The International Light Rail Magazine
+44 1733 367610

Fast line to Sykhiv… New trams for Kyiv

Two new Electron trams at Lviv's Railway station terminus. (Image: Martyn Janduła)

Though in many cases tramways in Ukraine struggle on, providing a service despite the appalling state of infrastructure, it is encouraging that new investments are also appearing. A promising example is in the city of Lviv in the west of the country, population almost 760 000, where construction of a tramline to Sykhiv continues with the help of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and German grants.

Sykhiv, with its high-rise flats, is a large residential district in the south of the city; alongside intensive development in the area in the 1980s, the first plans were drawn up to build a fast tramway connection to the city centre. This was envisioned as part of a system of new tramlines, with underground sections in the city centre, but during the fall of the Soviet Union such intensive investment proved impossible. In 1987 only one ‘fast’ tramway line was partially finished and opened, on Knyahyni Olhy Street.

However, ambitions for a fast tram network with a much-needed connection to Sykhiv did not disappear in the independent Ukraine after 1991 – and with the passing years became more realistic. In the meantime, before the arrival of the tramway, in 1997 Sykhiv was connected with a trolleybus line on Sykhivska Street to Sykhiv cinema. Finally, construction of a new line began in 2008, although only 180m of tracks were laid on Vasyla Stusa Street close to Akademia Mystetstv terminus before a lack of funding halted works. The tramway also resulted in the suspension of a trolleybus route on Snopikvska, Vasyla Stusa, Karbysheva, Uhor’ska, Heroiv Krut, Ternopilska, Panasa Myrnoho, Kozelnytska, Ivana Chmoly steets (line 1).

Alhough only a short section of tramway was built, the trolleybus didn’t return to these streets. The overhead wires have been partially dismantled, but in many places remain in situ. The other reminder of the plans was the Sykhiv bridge over the railway, where a tramway alignment was left.

With construction again delayed, the trolleybus line that opened in 1997 was extended in 2011 along Chervonoy Kalyny Prospekt to Santa Barbara market, covering the final section of the planned tramline. The trolleybus connection – line 25 – is to be retained once the line is completed.

Works finally start

A green light for the long-awaited connection finally shone when external funding was obtained in 2011 and work on the route to Sykhiv began in July 2014.

The new 5.4km (3.4-mile) line, consisting of 11.5km (7.1 miles) of track and ten new stops in each direction, is an extension of line 4 to Akademia Mystetstv terminus. The tram continues from Sventsitskoho Street along Vasyla Stusa Street and Chervonoyi Kalyny Prospekt to the Santa Barbara market at the very end of the avenue. Three intermediate turning loops are planned, at the intersections of Stusa and Sventsitskoho Streets, Uhorska Street and Chervonoy Kalyny Prospekt, Sykhivska Street and Chervonoy Kalyny Prospekt. Along most of the route (around 80%) the tramway is separated from other road traffic. According to estimates, journey times to the city centre will be 25 minutes.

As of July 2015, works – carried out by Turkish construction company Onur – were evident on most of the route, with sections of track laid and traction poles erected. The section from Sventsitskoho Street to Uhorska Street has already seen the diversion and renewal of utilities, installation of the roadway and laying of tram plates. On the section from Uhorska Street to Vernadskoho Street works are underway on laying the foundations and tram rails, explained Yaroslava Dubenska of LCE Lvivavtodor, the communal company responsible for investments in the city.

A common concern was operating noise from the tramway, an issue on older parts of the Lviv network. However, modern technologies are used to mitigate this, including open noiseless PK-type plates and closed PKP- and PKPM-type plates with further tiling of the track with figural elements. Green track technology is not provided, says Dubenska.

It was intended that works would last eight months, but due to an unplanned-for need to reconstruct utilities, an additional year is required. Completion of construction is now planned for the end of 2015. Unfortunately, not all matters have yet been settled, as Dubenska explains: “We currently face two main challenges: difficulties with the laying of a new collector and relocation of Santa Barbara market.” The market is located at the end of Chervonoy Kalyny prospekt, where a turning loop is planned. This is currently under the remit of the municipality and officials accept that this could affect the construction time.

The overall project cost is EUR17.2m, with the city receiving a EUR6m loan from the EBRD and a grant from the German government for EUR5m; the remainder is covered by the municipal budget. The EBRD loan was granted for a seven-year period, for repayment in 12 equal tranches every six months, with a one-year grace period.

There are high hopes for the tramway. The population served by the line is around 150 000; current buses and trolleybus services can only carry around 3000-4000 passengers per hour in one direction, whilst the overall capacity of the tramway – with each tram able to transport up to 200 passengers – reaches up to 12 000 per hour.

Lviv looks for new trams…

The expansion requires new rolling stock and LvivElektroTrans, Lviv’s electric transport operator (trams and trolleybuses), announced a tender for five three-section trams with an option for a further two. This is subject to EBRD budget availability.

