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Ukraine rail support from UK could 'help win war'

UK support to help rebuild Ukrainian railways bombed by Russia will play a critical role in ensuring the country wins the war, the transport secretary said.

Ukraine's railways have been under attack by rockets and cruise missiles since Vladimir Putin invaded last year.

Despite damage, trains have provided a lifeline to military efforts and assisted four million evacuees to flee.

The UK Government has pledged £10m worth of material and rail equipment.

It is hoped the aid package, which includes rapid-build modular steel bridges and tunnel-lining repair equipment, will help get Ukraine's railways up and running faster.

The first aid shipment supplied by British engineering firm Mabey Bridge in Lydney, Gloucestershire, with Network Rail and the Department for Transport, has already been delivered to Ukraine via Poland.

A group of Ukrainian engineers also travelled to England in January to learn how to assemble the pre-engineered bridges before being flown home to train their own teams.

During a visit to Mabey Bridge HQ with Ukrainian ambassador to the UK Vadym Prystaiko, Transport Secretary Mark Harper said it was a "really important project where Mabey Bridge and Network Rail are working together to support the Ukrainian railway system which has come under attack from Putin's illegal war in Ukraine".

"It's really clear the importance of this, and that this is going to make a difference in helping to get their railway working again," Mr Harper added.

One Ukrainian engineer said: "There's no doubt that the support we're getting from our British colleagues will assist us in rebuilding the railway and connecting our country".

Mr Harper said the support given to Ukrainians was part of "our bigger effort in making sure that the Ukrainians win this war against Russia".

Last year the UK provided £2.3bn in military aid to Ukraine - the largest package of support of any European nation and second only to the United States.

Michael Treacy, head of Mabey Bridge, which specialises in accelerated bridge construction in military settings, said a lack of transport links can have "a huge effect on people's lives".

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

Engineers were able to build one of the bridges destined for Ukraine in two-and-a-half days.

Mr Treacy said even considering the other work around the bridge build, it would take a "maximum of two weeks to have the bridge back in service on a railway that's been broken or bombed".

He said a traditional bridge made from concrete could take months or even years to build.

"That's one of the real benefits to these bridges, because speed is of the essence here," he said.

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines said because the bridges can last a couple of decades or more, it would also help with the reconstruction of Ukraine afterwards.

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