Although it’s not the cleanest train that I’ve ever seen, this former Soviet workhorse still looked impressive as it pulled in. It was to take us on a 16-hour journey to Poltava, in the east of the country.
Passengers starting to board.
The embarkation process was a little complex as some of the carriages didn’t have a number on them. However, after asking two staff members who got us closer each time to where we wanted to be, we found the correct carriage.
This is a first class compartment, with the journey costing around £27 each. The difficulty for the rail network is that the falling cost of air fares is making it harder for them to compete, but there is still the tourist market and it’s much easier to catch a train than go through the hassle of catching a flight.
Most elements of the carriage still looked as though they were from the 1970s, but there was a much more modern control panel which had been inserted into every compartment. This controlled the lighting, informed passengers when the toilets were in use and it also allowed me to charge my phone. The latter was absolutely essential of course.
There was a member of uniformed staff on board in what was a grand uniform, reminiscent of long gone days in the UK. He was ultra-efficient and seemed to have an awareness of when I was in the corridor area, so my first attempt at the above photo had him at the end of it looking surprised. I took another photo to avoid him being in it…..
The main problem for me with the journey was that it was just too hot in the carriage, and there was no way of opening the windows. There was a window in the toilets, but it was locked shut so that passengers didn’t throw things out of it. Combined with the heating in the carriage, it was a little more uncomfortable than I would have liked.
At one end of the carriage there was a samovar, effectively a boiler, which provided constant hot water and this was convenient for the arrangement of noodles that I had purchased for the journey. There were a limited number of things which could be bought on board, but there was nothing like a Greggs buffet compartment and that would have been nice.
There were though bottles of water provided at the beginning of the journey, and the facility to have tea and coffee brought in sachets, although they didn’t bring a cup to put them in.
I say that the main problem for me was the temperature, but that’s really a lie, as the main problem was that I didn’t have any wi-fi. I was able to connect briefly at a station very early on in the route, but then not again until the end of the journey. That meant 15 hours of not being connected to the outside world, which is the longest period that I can recall in years. Certainly not ideal when trying to follow the escapades of the British Prime Minister and her attempts to deliver Brexit.
For much of the journey the outside was dark, which is perhaps inevitable with a night train, but the Ukrainian countryside isn’t really the most beautiful in the world. I didn’t see anything of particular interest other than the towns and cities which the train went through, and most of those were under the cover of darkness. I think that I saw a hill in the distance at one point and there were a few dogs visible, but that was the highlight of watching the world go by from the window.
However, the train arrived on time in Poltava and shortly before arrival the conductor came in to tell us that we needed to depart at the next railway station. Everything was reasonably clean and comfortable on board, although the train didn’t feel particularly busy. At times the train made noises which suggested that it had left the track and was ploughing on along the road, but since we arrived in one piece I’m assuming that it was just a bumpy section of rail.
Certainly an interesting experience and very pleased that I tried it. There are numerous trains which run throughout the night, which means that they are convenient for passengers who might want to arrive into a city early, or indeed a little later. Flights often don’t have that flexibility, and at least the night trains give passengers a chance to sleep.