Ukraine is seeking assistance from Canada to help keep its passenger and cargo rail system running, as landmines and missile strikes pose a threat to the country’s lifeline. Since the invasion began one year ago, the rail system has been crucial to the war effort, enabling millions of people to escape occupied cities, transporting wounded soldiers and civilians to hospitals in safer areas, and aiding in the delivery of aid and soldiers to front-line areas. Currently, 20% of the system is unusable, and more than 300 railworkers have been killed.
The state-owned rail company, Ukrzaliznytsia, has asked for Canada’s help in building a better, more modern system, and making the gauge of the tracks more compatible with the standard in the rest of Europe. In response to the request, Canadian rail companies and Ukrainian Railways have agreed to collaborate in order to support the resiliency and reconstruction of the system, including sourcing parts from Canadian manufacturers.
In addition to equipment, engineering and advice to rebuild damaged buildings, Ukraine is also looking to make railway facilities more accessible for those with lasting disabilities. Constant attacks on critical infrastructure has made repairs dangerous for workers, and missile attacks on power stations have made it difficult to keep the trains running.
Nevertheless, stations such as Lviv have been transformed into “invincibility fortresses,” where people can come to warm up, charge their electronic devices and sleep on station benches when Russian bombing cuts the power. As more territories are reclaimed, Ukrzaliznytsia hopes to repair more rail lines leading to those towns and communities. Canada’s help is essential in order to bring life back to the occupied cities.