Rail Force One in Ukraine’s amazing train lifeline

Prior to the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, US President Biden traveled to Kyiv by overnight train, or “Rail Force One,” on a historic diplomatic trip from Przemyl Gówny in Poland.

The 10-hour nocturnal trip posed a top-secret, high-security issue for Ukrainian Railways, the country’s state-owned rail network operator. It wasn’t, however, their first.

The Ukrainian rail system has taken on the role of the nation’s diplomatic thoroughfare after commercial aviation routes into the country were discontinued and flying politicians in and out of the country was deemed too dangerous. So far, more than 200 foreign diplomatic missions have entered the nation via rail.

Leaders from around the world, including Justin Trudeau of Canada, Rishi Sunak of the UK, Emmanuel Macron of France, and Giorgia Meloni of Italy, have all traveled the train to Kyiv. In actuality, only Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of the G7 has yet to travel to the nation by train.

Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, frequently utilizes the rail system when on diplomatic missions abroad.

Yet the railroads are more than just “Rail Force One,” as Biden’s train was known.
Ukrzaliznytsia ranks seventh for freight and sixth for passenger rail transit globally.

Its network, which was first built in pre-Soviet times, consists primarily of broad gauge railways, as opposed to standard gauge, which is used by the majority of Europe.

The rail network still connects with other countries, despite the fact that Ukraine forces have destroyed the cross-border connections to Russia. Nevertheless, due to the different gauges, trains cannot typically cross the border. In order to address this, they have repaired portions of previously abandoned lines to neighboring nations like Moldova, Poland, and Romania over the past year. Eleven border crossings have had their infrastructure rebuilt.

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