New rail lines in Crimea

The Crimean peninsula is separated from the mainland by lagoons and islands, with one strip of land, the Isthmus of Perekop. There are two rail lines into the peninsula: one from Kherson via Perekop, and one from Melitopol via a causeway. The line from Kherson continues to Kerch, with a branch to Feodosia. The line from Melitopol continues to the capital Simferopol and Sevastopol. The lines cross at Dzhankoy.

Crimea: map by Maximilian Dörrbecker under CC 2.0 licence


These railways were built to link Crimea to the Russian Empire, not as an internal network for Crimea itself. The only ‘internal’ line runs from Simferopol to Yevpatoria. There is no east-west line on the peninsula, and despite its status as tourist destination, there is no line along the coast.

Those are the logical routes for new rail lines on the peninsula. The line to Yevpatoria could also be shortened, with a cut-off line from Simferopol to Saki. Apart from that, there is no logical extension of the ‘internal’ rail network. As always at this blog, borders and politics are ignored.

The total population of the Crimea is 2 400 000. (That includes Sevastopol, which was not part of Ukrainian Crimea). The population is concentrated in the south, along the flanks of the Crimean Mountains. The north is relatively flat, with low population density and only 20% of total population. All the main cities already have a station, but some lines are of poor quality.

Two new lines into the Crimea were proposed here earlier. The proposed Kiev – Crimea high-speed rail line (HSL) would follow the existing line from Kherson. It would run directly from the Perekop isthmus to Simferopol, by-passing Dzhankoy. The other is a Kharkov – Melitopol – Crimea HSL, through Dzhankoy. These would duplicate the function of the existing lines into Crimea, but with much higher speed and better quality.

Click to enlarge: the new lines in relation to the existing network, base map from Ukrainian Railways

High-speed rail line Kiev - Crimea

New HSL to Crimea

East west line

A new east-west line would link four of Crimea’s five main cities: Sevastopol (population 380 000), the capital Simferopol (population 360 000), Feodosia (population 97 000) and Kerch (population 145 000). A new alignment would run from Simferopol to Feodosia, along the northern foothills of the Crimean Mountains. It would connect to new or upgraded lines between Sevastopol and Simferopol, and between Feodosia and Kerch.

The proposed HSL into Sevastopol included a new alignment from the Belbek valley into the city. Even without a new line from the mainland, the existing single-track line must be improved.

In Simferopol, a new line eastwards would require substantial demolition, mainly of Soviet-era construction. (The only alternative is a long diversion around the northern suburbs). The line would then follow the main road to Zuia and Bilohirsk. East of Bilohirsk the line would turn north-east, across a range of hills. That could be in tunnel, or on a longer alignment following a river valley.

Crimean east-west line: base map by Maximilian Dörrbecker under CC 2.0 licence


The line would then turn east again, parallel to the foothills. At Pervomaiske, it would rejoin the main road to Feodosia. Most of the alignment is at 200 to 300 m elevation: it would drop to sea level at Feodosia. The existing line enters the city from the north, along the coast. The new line would have a 5-km tunnel, turning south. It would emerge from the coastal escarpment just before the station.


This alignment requires reversal at Feodosia, for trains to Kerch. It would be possible for the line to run at the edge of the city, but a station near the centre is preferable. West of Feodosia, a new exit line toward Kerch would replace the existing branch line, avoiding a second reversal at the junction (Vladislavivka). The rest of the line toward Kerch would need a complete upgrade, and building a new parallel line is probably simpler.

The new alignment north of the Crimean Mountains would have three stations: Zuia, Bilohirsk and Pervomaiske. That last station would in fact serve Stary Krim, the historical town that gave its name to the Crimea. On the line to Kerch, through trains would serve only Lenine, capital of the rayon for the thinly-populated Kerch peninsula.

Kerch bridge

A bridge across the Strait of Kerch has been planned for decades. It would link the Crimea to the Caucasus, avoiding a very long detour around the Sea of Azov. After the recent annexation of the Crimea, planning work has been accelerated: it also has military-strategic value. (In fact there was a temporary bridge in 1944, built by the Red Army for the Crimea campaign).

A Kerch bridge would improve the utility of the proposed east-west line. Together they would create a through route from Sevastopol to Novorossiysk, roughly 450 km long.

New line to Yevpatoria

The existing line to Yevpatoria (population 115 000) branches from the main Simferopol – Dzhankoy line at Hvardiiske. A 40-km cut-off line from the northern edge of Simferopol would generally follow the main road, rejoining the existing line at Saki. That has the added advantage that it can serve Simferopol airport, the main gateway to the Crimea. Two tunnels would probably be needed, because the terminal lies between the runways and the Simferopol rail line. The line would drop slowly from 200m to 20 m elevation, and the terrain is not an obstacle to construction.

West Crimea regional line: base map by Maximilian Dörrbecker under CC 2.0 licence


In combination with a new line from Sevastopol to Simferopol , the shorter line would create a regional route Sevastopol – Simferopol – Yevpatoria, about 160 km long. The exact length depends on the station location in Sevastopol. A new station could be on the north side of the bay, shortening the line, but requiring a ferry trip to the centre.

