Ukrzaliznytsia (Ukrainian Railways, Ukraine’s state-owned national railways operator) is implementing the Accessible Railways initiative that it announced in 2023. The operator is  purchasing coaches adapted for people with disabilities, changing train station design to accommodate people with limited mobility, and launching new services to make their customers’ journeys more comfortable, such as kids’ play areas at train stations, assistants for wheelchair users, and a special ticket booking platform for military personnel. Ukrainian Railways admits that it still has a “long way to go” to being fully accessible, but promises to keep working on it. The Village Ukraine interviews Oleksandr Shevchenko, Ukrainian Railways’ director of passenger communications and client services, about accessibility, safety, and comfort at train stations and on board their trains.



Oleksandr Shevchenko


Your goal is to make every Ukrainian Railways train and every train station in Ukraine inclusive and accessible. What have you been able to do so far?

We want passengers’ entire journeys to be accessible; this starts with buying a ticket. When we’re talking about inclusivity, we’re talking about having no barriers for any passenger, including people who have visual or hearing impairments, and so on. Even the app where you buy tickets has to be accessible for people with visual impairments, and we have to have sign language interpreters at every station to help people with hearing impairments. This is a huge amount of work. We have plans for all of it. Ukrainian Railways has an accessibility department that’s responsible for implementing them.

What about the trains?

The question of accessibility is quite broad, but, for example, pregnant people can travel on any of our trains. However, it’s more difficult for wheelchair users. As of today, we have 50 coaches for long-distance travel that are adapted for wheelchair users, including the 37 we obtained early last year. We’ll get another four in early 2025. All of our Intercity trains have ramps and spaces for wheelchair users, so there are no issues there. But that’s a drop in the ocean.


Coaches for people with disabilities

Is there demand for these accessible coaches?

They don’t stand idle. We use some of them when we need to; travelers with disabilities can specify that they want to travel in one of these coaches via a special online portal. We also use these coaches on a permanent basis on all of our key routes: one coach per train. If you forgot to specify you need an accessible coach, we always have one of those on all of our key routes anyway.

Accessible restrooms at the Kyiv railway station 

Elevators at the Kyiv Passenger train station

What about your progress in terms of making train stations more accessible?

The Kyiv railway station is already exemplary when it comes to inclusivity and accessibility. It has an accessible entrance and exit, passengers can board trains straight from a shelter, barrier-free, from the western underpass: we made sure all the elevators there are in working condition. We have two new elevators that go to platform no. 1, and all the escalators are in working condition. We have a fully accessible lounge, which also has access to platforms. The kids’ play area is fully accessible. Toilets are also now free and accessible.

There’s just a few things we’re still working on that will make the Kyiv railway station entirely accessible. Take, for example, the entrance to the western underpass: the south exit has a set of enormous stairs. As of today, we don’t have an architectural solution, it’s a disaster. You can’t even put an elevator in there. We’d have to rebuild half the square outside to make that exit fully accessible. I don’t think we’ll even touch it. Sometimes it’s easier to build something new than rebuild something that already exists. We’ll just build a new accessible entrance on the other side.

What about other train stations?

Other train stations are behind in terms of accessibility – especially historic buildings like the Lviv railway station, which is an architectural landmark. In order to install elevators there, we’d need to remove part of the wall. We have a long way to go, but we’ll get it all done. We have plans for how things have to be: there have to be elevators and special gently curved ramps that increase the distance [and reduce the inclination angle] without taking up additional space.

We’ve recently opened accessible bathrooms and a totally new area for wheelchair users at the Kharkiv train station; we’re continuing to implement changes there even despite constant shelling and attacks.

Overall, there are already 50 special lifting platforms used for boarding wheelchair users. Wherever a ramp can’t be used, we use these platforms.

Disability access ramps


Are there assistants who help people with disabilities board trains at all train stations?

We have crews of assistants at every major train station who can assist people with disabilities. Ideally, once everything is fully accessible, people with disabilities won’t need help, because they’ll be able to find their way to and board the train independently. For now, we still need assistants because we’re not entirely barrier-free. It’s important for wheelchair users’ safety because there are areas that haven’t been fully adapted for wheelchair users, who might injure themselves. We’ve installed buttons that can be used to call an assistant all over the stations.

The Kyiv railway station is equipped with tablets for people with hearing impairments [train station staff can use these tables to communicate in Ukrainian sign language – ed.]. We have acoustic beacons for people with visual impairments at the entrance to the station; it’s that classic ticking sound. We also used tactile guides throughout the station and information inside trains is also displayed in Braille. These might seem like a lot of disconnected efforts, but they are actually all part of a concerted effort.

