russian troops in southern Ukraine.

The month of October saw a significant rise in attacks by loitering munitions (sometimes known as kamikaze drones), in many cases far from front lines. These attacks have targeted critical infrastructure, notably power generation and distribution. As far as the railways are concerned, this has caused some disruption to operations, although to date there are no reports of traffic being halted for more than a few hours. On the other hand, degradation of power supply nationally has called for measures to reduce consumption, which includes a reduction in some urban transport services.

Since June there have been several instances of sabotage to railways within Russia, for which an anti-war activist group, Stop the Wagons, has claimed responsiblity. Notable among these was one at Novozybkov in October, which severed an important rail route from Russia to southern Belarus.

On 11 November, Ukrainian forces took back control of the city of Kherson and neighbouring parts of Kherson Oblast, including the area around Mykolaiv, following the withdrawal of Russian troops to the opposite side of the Dnipro river. Passenger train services from Kyiv to Mykolaiv started running on 14 November, and to Kherson on 19 November, for the first time since February.

International Links

Information on international links with Poland is believed to be correct as of January, 2022. Details of other international links are based on a map of Ukrainian Railways dated 2013, updated by such information as is readily available.

All international passenger services ceased in 2020 as a result of covid precautions. From the start of the invasion in 2022, many evacuation trains have operated to various destinations in Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland. Regular, though infrequent, Ukrainian Railways international services with friendly countries had for the most part resumed by July.

Moldova

A non-electrified single track line between Berezyne and Basarabeasca, Moldova, closed in 1999, was reopened in 2022. This provides a more direct route than previously available between Odesa and the Danube port of Galați, Romania, without break of gauge.

A non-electrified double track line between Kuchurhan and Tiraspol in the Transnistrian region of Moldova. This was formerly the route of a through train from Moscow, Russia, to București, Romania. Change from 1520mm to 1435mm gauge took place at Iași, Romania, where carriage bogies were swapped while passengers remained on board the train. This service ceased in 2020, along with other international passenger services. There had been little or no freight service on the route, largely because of poor transhipment facilities at Iași. An international passenger service between Odesa and Chișinău was reinstated in 2021, but discontinued with the outbreak of war. No services now use the line.

Non-electrified single track connections between Slobidka and Cobasna, Mohyliv-Podilskyi and Otaci, Sokyriany and Ocnița, Kelmentsi and Lipcani, and Mamalyha and Lipcani, are all believed to be out of use.

A non-electrified single track connections between Mohyliv-Podilskyi and Otaci was also believed to be out of use, but was reactivated in November 2022 to carry a thrice weekly passenger service between Kyiv and Chișinău, with connections at Ungheni for Socola and Iași, Romania.

Romania

A non-electrified single track freight line between Vadul-Siret and Vicșani, Romania, with gauge transshipment at Vicșani. Capacity at Vicșani was enhanced during 2022 with additional tracks for both 1435mm and 1520mm gauge.

The Romanian narrow gauge forestry railway CFF Viseu de Sus does not reach Ukraine but extends very close to the border. In addition to its customary commercial activities, it is also used by Romanian border police to access this remote area with few roads by means of a Mercedes Sprinter minibus modified to run on the railway.

A non-electrified single track line between Rakhiv and Valea Vișeului, Romania, out of service since 2007, reopened in November 2022, with gauge transhipment at Valea Vișeului. Ukrainian Railways will operate a twice daily passenger service over the link from December.

A non-electrified single track line between Teresva and Câmpulung la Tisa, Romania, is out of service.

A non-electrified dual gauge single track line between Vynohradiv and Halmeu, Romania. The 1435mm gauge track once provided a through route without break of gauge between Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania; that traffic now predominantly uses alternative routes within the European Union. Traffic on the cross-border link is now almost entirely 1520mm gauge, with gauge transshipment at Halmeu.