The tender specified fully low-floor trams built to the Lviv metre-gauge with a width of 2.3m and a length determined at 19-25m, with a minimum passenger capacity of 160 passengers, including 30 seats and at least one wheelchair space. The expected delivery period is seven-and-a-half months from receipt of the first advance payment.

Conditions for bidders included an average annual turnover over the last three years of EUR7.5m or equivalent and proof of the successful delivery of at least three contracts worth a total of EUR5m for rail vehicles (rail, metro, tram), including at least two contracts for trams similar to those now ordered by Lviv.

Offers are to be submitted in two stages. The first stage consisted of a technical proposal only, without any price reference. Manufacturers could list any deviations to the technical and commercial conditions set out in the tender documents or suggest alternative solutions. The deadline for this stage passed on 10 July. Following evaluation of initial entries, those meeting the qualification criteria will be invited to a clarification meeting and to the second stage, which will include updated technical conditions for the contract.

As of now, there are only two new, 100% low-floor trams in service in Lviv – a five-section Electron T5L64 and a shorter three-section T3L44 variant. These were delivered in 2013 and 2014 respectively by Electrontrans, founded in 2011 as a joint venture of Electron (Ukraine) and TransTec Vetschau (Germany).

The trams are of a new design, and the ride is very smooth, despite the parlous state of some of the infrastructure. As well as modern low-floor trams, the firm has also developed trolleybuses, with initial examples delivered to Lviv and Khmelnitski, and has announced plans for electric buses; it is also to deliver new trams to Kyiv (Kiev).

…and will Kyiv show the way?

The order for Ukraine’s capital Kyiv is for seven trams, and worth nearly UAH184m (around EUR6m). It is to be fulfilled by the end of this year.

Kyiv’s tramway looks back on a long history, initial electric services having run in 1892 as the very first in what was then the Russian Empire. Today, much of the tramway is a legacy of the Soviet era and this extends to the vehicles, most of which are still those supplied by CKD Tatra. (For more on the city’s tramway, see TAUT 913 – January 2014). The Lviv-based manufacturer has offered its five-section T5B64 Electron and the vehicles will be similar to those in Lviv. The key difference is the gauge, which in Kyiv is 1524mm rather than Lviv’s metre gauge. The 30m trams specified will be able to accommodate 287 passengers.

Yuri Bubes, head of Electron, says he considers this contract award as marking a turning point in the approach taken by officials; previously the criterion had been price, with low requirements for technical solutions or in terms of passenger comfort. As a result, investments in rolling stock often ended up with supplies of used or refurbished cars. Under such changed market conditions the manufacturer anticipates further successful bids.

Yuri Michailovsky is the vice president of JI Service, which represents Electrontrans in Poland. The experience of Electrontrans’ designers means the switch from bus manufacture to trams was not hard, he explains: “Some solutions in this tram are unique, both regarding the construction of the chassis and of the floor. This tram is built of stainless steel, each wheel is suspended separately and is controlled separately. This allows us to save tracks, electricity, etc.”

Describing the design as “truly low-floor,” Mr Michailovsky added, “a wheelchair can pass through the entire length of the vehicle. “The tram is a modular design – it can add less or more sections. It is also worth noting that we use electronics from different companies… Ukrainian, as well as Russian. We are also talking with Siemens.”

The bogies have been key to the new trams’ successful performance in Lviv. These were developed with TransTec and come from a company in Dessau (Germany) with a long history of bogie manufacture for a wide range of rail vehicles, and are “coping well” with track irregularities.

“At the moment they are among the best on the market because they allow the tram to have a 100% low-floor. Differences in floor height are never greater than 4%.”

Although reluctant to disclose names, Mr Michailovsky said there is “a lot of interest from different cities” for the Electrontrans tram offer. The company had previously been interested in, among others, the contract for Łód in Poland that ended up being awarded to Pesa. Mr Michailovsky said that Electrontrans did not ultimately submit a bid for Łód because the tender specified rigid bogies: “If someone did not at this stage want more modern solutions, there is no point in pushing our solutions. We are a normal company and adhere to the principle that we do not want to be where we are not wanted.”

Many cities specify that to qualify for a bid, a manufacturer must already have produced a certain number of vehicles. Isn’t that an obstacle for a newcomer like Electrontrans?

“Look at the first Solaris tram… is their tram operating? Yes. You can make various artificial restrictions, but public procurement law and European regulations insist on one thing: to allow competition on the largest possible scale.

“If someone wants to have a proven tram, they should go to see it. We invite every operator to visit Lviv. See the conditions in which our trams need to operate and see the production process. You won’t find a drop of oil on the floor of the factory, we use modern machines and the crew is properly trained. We have the knowledge and experience.”


Feature originally appeared in November Tramways & Urban Transit (935).