We just need to finish making our app more accessible. We’re hoping to do it this year. So a passenger’s entire experience with Ukrainian Railways is gradually becoming more accessible.

If we’re talking about the main Kyiv train station, it’s located on the Vokzalna Square. There are plans to change traffic layout in the square and renovate the nearby bus station. Is that enough? What changes would you like to see in the space surrounding the train station?

This is a step in the right direction. The railway station is a transport hub, and you should be able to seamlessly transition between different transport modes – high-speed tram, trolleybus, metro, intercity trains, taxis – and this should be accessible to all. And besides, solving the parking issue is now long overdue. Ukrainian Railways has advocated for these changes for a long time, and it makes us happy that Kyiv has now started working in the right direction, while of course making adjustments for the scale of available investments in light of the war. The railway station itself has changed a lot, we now have One Love and Idealist cafés here, and a Spar – but there’s still stalls selling socks out of cardboard boxes around, and the people who hang around those spaces. That’s why modernizing not just the railway station but its surroundings is also a matter of security, as well as of the image we’re projecting to the outside world. Now every G7 leader has a picture they took at the Kyiv railway station. 

The introduction of women-only compartments is also part of your inclusivity efforts. Oleksandr Pertsovskyi (CEO, Passenger Company at Ukrainian Railways) has said that “inclusivity is when someone who used to be uncomfortable and inconvenienced experiences comfort and ease.”

We wanted to do this for a long time, but we initially wanted to launch separate family and women-only coaches, and we prioritized the family, or kid-friendly, coaches. But the circumstances meant that we had to launch women-only compartments first. The beginning of the full-scale war has changed passenger demographics completely. Before, the majority of our passengers were either families traveling on holidays, or workers on business trips. Now many families have been separated: women and children might travel abroad or within Ukraine, or come back from abroad, while men who have joined the army travel largely on their own. The passenger profile, and their needs and demands, have also changed. We can’t not respond to this. We decided that it made sense to make women’s travel safer and more comfortable on routes where we have documented the largest incidence of harassment or conflict. We’re not just doing random things. We used data to inform our decision to introduce women-only coaches on certain routes.

How did you document harassment and other problems?

We tracked complaints women made to train conductors, instances when police were called, and feedback across all social media and other communication channels.

Do conductors have a system for documenting complaints?

Yes, we have rules and procedures for it. We’re a semi-militarized organization, we have procedures for everything. We know exactly how many of these incidents have occurred. We get mobile phone notifications in real time, so we know who harassed whom and where.


How has introducing women-only compartments affected the number of such cases?

There’s fewer of them now. Not just because of women-only compartments. We’ve taken a series of new security measures. First, there are now security checks at the entrances to all major train stations. Second, we’ve introduced militarized security on trains. Third, we have trained dogs patrolling the train stations. Ukrainian Railways now has its own dog training center and specially trained crews. Four, all of our new coaches have CCTV cameras, buttons that can be used to call the conductor, and alarms on compartment doors which allow the conductor to see if someone is trying to enter a compartment that’s not theirs. I should be clear, there have been no incidents of harassment or conflict in our second-class coaches [which have open-plan seating and berths rather than compartments – ed.] or on Intercity trains in recent years. Conflict always occurs behind closed doors, in confined spaces where people are randomly assigned their neighbors.

Security control at train stations in Ukraine


It wasn’t an easy decision to introduce women-only compartments. No European country practices gender segregation, and the European Commission’s policies – and the civilized world as a whole – generally aspire to gender equality. We’ve done a lot on that front too. We employ female welders at our plant, and there’s a female train driver’s assistant on the Kyiv City Express train. We advocate for gender equality. But here we had to consciously do something that’s literally its opposite.

It took us this long because we needed to find courage to go against our own values and principles. But we knew why we had to make this decision. We didn’t just decide this was what we wanted to do. We looked at the data and decided that this really was needed on these particular routes. It was an experiment. Now we see that it was the right thing to do. Our passengers can rate their train journeys just as they can rate their Uber trips, that’s how we measure NPS [Net Promoter Score, which measures the loyalty of customers to a company – ed.], how satisfied our customers are. Women-only compartments have the highest NPS of all our compartments, 90%! Passengers who travel in those compartments are the happiest. This means we did the right thing when we introduced women-only compartments. They’re not available on all our routes, they’re not always needed. We see that there are certain routes where they’re not necessary.