Hungary

A non-electrified 1435mm gauge double track line between Chop and Záhony, Hungary, with gauge transshipment at Chop. A dual gauge line between a point east of Chop and a point south of Záhony, part of the international link described above under Romania, is out of service. Regular passenger trains provided by Hungarian Railways run as far as Chop. There is also an overnight sleeper service each way between Kyiv, Budapest and Wien (Austria), with a gauge change at Chop.

Slovakia

A 1435mm gauge single track line electrified at 3000V DC between Chop and Čierna nad Tisou, Slovakia, with gauge transshipment at Chop. Passenger trains operated by Slovakian Railways provide a twice daily service over the link. A parallel dual gauge line, part of the international link described above under Romania, is closed.

A non-electrified dual gauge single line between Uzhhorod and Vel’ké Kapušany, Slovakia. It is not clear where gauge transshipment takes place. At one time the 1520mm gauge extended beyond Vel’ké Kapušany as far as steel works in Košice.

Poland

A non-electrified 1435mm gauge single track line between Staryava and Krościenko, Poland, is out of use but remains in situ.

A non-electrified dual gauge line between Nyzhankovychi and Przemyśl, Poland, is closed and lifted.

Parallel 1435mm and 1520mm gauge lines electrified at 3000V DC between Mostyska and Przemyśl, Poland. Most gauge transshipment of freight takes place at Chałupki Medyckie, a major freight yard on the Polish side of the border. 1520mm gauge lines in Poland enable freight trains to reach other yards in the Przemyśl area, and passenger trains can run through to Przemyśl Główny station, providing direct interchange with trains of Polish Railways. Regular passenger services operate each way between Przemyśl Główny and cities in Ukraine: Kyiv, Dnipro, Odesa, Zaporizhzhia (all daily) and Lviv (twice daily).

A non-electrified single track line between Rava-Ruska and Werchrata, Poland, with gauge transshipment at Werchrata. The 1520mm gauge formerly extended as far as Kaplisze.

A non-electrified 1435mm gauge single track line between Rava-Ruska and Hrebenne, Poland, is out of use and appears to be severed at the border crossing.

A non-electrified single track line between Ludyn and Hrubieszów, Poland. Gauge transshipment is available at Hrubieszów, but the 1520mm gauge line continues (as Polish company LHS), in part paralleling 1435mm gauge lines, to factories and interchange yards in the Sławków area.

A non-electrified dual gauge single track line between Yahodyn and Dorohusk, Poland. The 1520mm gauge line runs parallel to the electrified 1435mm gauge line to Chelm, where the majority of gauge transshipment takes place, and from where a 1520mm gauge branch runs to Zawadówka. Carries one daily passenger service each way between Kyiv and Chelm, also an overnight sleeper service each way between Kyiv and Warszawa, with a gauge change at Chelm.

Belarus

All cross-border links with Belarus have been closed since the Russian invasion of 2022. Belarusian Railways are 1520mm gauge so no transshipment is required.

A non-electrified single track line between Zabolottya and Sushitnitsa, Belarus. Part of a major through route between Kovel and Brest.

A non-electrified single track line between Udryts’k and Bukhlichi, Belarus.

A single track line electrified at 25kV AC between Nedanchychi and Semykhody near Chornobyl, passing through Yolcha in Belarus with no connection to Belarusian Railways. Until 1986, the line formed part of a through route from Chernihiv to Ovruch. It closed as a through route following the catastophe at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The line was retained as far as Semykhody to move men and equipment in and out of the exclusion zone. In 2021 an alternative route into the exclusion zone was re-established from Ovruch, in order to service a nuclear waste repository established in the zone. Although not confirmed, it seems likely that the route via Yolcha has closed. Part of the line from Chernihiv to Slavutych is believed to remain in use for local passenger services.

A non-electrified single track line between Dobryanka and Gomel, Belarus.

A non-electrified double track line between Derevyny and Gomel, Belarus.

Russia

Railway crossings between government controlled parts of Ukraine and Russia are closed. The status of crossings between secessionist controlled areas and Russia is unknown, but it is known that at least some of them were in use to carry supplies. Action by Ukrainian forces from September 2022, aims to compromise the status of these supply lines.

