The first electric train in weeks arrived at Irpin station from Kyiv on Saturday after crossing a rebuilt bridge destroyed in the war.
Destroyed during the Russian occupation, the bridge was one of many important connections between Kyiv and western Ukraine – its destruction forced trains to take a lengthy detour. The steel bridge was rebuilt within weeks, a process that would have taken months prior to the urgency of the war. Hundreds of railway workers and military worked on the restoration.
The restored span is only wide enough for one track set. A second bridge next to the newly built one is still under construction. The workers told CNN they worked for 25 days, with crews on site virtually 24 hours a day.
The inaugural train crossed the infrastructure minister, the mayor of Irpin and a senior railway executive on a 25-minute journey from Kyiv. According to Oleksandr Kubrakov, Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine, more than 300 railway and road bridges have been destroyed across the country since the war began.
Work is currently underway to rebuild at least 50 of them. The Ukrainian Railway was essential during the war – transporting supplies and civilians from the more dangerous parts of Ukraine. It has taken enormous effort to keep the trains on the tracks; The railroad says 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 have come to help their colleagues.
“These are not someone’s bridges, they are all Ukrainian and we need 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 Ukrzaliznytsia employees were killed – some during combat at the front, others just showing up for their regular work.
One worker, Vadim Levitsky, 45, barely held back tears as he explained that many of his colleagues were busy.
“We tried to help them at every opportunity. We were very happy that they survived. I’m glad I can meet and talk to them these days,” Levitsky said.
“We examined piles under fire and heard nearby explosions more than once,” Levitsky added.