European transport providers prepared to move Ukrainian refugees

March 1, 2022
Several countries including Poland, Austria, Czech Republic and Germany have offered refugees from Ukraine free passage on trains.

While the world wrestles with the question of how best to support Ukraine, European passenger rail carriers were among the first to offer help to the expected influx of refugees fleeing the country with the promise of free transport with proof of Ukrainian citizenship.

Within Ukraine, Ukrainian Railways has been posting updates and schedules through Telegram and Facebook. On Feb. 27, it posted an updated map of stations in operation, which was most of the country with the exception of the northeast, east and southeast stations closest to the Ukrainian-Russian border.

The rail provider says train schedules are being made on a day-to-day basis and approximately half a million people have been evacuated. A transport hub has been established in Chop, Ukraine, which is on the western side of the country near the Slovakian and Hungarian borders. Ukrainian Railways explains nine trains between Chop and Zahoni, Hungary, continue to operate.

Alexander Kamishin, chairman of the board of Ukrainian Railways, posted a message on Telegram and Facebook on Feb. 28 apologizing that the railway could not offer proper comfort, which he vowed to personally remedy once the conflict was over.

PKP Intercity, which operates in Poland, Ukraine’s immediate neighbor to the west, is offering a second class ticket on its trains in economic categories TLK and IC. The offer started Feb. 26 and will stand for four weeks.

Poland Minister of Infrastructure Andrzej Adamczyk says it was a moral duty to aid Ukrainians fleeing the war with PKP Intercity Management Board President Marek Chraniek, adding the company’s workers understand the social mission of their work.

Additionally, PKP Intercity and Poland’s Ministry of Health deployed a train with 10 cars, some outfitted with medical equipment and camp beds and others stocked with blankets, food and other essential goods to assist refugees.

PKP Intercity is working with Czech Railways on joint activities and the rail carriers launched two humanitarian trains to Przemyśl, which is in the southeast corner of Poland near the Ukrainian border. The trains have roughly 700 seats each among their 13 second-class cars and are equipped with provisions and blankets.

Czech Railways is also offering free passage on its trains to Ukrainian citizens fleeing the war. The rail provider tweeted that it has transported more than 400 women and children to Ostrava, Czech Republic, from Chop. An earlier tweet showed a man hugging his family goodbye before they boarded the train in Chop with text that was translated as “Dads stay, we keep our fingers crossed…”

Should Ukrainian refugees need to travel further into Europe, several countries including Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Denmark, The Netherlands, France and Lithuania are offering free transport with proof of residence in Ukraine.

European Union Director-General for Mobility and Transport Henrik Hololei offered his gratitude to the nations that quickly offered help transporting those fleeing Ukraine and noting his pride “to see real European solidarity in action.”

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The war in Ukraine has far reaching implications. Our colleagues at Endeavor Business Media, which owns Mass Transit, have been covering the impacts from all angles. Coverage has been compiled and is viewable through this link

Story updated March 1, 2022, 1:08 p.m., to include additional countries offering free transport of refugees. 

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.