So not all trains will have women-only compartments?

There’s no need for them on a number of routes. These compartments were designed to solve a specific problem and make people’s journeys comfortable during the war. We’re not trying to foster gender segregation.

When will you launch family coaches?

We’re working on it. The thing is, women-only compartments aren’t in fact different from all the other compartments. We just took some compartments and said they would be women-only from now on.

When it comes to family coaches, however, we have to be able to offer a new range of services and amenities, from busy boards and playpens to trained conductors, coloring books, kids’ food menus, first aid kits, bottles that can be used for warming up milk and formula, and so on. We also can’t just slap a changing table onto existing toilets and call it a day; kids have to be able to access a sink with a push-button tap and not those foot pedals that even adults can’t figure out. We advocate for a science-based approach to all this. Everything in our family coaches is very precisely and deliberately placed, down to centimeters; for example, they will have soft handrails to avoid injuries. All of this will be revealed later this year. If I start going into details now, you’ll get bored.

How is this project developing, what stage is it currently at? Are you still working on designs?

We already have all the designs, we have a partner that supports this work both at the level of ideation and design, and financially – and that’s UNICEF Ukraine.

When will family coaches launch?

The first family coaches will be introduced by the end of this year.


Kids’ play area at the Kyiv train station


Back to the issue of security. There are now plain-clothes security officers [they are called security “marshals” in Ukrainian – ed.] patrolling in train stations and on board trains. What’s the impact of this new measure?

That’s a good question. Here’s the answer: the impact is such that there have not been instances of security violations on the trains with on-board security officers.

Not a single one?

The best effect a security officer can have is the absence of conflict. We don’t want to measure it in the number of arrests.

How can plainclothes officers prevent conflict?

They’re working alongside militarized security – armed officers in uniforms.

What’s the marshals’ role? To monitor the situation and call a security guard if needed?

Yes. If something happens, they call militarized security, who can use force to establish order, so to speak.

But you just said that most of the conflicts occur in compartments, behind closed doors. Marshals can’t get in there, can they?

Why can’t they?

So they can enter a compartment even if the door is closed?

No, of course marshals won’t just enter your compartment to ask if you’re doing okay. But each of our new compartments has a button you can use to call the conductor. The old ones don’t, but the conductor’s still there. To be clear, the conductor is always the first contact point for passengers in any threatening or conflict situation they might experience on the train. There is always a conductor in each coach. It’s their duty.

The conductor has to follow a protocol for what to do in conflict situations. First, they have to separate the offender and their victim. The conductor is not a judge, they won’t try to figure out who’s right and who’s wrong. Their task is to take each person to a separate compartment, even different coaches. Then the train manager gets involved: they’re called over on the radio, and they try to figure out what’s going on. If necessary, the police are called to the next stop on the train’s schedule. The police will file a report and if necessary the offender is removed from the train. If the parties to the conflict have calmed down and moved on, then the conflict is just logged in the journey records.

We also have CCTV cameras – not in all of our trains, unfortunately, but at least in some. Overall, we can handle most situations if we know about them. The worst thing for us is finding out about an incident three days later from someone’s Instagram post. Well, there were conductors and security guards on that train, and a marshal, and the police were present at every one of the train’s stops. But we didn’t know what was going on. That really is the worst.

The main thing we’re trying to communicate to our passengers is that they have to let us know when something’s happening. It’s about their safety and comfort. Not just their personal safety, in fact. If someone harassed you during your trip, and you didn’t say anything, they might perceive it as permission to do it again next time they travel. They will think they can get away with it, and they’ll harass someone else next time. We don’t want this to become a recurrent issue. We need to stop this behavior at ground zero. To take the harasser off the train, call the police, and draw a line under this.

You said you supported gender equality, but, generally speaking, the railways is a sector that’s still replete with sexism…

There are over 200,000 people working for the Ukrainian Railways. An organization the size of a medium Ukrainian city offers a good insight into who we are as a society. If there’s gender- or age-related prejudice and discrimination, it’s because that’s still happening in our society more broadly. 

A train inspector

You mentioned a female train driver’s assistant. Is she the only woman in this role across Ukrainian Railways?

Yes. For now, yes.

Well that’s quite telling.

There are certain historic trends that have been shaped by history, not by someone’s will. I think now there are more women in all professions, just given the gender composition of our society. But it’s probably not necessarily evidence of the good times we’re living in that we have more and more women working as mechanics at car services.

What are you doing as an organization to achieve gender equality?