A non-electrified single track line between Semenivka and Klimovo, Russia.

A non-electrified single track line between Znob-Novhorods’ke and Vitemlya, Russia.

A double track line electrified at 25kV AC between Seredyna-Buda and Suzemka, Russia. This was formerly a major route for international traffic, including through passenger services from Moscow to Kyiv.

A non-electrified single track line between Druzhba and Vorozhba crosses the Russian frontier several times but makes no connection with Russian Railways.

A non-electrified single track line between Volfyne and Glushkovo, Russia.

A non-electrified single track line between Pushkarne and Proletarskii, Russia.

A non-electrified single track line between Odnorobivka and Proletarskii, Russia.

A double track line electrified at 3000V DC between Kozacha Lopan’ and Belgorod, Russia.

A non-electrified single track line between Vovchansk and Belgorod, Russia.

A double track line electrified at 25kV AC between Topoli and Valuyki, Russia.

A non-electrified single track line between Troits’ke and Valuyki, Russia.

A non-electrified single track line between Vil’khove and Krasnovka, Russia.

A non-electrified single track line between Izvaryne and Likhovskoy, Russia.

A non-electrified single track line between Voznesenivka and Gukovo, Russia.

A single track line electrified at 25kV AC between Kvashyne and Avilo-Uspenka, Russia.

Train Ferries

There was a train ferry operated by Russian Railways between Kerch, in Krym, and Port Kavkaz, near Chushka, Russia. The ferry service was replaced by a bridge carrying a non-electrified double track railway in 2019.

Until 2022, Ukrainian Railways operated train ferries from the port of Chornomorsk (known as Illichivs’k before 2015) south of Odesa to Derince and Samsun in Turkey and to Batumi in Georgia. These services ceased with the Russian naval blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, and have not been resumed.

TEN-T

Following the Russian invasion and in the light of Ukraine’s application to join the European Union, the European Commission has amended its TEN-T proposals for the future development of railways in Europe to include Ukraine. Subject to acceptance of the revised proposals, the lines of the TEN-T core network in Ukraine would include:

It is anticipated that the proposed railways would be of 1435mm gauge, either newly built or converted from existing lines.

Main Line Railways

Tourist Railways

These narrow gauge lines were built to 760mm gauge, converted to 750mm gauge during the Soviet era. Borzhava and Carpathian Tramway were former forestry railways. Haivoron and Polissian were narrow gauge railways belonging to Ukrainian Railways.

Children’s Railways

Most of the children’s railways (in general, former pioneer railways) listed here were believed to be operating until late 2021. Most would then be expected to close for the winter season. In the lack of any confirmed information regarding their current status, it is assumed that none have reopened following the Russian invasion of 2022. All are 750mm gauge, diesel hauled.

Metros and trams

Kyiv

In the early days of the Russian invasion, Kyiv came under considerable bombardment causing damage to infrastructure. Portions of the Metro were damaged and some stations of the Metro were closed for service in order to act as air raid shelters. In some instances trains were parked at these stations in order to provide additional and slightly more comfortable capacity for those sheltering. By July extensive repairs had been made and services returned more or less to normal. As in other cities, various streets and other locations had their name changed to remove Russian references. In Kyiv, the changes were in part determined by a public vote sponsored by the Metro operator.

Tram services were also affected by the initial bombardment, and by restrictions on movement above ground, although at least a skeleton service on one or two routes was able to operate throughout. In addition to damage to vehicles and infrastructure, there was a problem of shortage of drivers, with the majority of working age males being eligible for military service. Nevertheless, it is believed that by August or earlier, some kind of service was operating on most routes.

Avdiivka

Following the uprising of 2014, Avdiivka became part of the front line between secessionist and goverment forces. It changed hands several times and was largely destroyed in a battle of 2017. In consequence, tram services are no longer operating. During 2022 it has remained in government control, although heavily pressed by Russian forces.

