The first electric train in weeks arrived at the Irpin railway station from Kyiv on Saturday, after crossing a newly rebuilt bridge that was destroyed in the war.
The bridge, destroyed during the Russian occupation, was one of many key links between Kyiv and western Ukraine — its destruction forced trains to take a longer detour. The steel bridge was rebuilt in a matter of weeks, a process that would have taken months before the urgency of war. Hundreds of railway workers and military worked on the restoration.
The restored span is only wide enough for one set of tracks. A second bridge next to the newly-rebuilt one is still under construction. Workers told CNN they worked for 25 days, with crews on site virtually around the clock.
The inaugural train across the span carried the infrastructure minister, the mayor of Irpin and a senior rail executive on a 25-minute journey from Kyiv. According to Oleksandr Kubrakov, minister of infrastructure of Ukraine, more than 300 rail and road bridges across the country have been destroyed since the war began.
Work is currently underway to rebuild at least 50 of them. Ukrainian Railways has been indispensable during the war — shuttling supplies in, and civilians out of the more dangerous parts of Ukraine. It has taken an enormous effort to keep trains on the tracks; the railway says that 20% of the system is either no longer controlled by Ukraine, or cut off by bombing.
Among the workers are not only railway workers from Kyiv and Irpin, but also workers from Lviv, who came to help their colleagues.
“These are not someone’s bridges, they are all Ukrainian and we have to restore them all,” said one worker.
Almost everyone CNN spoke to knows of railroad workers who died during the occupation. During the war, 118 employees of Ukrzaliznytsia were killed — some while fighting on the front lines, others were just showing up for their regular jobs.
One worker, Vadim Levitsky, 45, hardly held back tears while explaining that many of his colleagues were under occupation.
“We tried to help them at every opportunity. We were very glad that they survived. I’m happy that these days I can meet with them and talk to them,” Levitsky said.
“We carried out surveys of stakes under shelling and more than once heard explosions not far from them,” Levitsky added.