UK rail aid for Ukraine could 'help win the war,' according to the minister

At Gloucester's Mabey Bridge HQ engineering firm, a Network Rail engineer (left) converses with a Ukrainian engineer

According to the transport secretary, the UK's assistance in rebuilding the Russian-bombed railways in Ukraine will be essential to the nation's victory in the conflict.

Since Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine last year, the country's railways have come under attack from rockets and cruise missiles.

Despite being damaged, trains have helped four million evacuees escape and supported military efforts.

Materials and rail equipment worth £10 million have been promised by the UK government.

The rapid-build modular steel bridges and tunnel-lining repair tools that are part of the aid package are intended to hasten the restoration of Ukraine's railways.

First aid supplies provided by British engineering company Mabey Bridge Limited in Lydney, Gloucestershire, with Network Rail and the Department for Transport, have already been sent to Ukraine via Poland.

The pre-engineered bridges were also put together by a team of Ukrainian engineers who flew to England in January to receive training before returning home to instruct their own teams.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper (centre) and Vadym Prystaiko, Ukraine Ambassador to the UK, talk to a Ukrainian engineer
Vadym Prystaiko, the Ukrainian ambassador to the UK, and Mark Harper, the transport secretary, speak with a Ukrainian engineer.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper noted that the project, in which Mabey Bridge and Network Rail are cooperating to support the Ukrainian railway system, which has come under attack by Putin's illegal war in Ukraine, was "really important" during a visit to Mabey Bridge headquarters with the Ukrainian ambassador to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko.

The significance of this and how it will contribute to getting their railway back in operation are both abundantly clear, continued Mr. Harper.

"There is no doubt that the support we are receiving from our British colleagues will assist us in rebuilding the railway and connecting our country," a Ukrainian engineer said.

According to Mr. Harper, the assistance provided to Ukrainians is a part of "our larger effort to ensure that the Ukrainians win this war against Russia.".

The UK gave Ukraine military assistance worth $2.3 billion last year, the second-largest amount of money given to any European country after the United States.

A lack of transportation options can "hugely affect people's lives," according to Michael Treacy, head of Mabey Bridge, which specializes in expedited bridge construction in military settings.

"Getting people their transport systems back makes such a difference," he said. "When people think of aid they might not automatically think of bridges.".

One of the bridges intended for Ukraine was constructed by engineers in 2.5 days.

Even taking into account the other tasks associated with the bridge construction, Mr. Treacy estimated that it would take "a maximum of two weeks" to put the bridge back in use on a damaged or bombed railway.

He claimed that the construction of a conventional concrete bridge could take months or even years.

Because speed is crucial in this area, he said, "that's one of the real advantages to these bridges.".

Since the bridges have a lifespan of several decades or longer, according to Network Rail CEO Andrew Haines, they will also aid in the eventual reconstruction of Ukraine.

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