A nearly empty passenger train covers about 150 kilometers from Lugansk to Yasinovataya in six hours. Passengers are few despite the fact that tickets cost only about UAH 15. Everyone says that it is currently too dangerous to travel, but everyone still finds an important reason to travel.
A diesel locomotive pulls an electric train in the stretch between Yenakiyevo and Manuilovka. Two flatcars run ahead of the locomotive to ensure that passenger cars are not damaged if the train runs over a mine. This is the first regular passenger rail service on the territories controlled by the self-proclaimed LPR and DPR. It was launched on 28 March to the sound of orchestral music. The crowd that came to the Lugansk train station to welcome the train had to wait half an hour longer because the train was delayed by technical problems.
The Lugansk-Yasinovataya train runs through Debaltsevo. The railway infrastructure of this major transportation hub was severely damaged during fighting in February, but it was restored fairly quickly. The train essentially links the two separatist "capitals." It does not travel directly to Donetsk – the terminus is still in Yasinovataya (a satellite town of Donetsk). "We cannot yet go to Donetsk because of the Ukrainian army, but we will transport passengers by bus," the self-proclaimed DPR’s minister of transport Semion Kuzmenko told Oplot TV.
The train travels in each direction three times a week (every Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday). Nevertheless, this is really the first regular passenger rail service in the occupied territories of the Donbass. According to the informator.lg.ua portal, the quick restoration of the railway hub in Debaltsevo was possible because Russian army units were involved in the restoration work.
The restoration of the infrastructure in Debaltsevo is continuing. According to the self-proclaimed authorities in the DPR, there is great destruction in the yard neck, making it difficult to supply materials. Power engineers are still performing repair and construction work on the traction substation of this railway hub.
So far, the work has allowed restoration of traffic only on one track. Moreover, the speed of trains on this track is now significantly reduced. The Yasinovataya-Lugansk stretch (150 kilometers) now takes about six hours to cover, which is twice longer than the time it took before the war.
A ticket for travel on this route now costs only UAH 15. A conductor said in an interview with the Podrobnosti publication that the train carried even those passengers that did not have the money because of the difficult military situation. It is interesting that the logo of the State Railway Administration (Ukrzaliznytsia) remains on the uniform of the conductors.
A trial run of commuter trains was conducted on the routes Ilovaysk-Yasinovataya and Yasinovataya-Mushketovo (via the Yasinovataya-Zap., Kalmius, and Donetsk-2 stations) from 6 to 9 April. Both trains were diesel-powered. The DPR says that the tests on these lines will continue in the second half of April.
The average speed of the Lugansk-Yasinovataya train is 25 kilometers per hour
Kuzmenko said on 15 April that the Donetsk railway planned to reconstruct 258 facilities. "Reconstruction work is already being performed on 235, the work on two has been completed, and 21 facilities have not yet been examined due to lack of access," he said. According to him, the DPR plans to ask Russia for the bulk of the construction materials.
The head of the self-proclaimed LPR’s Council of Ministers, Hennadii Tsypkalov, claims that the separatists will develop rail links not only with the DPR, but also with the Russian Federation, in the future. According to LPR representatives, the ability to launch train services from Lugansk to Moscow, Kiev, and the Crimea already exists, but there is no agreement with the Ukrainian side. Interestingly, the Lugansk-Yasinovataya train is officially called an "interregional" train, although it should be called an international train based on the logic of the separatists.