We’re not creating any barriers. We have no vacancies that only men or only women can apply for. We have female electrical engineers, and we also have men working in call centers. We’re trying to achieve a balance. I can’t say that we have any special initiatives designed to get more women to become train drivers.

I saw a news segment about this female driver’s assistant where she said she faced challenges even while still in higher education, training for this job. She just wasn’t accepted into programs because she’s a woman.

I’m sure that this is a matter of gender equality in our society as a whole. We have to become more mature as a society first. Ukrainian Railways is doing this alongside the rest of Ukraine, striving for both gender equality and other kinds of equality. Sometimes the issues we’re dealing with attract a lot of public attention though, like that incident with conductor Kovbasiuk who wouldn’t let a woman board the train because he decided that a man had to board first.

But that still happens.

Yes, it still happens. We’re not denying it. I’m sure that if we take all of our 200,000 employees, there are a few more Kovbasiuks among them. This doesn’t mean that the entire Ukrainian Railways operates in line with those values. It means that if we take 200,000 people from any part of our society, some of them – let’s say, 20 of them – will believe that this is so because the moon is in Capricorn…

People can think whatever they want, but you as an organization have to make sure that incidents like that don’t happen.

Conductor Kovbasiuk has been demoted.

But have you explained what this is all about to other conductors?

Of course. I was convinced that we were clear [on gender equality and discrimination issues] even before this incident, and that we won’t have to keep drilling it in. But this is the second such incident during my three years at the organization. We dismissed the conductor involved in the first one and made it clear that such behavior won’t be tolerated. And still, the same thing happened again two years later. But we’ll keep enforcing that until it fully sinks in.

I don’t want these incidents to throw shade on 99.9% of our conductors who have to travel to areas of hostilities under shelling, who evacuate injured military personnel, who don’t get to see their families for weeks. They’re all conductors. Often they’re the same people [as the ones who might act in a prejudiced way]. Going back to this particular incident, we have very thoroughly examined internal communications at each one of our depots. Let’s call what we did a “training on appropriate behavior, language, and the ethics of passenger communications.” We’ve already held one round of these training sessions, and I’m sure we’ll run many more.


Another incident that had a lot of resonance was when a soldier had to remain in the vestibule between coaches because he had a service dog with him. You said you will review the rules of traveling with pets and service animals. How are things going in that department?

We’ve already come up with new rules concerning travel with animals with our partners in UAnimals and experts from the Ministry for Communities, Territories, and Infrastructure Development of Ukraine and we’ll soon make them public. In fact, the Ukrainian railway is already one of the most animal-friendly railways in Europe, and it will become even more so. After all, we evacuated 120,000 animals to safety in early 2022 alone. We all want them and their owners to be able to go back home. Their travel should be as comfortable and convenient as possible. We also need to fight fear and prejudice. We have to take into account what everyone in the carriage thinks and wants; this is both an educational effort for us, and customer experience management.

A national guardsman with his service dog had to travel in the vestibule of the Kyiv–Chernihiv Intercity train because railway rules prevent larger dogs from traveling in coaches


Ukrainian Railways has started implementing changes at Kyiv’s main train station. At some point you said there will be a food court there – when might that happen?

We want to improve the passengers’ entire journey, from the very beginning, when they might use our app or interact with our chatbots. I think Ukrainian Railways deserves praise in this area. We’ve really revolutionized it over the last two years. You can now buy 89% of tickets online. We’ve also launched a loyalty scheme.

The next step of the journey is getting to the train station. In Kyiv, the new Kyiv City Express trains partially solve this issue. We’re scaling this model up, introducing it in Dnipro.

Next, the experience of being in the train station. We all know the sticky points: suspicious types hanging out at the station; the smell of the toilets wafting through, the myth that those toilets only get cleaned once a year, before Easter, and the fact that you have to pay to use them; uncomfortable, cold and dark waiting areas. There are lots of problems. We’ve noted all of them and mapped out the changes we need to implement to root out all those things we all hate so much.

These changes can’t begin with creating a food court. First, we need to make sure that the train stations are light and clean, that they smell good; we need to make them safer by removing the people who are threatening their security. We’ve now made sure the Kyiv train station is safe. Given the number of world leaders who arrive here, it’s probably the safest place in the entire country.


