Live updates: Russia-Ukraine war rages on second anniversary of invasion

In two years of war, Ukraine has endured ground invasions and relentless missile attacks that have killed thousands and destroyed villages, towns and cities. Yet, despite all the upheaval, violence and chaos, the trains are still running.

Ukraine’s rail network, known as Ukrzaliznytsia or UZ for short, has always been a source of pride and practicality in the eastern European nation. Now, with air travel impossible, trains have once again become the primary mode of long-distance travel. Although rail services were disrupted in the early stages of the war, passenger numbers are now back to pre-invasion levels, with 24.9 million passengers carried in 2023. This year, UZ expects that to jump to 27.5 million.

Here’s some of UZ’s efforts to keep running and modernize for the future:

For UZ employees: Operations continue at the risk of lives, said Yarema Dul, project manager at UZ’s Strategy and Transformation Department. “Long hours, tough conditions and the constant threat of attacks are having a detrimental effect on their physical and mental health,” he said.

  • UZ provides financial, physical and psychological support for injured employees and relatives of those killed in action, through its “Iron Family” program. “We show them that, to us, they are important,” he said.
  • More than 10,000 UZ employees are currently serving in the armed forces; 573 have been killed and almost 1,500 injured since February 2022, the railway company said.
  • Medics and psychological assistance teams are provided to UZ workers suffering as a result of combat operations.
  • The railway company is building a rehab center in Kyiv.

Improving accessibility: UZ is also actively planning for a future where it will have to cater for the ever-increasing number of disabled veterans.

  • Passenger lifts at major stations, accessible toilets, modified passenger cars with accessible cabins and specially trained attendants and support for deaf passengers are part of a program backed by Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska.
  • UZ already has 55 accessible passenger cars on its roster and all new or modernized cars will feature accessibility improvements. More than 10,000 staff have recently received additional training in working with people with disabilities.

Oleksandr Pertsovskyi, head of UZ’s Passenger Division, told CNN Travel: “We’re not just fighting, we’re setting positive goals too.”

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