Around 40% of Ukraine's transit traffic uses the existing 1.7km-long tunnel, which is part of the corridor from southern Europe and the Ukraine to Russia, Kazakhstan and other countries in central Asia. However, as the only single track section of the entire route, it is a major bottleneck. The structure, which was built in 1886, is also letting in excess groundwater following damage to drainage systems, and during the winter this moisture turns into ice, threatening traffic safety. Trains as result have to pass through the tunnel at minimum speed.
The new tunnel will enable speeds to be increased to 70km/h and will be situated 30m south of the existing tunnel which will be retained as an emergency tunnel with three connecting portals. The new tunnel is scheduled to open in 2015.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is providing Ukrainian Railways (UZ) with a €102.7 m loan for the project, while UZ will allocate an additional €50m from its own funds.
Meanwhile, UZ will launch services with Hyundai Rotem inter-city emus on the 532km Kiev - Dnipropetrovsk line on November 11. The new vehicles will replace the locomotive hauled Stolichnyy Express service which has operated on the line between the capital and the Ukraine's fourth largest city since August 2003.
The maximum line speed will remain unchanged at 140km/h, yet the journey time will decrease from 5h50 m to 5h13m. This is primarily due to better acceleration achieved by the new emus and the elimination of the requirement to change electric locomotive at Pyatikhatki where dc and ac lines connect.