The Kryvyi Rih city center.

The Kryvyi Rih city center. Photo: Courtesy of Kryvyi Rih City Council

Kryvyi Rih is Europe’s longest city, at 126 kilometers. That fun fact can be less amusing when it comes to getting across town, which can take hours. Ukraine’s eighth-most populous city would benefit tremendously from improvements to its public-transit system.

The nation’s largest industrial hub is heavily dependent on its tramway network, a key mode of public transport for the city, which has a population of nearly 630,000. However, the tramcars are often over 30 years old—far beyond their standard lifespan. In addition, inefficient traffic management practices and an obsolete fleet of buses, minibuses, and trolleybuses hinder the city’s growth potential.

Tram station in the outskirts of Kryvyi Rih.
Tram station in the outskirts of Kryvyi Rih. Photo: Courtesy of Kryvyi Rih City Council

That is about to change.

IFC’s €13.7 million loan to Kryvyi Rih will help upgrade its public transport system, increasing people’s access to energy efficient and quality transport services. It will allow the city to purchase 15 modern electric tramcars, reducing the average travel time by up to eight percent. While the new fleet will already save massive electricity through regenerated energy, the municipality is developing an energy efficient master plan to rejuvenate an outdated transit system.

"We actively work on modernizing the tramway infrastructure system, as trams are the key mode of transport for over 600 000 residents. Our partnership with IFC will help us mobilize financial resources as well as implement best practices of adopting modern transport technologies, boosting safety and comfort," says Kryvyi Rih City Acting Mayor, Yuri Vilkul.

With the nation’s transport emissions growing at an alarming pace — they account for 12 percent of its total carbon-dioxide emissions—greener urban transport alternatives can make Ukraine’s cities more resilient. The 13-year loan, financing tramcars that will serve 300,000 passengers in Kryvyi Rih more efficiently, will also help rehabilitate an approximately kilometer-long stretch of the tramway line, a critical east-west transport artery in the city center. Moreover, the city’s new trams will come with modern features, improving access for low-mobility passengers.

“We see tangible changes in cities across Ukraine as a result of IFC’s engagement,” says Jason Pellmar, IFC Regional Manager for Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova. He adds, “In Kryvyi Rih, we aim to help the city improve its capacity and mobilize investments for a robust public transport infrastructure. We hope that the project will encourage many more Ukrainian cities to shift to greener technologies.”

Earlier, IFC forged strategic partnerships with the cities of Mariupol and Zaporizhzhia as part of the Cities Initiative—implemented in partnership with the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO and the Austrian ministry of finance—which helped municipal authorities switch to greener urban transport alternatives and improve the quality of communal services in Ukraine.

Congestion Challenge

Though almost 70 percent of Ukraine’s population live in urban areas, public transport, waste management, and other municipal services have suffered from years of underinvestment. In Zaporizhzhia, one of the country’s largest industrial centers and most densely populated cities, an outdated network of electric transport and air pollution are still major problems. Smaller cities like Mariupol are also reviewing programs to upgrade their fleet and make transport more accessible for people with limited income, while tackling the new financial challenges triggered by the pandemic.

To realize key changes across cities, Ukraine needs an infrastructure investment of at least $30 billion between now and 2030.

Clearly, public-sector resources alone cannot bear this burden, which is why private sector engagement is essential to spur investments. Quality of and access to urban infrastructure services are among the key challenges that hold back economic development in cities.

That is why, over the last two years, IFC has been working in Mariupol and Zaporizhzhia—two cities that are renewing and expanding their public transport infrastructure for a more sustainable and reliable transit system. IFC helped the cities improve their financial and operational sustainability, opening up opportunities for private sector investments.

IFC’s €12.8 million loan to Mariupol helped the city purchase 64 climate-friendly public buses, doubling its fleet of 53 buses, increasing passenger capacity, and making public transport more affordable for the city’s more than 430,000 residents. Compliant with European standards , the new buses are expected to boost the number of passenger trips from nearly 9 million in 2018 to over 26 million by 2022.

In Zaporizhzhia, IFC’s €35 million loan is helping the city introduce battery-electric trolleybuses and electric buses. IFC is helping the city develop a smart city platform alongside the funding, which will also support the rehabilitation of streets and purchase of de-icing and other equipment, reducing traffic delays and creating jobs.

Beyond investments, IFC helped Zaporizhzhia and Kryvyi Rih obtain their first international credit rating, improving their access to long term capital and reducing reliance on central government financing.

Road Ahead

As more frequent wildfires, droughts, heat waves, and floods make Ukraine increasingly vulnerable to climate change, the IFC support is all the more critical given the global push to fast-track a green recovery. . This is also relevant with the Ukrainian government’s updated climate commitment to reducing GHG emissions by 65 percent of 1990 levels by 2030.

Other Ukrainian cities have significant scope to improve their urban infrastructure. For example, strong transit, water, and waste systems can help the capital of Kyiv boost its efficiency. A range of green solutions can help Lviv, Ukraine’s cultural center, strengthen its electric public transport network to address congestion and air pollution issues. In this context, IFC—through its Cities initiative—is committed to work with Ukrainian cities to help them achieve their goals.

Globally, IFC’s Cities initiative has invested over $2.3 billion in climate-smart city related projects to date. In Ukraine, IFC hopes to serve as a bridge between the government and municipalities to help the nation realize its ambitious climate targets through strong climate-smart infrastructure across Ukraine’s fast-growing urban centers such as Kryvyi Rih, Mariupol and Zaporizhzhia.

Published in December 2021


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