This Odessa – Rostov high-speed line (HSL) is part of a series of proposals. Read the introduction: high-speed rail in the Ukraine. Alignments are not given in detail. All proposals here ignore borders.
There is no existing transverse rail link across the southern Ukraine (i.e. north of the Crimea). With the existing network, it would take several changes of train, and reversals, to visit all the cities, on this proposed route. The 800-km HSL approximately follows the M14 / M23 highway.
Odessa (Odesa / Одеса in Ukrainian) has a population of one million, and is the main port of the Ukraine. The main station is on the southern edge of the historic city. The new alignment would diverge, at the edge of the city, from the existing line northwards. That implies a long, winding route around the old city: a new tunnel under the centre would shorten the route by more than 5 km.
From the outskirts of Odessa, the HSL would have a direct alignment toward Mykolaiv (Миколаїв), about 110 km long. That means crossing the Tyligul liman (estuarine lagoon): in places it is less than 1 km wide, and generally shallow. The total length of the line to Mykolaiv, with a new tunnel in Odessa, would be about 125 km.
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The line would cross the Southern Bug estuary into Mykolaiv. The city is a port and shipbuilding centre, with 505 000 inhabitants. It is built on a peninsula inside a meander, and at present the main station is a terminus: all lines approach it from the south-east. The new line would convert it to a through station, using a 4-km tunnel under the river, to the rail yard west of the station. The tunnel would also be used by the proposed Kiev – Crimea HSL.
From here, the HSL can follow the existing line to Kherson (Херсон, Cherson, population 312 000). Most of the 65-km line is straight, but the lines out of Mykolaiv and into Kherson need improvement. This section would also be shared with the Kiev – Crimea HSL. The main station at Kherson is aligned east-west, but there is no line eastwards.
The HSL would run east on a new alignment (about 60 km). It would first cross the Dnieper (east of the existing bridge on the Crimea line). The line would pass the southern edge of Nova Kakhovka (Нова Каховка, population 52 000), or possibly run on viaduct through the western districts. The town is large enough for a HSL station.
From there to Melitopol, the HSL would run alongside the existing line, a generally straight single track across the cultivated steppe. Near Vesele, the HSL would turn south-east to Melitopol. The whole section from Kherson would be about 230 km long.
The existing line through Melitopol (Мелітополь, 160 000 inhabitants), is the main Moscow – Crimea line: the HSL would join it at the edge of the city. It turns to serve Melitopol, giving a V-shaped alignment. The main station is north of the bend, relatively far from the city centre. (This panorama shows it in its present state, with mud, holes in the road, and Lenin statue).
The new line would exit Melitopol to the south-east, to roughly follow the M14 highway. The obvious way to do that, is a tunnel from the station, which is already aligned south-east. The tunnel, about 4 km long, would pass under a residential area north of the centre, and surface near the road bridge over the Molochna river. The line can exit the city on viaduct above the M14, or on a surface line parallel to it.
The new line would continue to Berdyansk, roughly parallel to the coast of the Sea of Azov, and north of the M14. (The existing rail network requires a long detour inland, via Tokmak). The HSL must cross several valleys, but there is no major obstacle. The Melitopol – Berdyansk section would be about 115 km long.
Berdyansk (Бердянськ, population 123 000), is built on a promontory, at the foot of a 35-metre escarpment. The existing rail line approaches from the northwest, and runs along the northern edge of the city. It then turns south, through the city, to a terminal station near the sea. An east-west line can not use this station. The HSL would run alongside the existing rail line, at the nothern edge, with a new interchange station on the main road north. This is where the existing line turns south, the HSL would continue eastwards.
From Berdyansk, the line would continue parallel to the coast, to Mariupol, inland from the coastal cliffs. Again the existing rail connection makes a long detour inland. Here too, the HSL must cross several stream valleys, eroded up to 60 m below the plateau. This section would be about 70 km long, station to station.
Mariupol (Маріуполь, population 490 000) is an industrial city with two steel plants. The existing rail line approaches from the north, from the Donbas mining region. The historic city was built on a promontory, and the main station is between the centre and the beach. The HSL, approaching from the west, would convert it into a through station. A combination of two tunnels and a viaduct is needed, to descend from the plateau. The HSL would join the existing port line, just west of the station.
The existing rail line out of the station follows the Kalmius river. On the other bank is the huge Azovstal steelworks. The first S-bend in this line is therefore unavoidable: the existing line would be upgraded, with additional tracks. The HSL must then cross the river, to exit the city toward Taganrog. The new alignment can use the wide exit road (M14, Golubenko, Taganrogskaya), through the eastern districts. The line would cross the wide river bedding on viaduct, and enter a cut-and-cover tunnel under the road. It would climb 45 m from the river viaduct, but over 5 km the gradient is acceptable.
The HSL to Taganrog would again parallel the M14 (M23 in Russia), 3-8 km inland from the coast. Again there is no existing rail link: passengers must go all the way inland to Donetsk, and back south to Taganrog. The new line would cross the estuary of the river Mius, beside the existing road bridge. The section Mariupol – Taganrog would be about 115 km long.
At Taganrog (Russian Таганрог, population 258 000), the line would use the existing northern station, Taganrog-I. This station, at the northern edge of the city, allows Rostov – Donetsk trains to stop in Taganrog. There is a terminal station (Taganrog-II) further south, at the edge of the city centre. The HSL would approach Taganrog-I from the west, by a tunnel – the alignment passes an airbase, an industrial area, two rail lines, and a road junction.
East of Taganrog-I, the new HSL can approximately follow the existing line to Rostov. Approximately, because this line is built too close to the coastal cliff in places, and too close to the Don river in others. At the outskirts of Rostov, the line into the centre first climbs to the plateau, and then follows a river valley back down again. Between Taganrog and Rostov, the HSL would run closer to the main road M23, about 2-3km inland from the existing line, and at 50-70m elevation. This section would be about 65 km long.
The HSL would join the old line at the north-western edge of Rostov. It would then descend in a 4-km tunnel, avoiding the curving alignment of the old line. The tunnel would rejoin the old line about 3 km outside the main station. This last 3 km also needs an upgrade – in fact the whole confused layout, and the antique lifting bridge over the Don, need replacement.
Rostov (Rostov-on-Don, Russian Ростов-на-Дону) has a population just over one million. It is a major rail interchange, on the main Moscow – Caucasus line, and would be even more important if substantial HSL projects were implemented. (For instance, there is no direct line eastward, to Volgodonsk and Astrakhan). Rostov station is located west of the centre, in a valley. (That is why the Don rail bridge is too low, and needs a lifting section). A rail alignment in tunnel under the centre, and a new Don bridge, would perhaps be a better option than upgrading the existing line, but that is not considered further here.
The whole HSL route would be about 785 km long. Trains would generally stop at all 7 intermediate stations: these are large cites and transport interchanges. Some trains might skip the two smallest, Nova Kakhovka and Berdyansk. With a new and operationally separate high-speed alignment, the Odessa – Rostov journey time should be under 4 hours.