Now we can start taking care of comfort. There’s no room here anymore for grandmas selling their hand pies and pasties. Everyone – from country leaders, to [Richard] Branson, [Warren] Buffett, and Andrii Shevchenko – are traveling [to Ukraine] by train now that there are no flights. It’s important for us to make the train station comfortable for everyone, both the people using our suburban services (like the Kyiv–Nizhyn train), and the people traveling to Chełm. Take someone like Masha Efrosynina [Ukrainian television host and media personality – ed.], someone like her has a higher income and so higher expectations. The most difficult thing is finding balance. If the only things available at the train station are Idealist or One Love [i.e., hip coffee places – ed.], half of our passengers won’t get it. But if everything is like Fornetti [a franchise retail bakery – ed.], then the other half of our passengers won’t get it. We need to find an equilibrium. We now have the One Love and Idealist cafés and a SPAR supermarket. We had a Milkbar pop-up, and we’re now working with them to develop a menu for a number of our trains. We’re getting ready to create a proper food court. We’re currently in the process of renovating the space. We use Prozorro [ a fully electronic public procurement platform that ensures open access to public tenders in Ukraine – ed.] to find all of our tenants. We can’t just choose who’ll be there at the food court, there has to be transparent competition.

As a result, we now have a train station that offers a full range of services, like the one in Munich, where you can really have a good time. By the way, we’re recording this interview in a lounge which is also open to our passengers. We never had anything like this before.

One Love and Idealist cafes at the Kyiv train station


Europe is largely preoccupied with creating railway hubs rather than ensuring direct connections between cities. Is Ukrainian Railways planning on moving in this direction?

It’s one of our priorities right now, because it enables us to compensate for the shortage of carriages on our most popular services.

Ukrainian Railways currently has around 1,500 carriages, most of which are quite worn out; our carriages have, on average, been in service for around 50 years old, and have a limited lifespan. Besides, our carriages occasionally come under fire and some of them are beyond repair. The Kriukiv Railway Car Building Works has supplied us with 100 new carriages since the beginning of the [full-scale] war, but they’ve been distributed across different routes and services. We use some of our trains for medical evacuation, some are used in iron diplomacy efforts [the transport of world leaders from Poland through Ukraine – ed.], and others for strategic operations, let’s put it that way. All this is eating into the number of carriages we have available for regular passenger services, yet the demand has risen significantly, as has the range of functions we now fulfill. Ukrainian Railways is now responsible for all international travel to and from Ukraine.


Evacuation from Donetsk Oblast

Medical evacuation train


Why am I saying this? We used to be able to operate a Kyiv–Berlin and Berlin–Kyiv service, but that meant our carriages were tied up for three days. Now we can’t afford to do this. We can use a carriage on a key route to one of our hubs three times over in the time it would take it to get to Berlin. That’s why we made a strategic decision to develop our hubs. It will enable us to use the same number of carriages to operate more services. That’s the first thing.

Second. We can only use RIC carriages [these carriages are designed in accordance with the Italian Regolamento internazionale per le Carroze and manufactured by the Kriukiv Railway Car Building Works and can be used on both wide-gauge, Soviet style, tracks and European narrow-gauge tracks – ed.] on our Warsaw and Vienna services, our two most popular international services. Why? Ukraine’s tracks are a different width compared to the European ones, so we have to switch undercarriages at the border. But this is only the case on long-distance international services, like the ones to Vienna or Warsaw. Our Ukrainian-gauge trains can get to Przemyśl, Chełm or Chișinău. We can use our regular carriages on these routes, which we have a larger stock of. They’re new and more accessible. We can easily get a wheelchair user to Chișinău, Przemyśl or Chełm and help them get to an airport from the train station. That’s why we’re investing in these types of routes.

RIC coaches are compatible with Europe’s narrow-gauge tracks

What about hubs inside Ukraine?

Take Chop, for example, it’s growing and developing a lot right now. Chop offers almost as many international connections as Kyiv: to Vienna, Záhony, Budapest, Debrecen, Košice and Prague. It’s a full-fledged hub.

Lviv is also a proper hub. It offers connecting trains to Warsaw via Rava Ruska and five different trains to Przemyśl. Mukachevo can also be more or less called a hub.

So Chop, Lviv, and Mukachevo are our international travel hubs.

Kyiv as the capital is also a hub, because everyone traveling from the eastern regions first comes to Kyiv before transferring onto international trains from here.

What about hubs for trains running within Ukraine?

Ukrainian Railways offers convenient connections, which eliminates the need for passengers to worry about traveling to a particular hub. If there’s no direct train between Dnipro and Lviv, you can use the Ukrainian Railways app, which will give you options for different connecting trains – with connections in Kyiv or Vinnytsia, for example. Sometimes it’s cheaper to book connecting trains than a direct one; it might also be the faster option.

