The urban geography of the Ukraine makes it very suitable for high-speed rail, with large cities about 150-400 km apart. The present rail network is very deficient. Lines such as Kiev – Poltava and L’viv – Odessa are at least direct, but some large cities are served by indirect branch lines, and some city-city pairs lack a rail link. Rail journeys via several cities, are often much longer than by road. Improving line speed will not correct this, and with the present low speeds rail travel is rarely a practical option. Two Soviet-era high-speed projects, Kiev – Odessa and Moscow – Crimea, never approached the construction phase. There are plans for upgrading existing lines, but the Ukrainian economy can not support them.
It is sometimes said that the Ukraine inherited north-south lines from the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, whereas it needs east-west lines. The real problem is that the network does not correspond to the urban population distribution. The topography is sometimes a problem: the Carpathian and Crimean mountains, wide rivers with cliff banks, and river lagoons (limans) along the coast.
In size, the Ukraine (604 000 km2) is roughly comparable to France (552 000 km2). Its declining population is smaller: 46 million as against 63 million. The two rail networks are proportional to the populations: 32 000 km in France and 22 000 km in the Ukraine. However, France has 1800 km of high-speed line, with more under construction. The Ukraine has none.
The proposals here are not detailed alignments for high-speed lines (HSL), but a pattern of high-speed routes, and some additional lines. They are intended to connect the main cities. With good urban-regional networks, that would benefit most of the population. Rural rail lines are also needed, but the rural population density is low, after a long period of accelerated urbanisation. In the east, which is partly steppe, it was always low anyway. A high-speed network would also include links into the western Ukraine, across Moldavia, toward southern and central Russia, and south toward the Caucasus.
The lines are described separately: