The whirlpool of political events in Ukraine has significantly changed the geography of passenger transportation. The trains for which it was practically impossible to buy tickets a year ago are now empty. For example, only 37% of the seats on the popular Kiev-Simferopol train No. 12 departing on June 1 have been sold. Demand for trains to Russia has also reduced significantly. Nine fewer trains will operate between Ukraine and its northern neighbor from June 1, compared with last year.
The new Ukrainian train timetable for 2014/2015 envisages operation of 246 train pairs or 39 fewer than the number operated a year earlier. Of these, 159 train pairs will operate year-round, 31 seasonally, and 27 on demand. The main changes involve trains to the traditional holiday destinations, among which the beaches of the Crimea are far from being top of the list.
Crimea The political events on the peninsula have caused serious inconvenience to passengers. Border guards and customs officials now perform their technological operations in Kherson, Novoalekseevka, Melitopol, and Dzhankoy. This greatly increases the travel time of trains, delaying them by two hours at best. Against the backdrop of everything that happened, railway workers are noting a rapid decline in demand for tickets to the Crimea. For example, passenger traffic reduced by 40% in April and by 58% in May, compared with the corresponding periods of last year.
Of course, this dynamic forces not only the State Railway Administration (Ukrzaliznytsia), but also the Belarusian and Russian railways, to revise train train timetables based on the level of demand. However, this period of uncertainty has begun to generate rumors and gossip. Citing an anonymous source in the Russian Railways, the Crimean media sounded the alarm: Russian tourists will not be able to reach the peninsula by train through Ukraine from June 1! The Russian and Ukrainian railways have been unable to reach agreement between themselves! The Crimea no longer has links to the Ukrainian mainland!
However, this scandalous information was not confirmed. Tickets for trains to the Crimea remain on sale, and the new train train timetable provides for operation of 48 pairs of trains, which are 57 fewer than the number operated the year before. These 48 pairs of trains include 21 made up by Ukrzaliznytsia, 8 by the Belarusian Railways, and 19 by the Russian Railways. However, tickets can currently be purchased only for the period of June 1-15, a situation that Ukrzaliznytsia attributes to the need to analyze demand and adjust the intensity of its operations based on this.
"We have held talks with the Russian and Belarusian sides on the intensity of traffic because in addition to technical reasons, there is the demand factor, and demand has fallen significantly. We put tickets on sale for 15 days from June 1 because it was necessary to determine the conditions under which trains will operate and mutual settlements conducted. It is also necessary to analyze demand because there is currently not a single complete train going in the Crimean direction. The train with the highest occupancy rate for June 1 is the train No. 28, which is 61% full. Therefore, we will look at the level of demand for these trains during the course of the week. We have agreed with the Belarusian and Russian railways that it currently does not make sense to sell tickets for periods exceeding 30 days. This is because it will be a minus for everyone if it is necessary to respond quickly to traffic intensity," said Ihor Breus, the head of Ukrzaliznytsia’s main passenger department.
Compared with last year, 57 fewer trains will go to the Crimea
As for traffic between the Crimea and CIS countries, he said that the occupancy rates of trains in these directions do not exceed 13%. Ticket prices for trains from Ukraine to the peninsula remain unchanged. However, by reducing the number of trains to the Crimea, Ukrzaliznytsia is increasing the number of trains to other holiday destinations: Odessa, Berdyansk, Genichesk, Kherson, and western Ukraine. The new train train timetable provides for eight new routes: Chernovtsy-Lvov-Genichesk No. 246/245, Lvov-Kherson No. 256/255, Kiev-Genichesk No. 282/281, Kiev-Odessa, Izmail No. 287/288, Nikolayev-Donetsk No. 452/451 (on demand), Dnepropetrovsk, and Krivoy Rog-Berdyansk No. 472/522-551/471.
In addition, Ukrzaliznytsia will increase the frequencies of trains such as No. 227/228 Kiev-Berdyansk, No. 120/119 Zaporozhe-Lvov, No. 13/14 Uzhgorod-Kiev, and No. 668/667 Chernovtsy-Kovel. It plans to launch Kharkov-Ivano-Frankivsk and Kharkov-Uzhgorod trains, which will operate on alternate days.
International traffic Of course, the political events could not but affect the routes to CIS countries. Passenger traffic reduced by about 40% on these routes in April and May. This forced Ukrzaliznytsia to remove the Kiev-Moscow train No. 3/4 from the current train train timetable. Nine pairs of trains between Ukraine and Russia will be absent from the new train train timetable. Three of them are trains formed by Ukrzaliznytsia and six by the Russian Railways. In addition, five trains that previously departed daily will now depart on alternate days: Zhmerynka-Moscow No. 90/89, Kovel-Moscow No. 78/77, Kiev-Moscow No. 6/5, Mariupol-Moscow No. 78/77, and Moscow-Odessa No. 33/34.
Improvement of border and customs control will speed up the Minsk-Kiev train No. 86/85. Currently, all the procedures are performed at the departure station, which allows reduction of the travel time to the capital of Belarus by 1 hour 32 minutes and the travel time in the opposite direction by 1 hour 21 minutes.
Moreover, direct cars will be introduced on the international routes Lvov-Varna, Chernovtsy-Varna, and Lvov-Budapest. The new train train timetable also provides for year-round operation of the two-group daily train No. 20/92-91/19 Kremenchug, Poltava, Kharkov-Moscow. Railcars will be connected and disconnected in Kharkov.
East Ukraine Fighting in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions is impeding the normal operation of railroads and essentially allows traffic in only one direction - Donetsk-Yasinovataya.
"Traffic in the direction of Lozovaya-Slavyansk and traffic through Svatovo and Krasny Liman have been interrupted. Already, 14 trains have been rerouted through Donetsk and Yasinovataya. The trains are delayed by 1.5 to 5 hours because of this," said Breus. Ukrzaliznytsia is considering the possibility of reducing the frequency of trains in the eastern regions because of the saturation of the route.
Further changes to the train train timetable will depend on how soon the situation in the east can be stabilized and agreement can be reached with railway operators in neighboring countries on links with the Crimea.