updated on January 20, 2016
Ever since Donetsk oblast administration was moved to Kramatorsk as a result of war in Donbass, Eastern Ukraine (2014-) hopes have been higher on the side of probable as opposed to possible for a new trolleybus line to connect the Old City (including railway station) with central Kramatorsk.
Yesterday, local media followed one of Eastern Ukrainian town’s public transportation vehicles on its test ride along the newly laid trolleybus route #6.
With free fare for the pensioners and US5 cents (0,1% of minimum wage) per ride for the rest of the passangers, many Kramatorsk residents are happy with the prospect of saving a bit more as they travel to the railway station-adjacent market that offers cheaper food items than the other two major food marketplaces in the newer part of the Eastern-Ukrainian town of of this 150,000+.
Kramatorsk residents both in online and offline discussions express their surprise at the speed and efficiency with which a project with concrete, positive implications for the everyday life of the town dwellers was completed. Some experts reportedly estimated that it would take the municipal services up to a year to bring the project to completion.
They did it in 25 days, having reportedly saved 16 million hryvnia (USD 672,280) from the budgeted 35 million (USD 1,470,614). Almost like the proverbial Stakhanovites. Though, hopefully without the bad quality implications of the term.
250 coulmns were set up along the route. A power substation brought back to life. It used to cater for the Old City tram connection. That line was discontinued some 20 years back for fear of the Torets River bridge deterioration as an alleged result of trams crossing it.
17 kilometers of power cable laid in the same period. Ten passenger stops refurbished and two high-voltage towers erected instead of the previous ones that posed public safety risk.
Back in the day, plans to lay this trolleybus line were voiced by the local city authorities as a subsistitute for the tram line that used to serve local passengers up till 1990s.
In the early years of Ukraine’s independence, the tram line to the Old City was discontinued and — as per local gossip — the rails dismantled, sold and the proceeds of the deal pocketed by local bonzos.
Privately owned — and some argue, Kramatorsk elite-linked — marshrutkas have been serving the old tram route all the way till today, at current price per ride 3+ times higher than the municipality-subsidized trams and trolleybuses.
Out of 40-45 trolleybuses that Kramatorsk needs for an adequate mass transit service, only 25 are currently operational. In the 1980s (last Soviet decade), the trolleybus park consisted of 60 vehicles.
Some local residents say that throughout all these years post-independance the trolleybus line did not really interest those in power because — unlike, say, road construction — one can’t steal much public money from a trolleybus line — all the key construction costs are there on the surface.
So why did the city council eventually deliver what it clearly owed to the people of the Eastern Ukrainian town for all these years post independence?
Some cite the post-Euromaidan climate of greater public responsibility and transparency.
In 2014 Ukrainian municipalities purchased 117 trolleybuses. Only half of them are new units. The rest are second-hand vehicles from the EU.
As Ukraine moves into its third year as a nation that insisted on its EU course, it remains to be seen what other timely social infrastructure improvements the national trend towards decentralization will bring to the Eastern Ukrainian communities.