Kiev – Chernivtsi – Budapest high-speed rail line

This Kiev – Vinnytsia – Chernivtsi – Budapest high-speed rail line is part of a series of proposals. Read the introduction: high-speed rail in the Ukraine. Alignments are not given in detail.

Tysa / Tisa near Rakhiv, with trans-Carpathian railway.

The existing trans-Carpathian line along the Tysa at Rakhiv: image by Leonid Andronov under CC 3.0 license.

The proposed line would share new alignment with other proposed high-speed lines (HSL). The Kiev – Vinnytsia section would be shared by the proposed HSL Kiev – Vinnytsia – Odessa, and the proposed HSL to Iași and Bucharest.

High-speed rail lines through Vinnytsia, Ukraine

The new line to Budapest would run south-west from Vinnytsia, and via a new alignment to Chernivtsi. It would cross the Carpathians to the Tisza valley, and continue via Khust into the plains. The rest of the alignment to Budapest, via Satu Mare in Romania, is not described further here. The major topographic obstacle is the Carpathian Mountains. Existing lines use river valleys: a new HSL would require long tunnels. The corridor would pass through four countries: like all others here, this proposal ignores the borders.

Kiev - Vinnytsia - Chernivtsi - Budapest, trans-Carpatihan high-speed rail line, HSL.

HSL alignment

Assuming that the HSL Kiev – Bucharest ran through Mohyliw-Podilskyj (Moghilǎu), then the Budapest HSL would diverge there, after crossing the Dniester river. It would then cross the ridges between the Dniester and the Prut, running south of Briceni. This section is in Moldova, and would have no intermediate stations. At Lipcani, the line would descend about 60-70 m, into the broad Prut valley.

The HSL would then follow the existing line to Chernivtsi, along the Prut valley. (The existing single-track line also runs from Mohyliw-Podilskyj, crossing the Ukraine – Moldova border six times). The Prut valley is also a possible HSL corridor between Lviv and Bucharest, via Iași: there is an alternative corridor via Suceava and the Siret valley.

The broad Prut valley west of Lipcani: from an Austro-Hungarian military map of about 1910, with Hungarian and German place names.

Rail line through Prut valley from Lipcani, Moldova / Ukraine.

Chernivtsi has a population of abut 250 000, and is the capital of Chernivtsi Oblast (900 000). The existing line is on the north side of the Prut, the city centre and station on the south side. A new link line is needed, allowing high-speed trains to enter the station from the east. The new line would put Chernivtsi at about 500 km from Kiev.

Map: the original railway geography of Cernowitz, Chernivtsi, with the ‘missing link’ from the east superimposed.

Railways of Cernowitz, now Chernivtsi, circa 1910.

From Chernivtsi, the HSL would follow the existing railway, along the Prut valley to Kolomyia (population 61 000). This section can certainly be shared with a Lviv – Bucharest HSL.

At Kolomyia, the line would turn east, again following the river Prut and the existing line through Lanchyn. At Delatyn, this line joins the existing line from Ivano-Frankivsk to Sighetu Marmației, across the Carpathians along the Prut and the Tysa. These valleys are narrow and meandering: a HSL would require some flank tunnels.

The high-speed line would have two major tunnels. The first is a 22-km base tunnel from Yaremche into the small intermontane basin around Yasinia. The tunnel would run approximately under the main Yablonitsky Pass in the Chornohora range (the existing rail line uses another pass, about 5 km away).

Another tunnel of about 15 km would be needed, to avoid the meandering Tysa / Tisa valley south of Rakhiv (population 15 000). The tunnel would rejoin the existing road and rail routes along the Tisa, east of Sighetu Marmației.

The line along the Theiss / Tysa / Tisa, as built, with the schematic route of a cut-off tunnel.

Trans-Carpathian railway into the present Sighetu Marmației, circa 1910.

The line might use the Romanian bank of the river, but Sighetu Marmației (population 44 000) can also be served by a station on the north bank.

The line would follow the Tisa / Tysa, as the valley gets wider, through Khust (population 31 000) in Ukraine. About 10 km west of Khust, the river valley opens up into the Hungarian plain.

Map and image: railway and road enter the Hungarian Plain, through the gap at Khust (heights exaggerated on the image) …

Trans-Carpathian rail line through the gap at Khust, map.

The gap at Khust, used by Trans-Carpathian routes into Hungary.

Although a new line toward Debrecen is possible, the optimal route is alongside the former main line at the eastern edge of the plain – Romanian line 402. This route would serve Satu Mare (population 114 000), the regional centre of the northwest corner of Romania. It would be about 800 km from Kiev, via the HSL.

The existing line continues through Carei, to Debrecen in Hungary. From there it is 220 km to Budapest, either via the existing main line, or a parallel HSL. From Carei, the existing main line also continues to Oradea, Arad, and Timişoara, and on to Belgrade, and this too is a potential HSL corridor.

The entire Kiev – Budapest corridor is about 1150 km long. The major stations would be at Vinnytsia, Mohyliw-Podilskyj, Chernivtsi, Kolomyia, Satu Mare and Debrecen. On the Vinnytsia – Satu Mare section, additional stations could be served by some trains: Zhmerynka, Rakhiv, Sighetu Marmației, and Khust. With line speeds limited on the trans-Carpathian sections, the fastest journey time Kiev – Budapest would be about 7 hours.

Kiev – Chernivtsi – Budapest high-speed rail line