Dnipro

The city of Dnipropetrovsk officially changed its name to Dnipro in 2016. Although not immune from bombardment, its central location has made it an important hub for evacuation of refugees and reception of humanitarian aid. It is believed that the metro and tram systems have remained operational throughout.

Donećk

Donećk is one of the cities that came under control of secessionists in 2014. No information is available regarding the state of its tram infrastructure, though it is assumed that considerable damage must have resulted from ongoing conflict.

Druzhkivka

Druzhkivka came under secessionist control in 2014 but was recaptured by government forces. During 2022 it has remained in government control, although subject to heavy bombardment by Russian forces. Some tram services were reported to be operating in June.

Horlivka

Horlivka came under secessionist control in 2014. Severe fighting followed as government forces attempted to retake it. No information is available regarding the state of its tram infrastructure, though it is assumed that considerable damage must have resulted from ongoing conflict.

Kamianske

The city of Dniprodzerzhynsk officially changed its name to Kamianske in 2016. Although no confirmed information is available, it seems likely that tram services continue to operate.

Kharkiv

As in Kyiv, Metro stations, some with parked trains, were used as air raid shelters in the early days of the Russian invasion. The Metro survived intact until June, 2022 when a missile attack caused damage resulting in the closure of part of the Saltivska Line.

Ongoing bombardment caused considerable damage to tram infrastructure and vehicles, but a service was reported to be running on many routes of a somewhat reduced network by late July.

Konotop

Konotop came under Russian occupation in February, 2022. It appears that under local agreement infrastructure was not materially damaged and public transport continued to operate, albeit with a reduced service. Russian forces had withdrawn by April, and trams remain operational.

Kryvyi Rih

Kryvyi Rih has come under intermittent air and missile bombardment since the start of the Russian invasion, but no major damage to infrastructure has been reported and trams remain operational. However, in October it was reported that tram (and trolleybus) services had been reduced by around 50% as a power conservation measure.

Luhansk

Luhansk came under secessionist control in 2014 bringing a halt to tram services. It is believed that they never resumed. In 2022, it was reported that all overhead wiring had been removed.

Lviv

Lviv has been the target of only sporadic long range attacks and tram services have operated more or less normally throughout.

Mariupol

The city and its infrastructure, which included a tram network, were almost entirely destroyed during the siege lasting from March to May, 2022, and no public transport operates.

Mykolaiv

The city was surrounded by Russian forces during February and March, 2022. It is reported that trams continued to operate a reduced service during this period. Russian forces had withdrawn by April, and trams remain operational.

Odesa

Since the start of the Russian invasion, Odesa has been the target of several long range missile attacks, but it is believed that no major damage has been caused to infrastructure and that trams and the funicular continue to operate. In September, 2022, following completion of upgrades to the network that had been in progress for several years, an extended route 7 service was launched between the Kyivskyi to Suvorovskyi districts, running via the city centre. At 29km, it is one of the longest tram routes in Europe, second only to the Belgian Kusttram.

Vinnytsia

A missile attack in July, 2022, is reported to have disrupted tram services. No information is available regarding the extent of the damage or whether services have been restored.

Yenákiieve

The city came under secessionist control in 2014. Confirmed information is difficult to obtain, but in September, 2022, it was reported that tram services were operating, and that the tram fleet had been augmented by additional vehicles brought in from Russia.

Yevpatoria

Yevpatoria is located in Krym, which self-declared its independence from Ukraine and its union with Russia in 2014. No information is available regarding the operational status of its tram services.

Zaporizhzhia

Although still in government control, Zaporizhzhia has been under continued attack by Russian forces since the start of the 2022 invasion. It is reported that tram services have been operating during daylight hours, with a nighttime curfew.

Zhytomyr

Zhytomyr was subject to several attacks in the early months of the Russian invasion, but no major damage to infrastructure has been reported and it is believed that trams remain operational.

Back to Top
Railways Home
Railways of the World
Glyn Williams’ Home

© 2004-2022 Glyn Williams
Photo image from the Facebook page of Friends of Borzhava Narrow Gauge Railway