Ukrainian railways or “Ukrzaliznytsia” is the main state enterprise which specializes on cargo and passenger transportation. It has a well-developed structure that provides links between large cities of regional importance with nearby cities and villages, regional centers with the capital. Nowadays “Ukrzaliznytsia” is the fourth largest rail transporter on the Euro-Asian continent.
History of railways development
The first state railroad Lviv – Peremyshl (97,6 km long) was built in 1861. But the current configuration of Ukrainian railway network was formed mostly before the First World War.
During the Soviet period the development of Ukrainian railways received new impetus. In 1940s the bulk of rail road construction and reconstruction was concentrated in such directions as “Donbass – USSR center”, “Donbass – Kryvyi Rig”, “Kyiv – Lviv – Chop”.
In the post-war period the pace of rail road construction had the tendency to reduce, and, moreover, some railway lines and the major part of logging rail roads ceased to exist. Nevertheless, in 1987 the length of all tracks in use was 22,7 thousand km and Ukraine took one of the leading places in the USSR.
After Ukraine gained its independence in 1991 the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine unified six state railroad companies and proclaimed “Ukrzaliznytsia” the only Ukrainian railway network operator.
Nowadays there are six basic railway lines, which have their own administrations, located in such cities:
- Kyiv – Southwestern branch;
- Dnipro – Near-Dnipro branch;
- Kharkiv – Southern branch;
- Lviv – Lviv branch;
- Odesa – Odesa branch;
- Donetsk – Donetsk branch.
Each branch is also divided into several affiliates.
Stages of development after independence
The beginning of 21st century gave the start to high-speed train development in Ukraine.
- The first capital express train “Kyiv – Kharkiv” was launched in 2002. Its travel time was twice as fast as the ordinary passenger train (maximum speed 140 km/hour). One year later the similar train was launched in the “Kyiv – Dnipro” route. Nowadays, the train Dnepropetrovsk – Kiev is a daily route, which is in high demand.
- In 2010 Ukrainian railways introduced premium service – travelling in saloon trains, which costed as much as 11 tickets in sleepers.
- On the eve of Euro 2012 Ukrainian railways bought ten high-speed trains from Hyundai Rotem (InterCity+) and two double-decker trains from Škoda Vagonka (InterCity).
- Between 1991 and 2013 approximately 2500 km of railroad tracks were electrified, thus lowering the cost price of transporting.
- By 2014 there were 9878 km electrified railroad tracks.
Types of passenger trains
According to the classification of Ukrainian railway lines, all trains designed for passenger transporting are divided into several groups:
- Euro City – Express trains on international routes offer high level services, 1st and standard classes;
- Regional Express – daytime trains that go throughout Ukraine have 1st, 2nd and 3rd classes;
- InterCity (InterCity+) – 1st and 2nd class high-speed trains. Ukraine ticket price is usually higher than for Regional Express carriages. By comparison, train Kiev – Lviv price (InterCity) is twice higher than the same route price on Regional Express train.
- Regional train (elektrychka) – carriages that go on regional routes.
Nighttime trains, including 2 or 4 berth coupe and platzkart classes:
- Night-Express (max speed 90 km/h);
- Night Fast (max speed 70 km/h);
- Night Passenger (max speed 50 km/h).
Largest railway stations in Ukraine
In connection with popular destinations such train stations as Kyiv-Pasazhyrs’kyi, Dnipro-Hlavnyi, Kharkov Pasazhyrs’kyi, Lviv-Hlavnyi, Odesa-Hlavnyi showed the highest rates of passability and importance.
Kyiv train station
Kiev train station, the largest, has the most developed infrastructure. It consists of Central, Southern and Suburban Stations, providing different long-distance, international and nearby services. Passengers are also offered such services as baggage space service, supermarkets, food court, superior waiting rooms, porters, free internet access, laundry etc.
Kharkiv railway station
Kharkiv railway station as well as other major stations are gradually approaching the decent level of services and provide a sizeable list of facilities: VIP services, special facilities for mothers with children, for disabled and smokers etc.
The most popular railway routes
According to the statistics of InterCity Ukraine trains, in 2016 Kharkiv – Vinnytsia was the most demanded route, where the double-decker train passed on its way 16 stations including Kyiv and Poltava.
The other train routes that were in demand:
- Kyiv – Krasnoarmiysk route (96% of the passenger loads);
- Kiev – Peremyshl route (92% of the passenger loads);
- Kiev – Kharkov train (89% of the passenger loads);
- Kiev – Zaporozhye train (88% of the passenger loads).
Ukrainian railways booking
There are two ways of buying train tickets in Ukraine: in ticket offices and via Internet. You can find ticket offices on the railway station or scattered all over the city. Be aware, that the lines in ticket offices are usually long so it’s easier to book tickets online.
With each passing day information technologies are becoming increasingly important in our lives. Without leaving your home or office you can book railway tickets online. All you need is:
- find Ukraine train timetable on any ticket booking website;
- enter the points of departure and destination;
- choose needed route, time and price. For example, if you are looking for Lviv – Odesa train, you will be offered several variants – direct trains and trains that pass through these stations (from Uzhgorod or Chernovtsy);
- choose an appropriate route and make a payment.
Travelling by train has a lot of advantages in Ukraine:
- It is the cheapest way of travelling as the price for train tickets in Ukraine is very low comparing with other means of transport. For example, Kiev – Odessa train cost is ten times lower than the ticket price for planes.
- Besides you have an opportunity to save money sleeping in a comfortable 1st class sleeping-car, in 2nd class carriage (coupe) or in 3rd class platzkart carriage, which will be cheaper than spending the night in a hotel.
- Travelling by train you can reach any city you want, as there are approximately 1614 railway stations throughout Ukraine. The major parts of stations are situated in the center of the cities, so you don’t need to waste your time on taking taxi or other means of transport.
- Train travel gives an opportunity to enjoy local landscapes and to make the acquaintance with other fellow travelers.
Among disadvantages, one’s need to mention rather long travel time, comparing with planes, and buying tickets in advance, as the railway transport is the most popular in Ukraine.