What about people who’re used to getting on the train and not having to leave until the final stop, who are willing to cross the entire country, east to west, on one train, just to avoid changing trains? 

This mentality is what made the Kyiv–Warsaw train so popular. If we think about it rationally, there are at least three trains from Kyiv to Warsaw via Chełm every day. What’s a Chełm connection like? You get into Chełm in a new train, which arrives at the same platform that your connecting train to Warsaw will depart from. You walk across the platform, change trains, and get to Warsaw at the same time as the direct train from Kyiv. The transfer is totally seamless. Meanwhile, if you take the direct Kyiv–Warsaw train, you’ll be traveling in an old train that was built 50 years ago, with far less comfortable compartments.

It takes time for people to get used to hub-centered connections. It’s already happening though: we used to get 12,000 requests for the Kyiv–Warsaw train every day, and now we only get 3,000. It’s not because the number of people who want to get to Warsaw has gone down, but because some of them are now using the Chełm connecting service. Our three Chełm–Kyiv trains are 70-80% full most days, and 100% full on good days. We’ve redistributed the flow of passengers to these connecting services.

Do existing international services meet the demand?

To put it simply, yes. Of course if we added another 10 coaches to our Vienna or Warsaw trains, we’d probably fill them. But trains on other routes aren’t always 100% full. If we distribute the passenger flow correctly, we can easily meet the existing demand. Everyone who wants to can travel to and from Ukraine. We might struggle a bit around peak dates, such as the beginning of school holidays or Christmas, but then we just launch additional trains, wherever possible.

Is Ukraine planning on expanding the reach of its international connections? Is it even possible? What cities or countries might be next?

We’re considering several options. We’re carefully thinking through the possibility of launching trains to Romania, but we’ve already attempted this once. We need to weigh the benefits and drawbacks. It’s difficult to say anything more concrete than this, because the tracks on the Romanian side have to first be repaired; a lot of money and time has to be invested into developing the infrastructure we need.

How will building European-gauge tracks help?

European-gauge tracks are strategically important for Ukraine, because it would mean we’re no longer using the same gauge as Russia. But it costs a lot of money to replace the train tracks across all of Ukraine. This isn’t even in the medium-term perspective for us.

Back to hubs. You said you were hoping to develop more hubs for internal services. How will this affect passenger experience? Will particularly long services from east to west be canceled?

Hub connections have to serve our passengers well. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to cancel long-distance services like Zaporizhzhia-Lviv and force people to make a connection in Kyiv instead. We’re talking about people with luggage and kids, as well as people with limited mobility. We won’t be able to force all of our passengers to use hubs and connecting services. It rather exists as an alternative to long-distance services.

How quickly hubs develop is directly related to how comfortable our train stations are and how easy it is to make connections. Accessibility continues to be the main issue for us. But I have to admit, we’ve got a long way to go. We have to lay the groundwork for hub-based connections in terms of train station infrastructure.

Ukrainian Railways has commissioned new second-class coaches [they don’t have compartments, just rows of lower- and upper-level berths and regular seats – ed.], even though a few years ago there was talk of abandoning them. Why?

The country’s demographic has changed. People are poorer, and we have to be able to offer cheaper travel and evacuation routes. During evacuations, we would have 300 people traveling in a coach with compartments instead of the 40 those coaches are designed for. If those were second-class coaches, we would have been able to evacuate even more people.

It’s important for us to have some second-class coaches available. But no new ones have been built during the years of Ukraine’s independence, and they’re becoming obsolete. Producing at least a few new ones will help us offer cheaper seats on popular overnight services, like the 7/8 Kyiv–Chernivtsi.

Another important thing is that second-class coaches offer not just the cheapest way to travel; some people opt for traveling second-class because of security concerns. Groups of kids also always travel second-class. There’s demand.

So Ukrainian Railways no longer intends to retire second-class coaches?

It makes no sense to give up entirely on something like that. The railways are a key transport artery in Ukraine, and are used by everyone in the country, from members of the parliament to grandmas who need to take something from one village to another. 

I would say, however, that the second-class coaches we’ve placed an order for will not look like the old second-class coaches. We know what the sticky points were for passengers traveling second-class in the past. I hope that we’ll be able to resolve or eliminate them. We made the top berths more comfortable and upgraded the seats: they now have power outlets and USB charging ports. Toilets will have changing tables and sensibly located power outlets.


New second-class coaches on the Kyiv–Chernivtsi train