Crimean coastal line

Tourism is the main sector of the Crimean economy, and the main generator of passenger traffic, since the 19th century. Almost all the tourist resorts are on the south coast, but the mountainous terrain with coastal cliffs prevented construction of a coastal railway.

The coast at Yalta, vertical axis exaggerated…


The only public transport link is the Crimean trolleybus line, from Simferopol Station to Yalta – the longest trolleybus line in the world. It serves the most developed part of the coast, between Alushta and Yalta. (East of Alushta, the coast is less developed).

A new coastal line can not be built as standard heavy rail, but that is not a real disadvantage. Trains do not need to use existing lines, or the proposed high-speed lines, so the choice of technology is open. The route is relatively long: at least 200 km from Sevastopol to Feodosia, and probably closer to 250 km, allowing for the terrain. (A coastal line implies a decision to develop the eastern half of the coastline).

Extending the existing trolleybus line is not an option. A trolleybus is an urban transport vehicle, and not designed for such long routes. The options are light-rail, or light metro technology. Existing light metro vehicles are also designed for urban uses: the passenger is usually not in the vehicle for more than 15 minutes. It would be possible to use light metro technology, with vehicles designed for longer trips. Rubber-tired metros have the advantage of climbing steep gradients, up to 12%, and that would simplify construction. Nevertheless, much of the line would be in tunnel, and construction is therefore dependent on the geological conditions.

New rail lines in Crimea

5 thoughts on “New rail lines in Crimea

  1. Very interesting. Thanks. Would you think there can be a chance of a high-speed line from Moscow to Crimea as a branch from the planned Moscow – Rostov – Sochi high-speed line, via the new bridge at Kerch?

    Also, it would be interesting to know your opinion on the future of high-speed lines in Russia in general. In my view, there are two competing concepts.
    The first is the European one, where high-speed trains partially share tracks and stations with regular long-distance trains and stop at the (old) main stations in the city centers. Far from large cities, there are separate high-speed tracks. Thus, at the expense of some speed people are moved directly into the cities, and as a side effect, regular tracks get upgraded so that regular trains become faster.
    The second concept is what I call a Chinese concept where high-speed lines are mostly build completely separate, with new huge stations on the outskirts of cities or in the middle of nowhere. The advantage here is definitely the highest possible speed, but people have to change trains or even get on a bus to get to city centers.
    It seems like the Russian government and planners favor the Chinese concept at the moment. Except Moscow and St. Petersburg, the planned high-speed lines bypass even major city centers such as Nizhny Novgorod (Moscow – Kazan line) or Lipetsk (Moscow – Rostov – Sochi line). I think this is a bad decision. Yes, Russia is large so that high speed is necessary, but at the same time, the population is shrinking so that it is hard to expect that new centers/towns will evolve around the new stations in the middle of nowhere like it can happen in China. And if it takes as long to get to the station from the city centre as it is to the airport, people would prefer flying. Of course there would be speed reduction if the European concept is followed, but given the size of Russia it would be hard to compete with airplanes on the very long distances anyway. On the shorter distances up to 6-8 hours of travel, though, comfort and proximity of the stations is more important in the decision to take the train vs. plane than speed.

    What are you thoughts about it?

    1. infrastruct says:

      A line from Moscow to Crimea via Rostov is not rational, since it is a long detour around the Sea of Azov. The planned Kerch bridge will probably have a limited rail line, primarily for freight. The connecting line through the Kerch peninsula is of low quality. (A tunnel or a bridge/tunnel combination like the Øresund Bridge might be more suited to a HSL).

      You are wrong to make a distinction between a ‘European’ and ‘Chinese’ model for HSL planning. High-speed rail in Europe also includes lines by-passing city centres, and stations without connections. In fact the French LGV lines have been specifically criticised for their gares betteraves – stations in the beet fields. See Gare de Lorraine TGV, and this image especially:

      So the Russian HSL planning is just repeating mistakes made in western Europe. Possibly for the same reason: the new stations are expected to generate property development on green-field sites – although that often fails too.

      1. Well, of course it is a detour, but the only way to avoid Ukrainian territory… and, of course, the line from Kerch would have to be rebuilt, right.

        Maybe I should not call it “European” model, but a German one. In Germany, all ICE lines go through city centres, there are no stations in the fields (unless an airport is nearby).

        As for the reason Russians don’t follow, it is simpler – they don’t want to bother. It is easier and faster to build something from scratch than re-construct something that exists.

      2. infrastruct says:

        This blog ignores borders: lines built to avoid them are usually failures in transport terms.

        Germany has no complete high-speed lines like France, but high-speed sections (NBS) inserted into the network. That generally means use of existing main stations, but there are exceptions such as Kassel Wilhelmshöhe and Limburg Süd. For historical and geographical reasons, German railways are not centered on a single city, such as Paris and Moscow. In combination with the longer distances, that means the German model can not be easily applied in Russia.

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