Tetyana Semennikova says she has a good reason to be in love with her job: “I see the sunrise every day.”
That’s because she has to get up at 4 a.m. to make it to her morning shift five times a week. More than 405,000 Kyiv residents use the tram every day, according to the Kyivpastrans press service, a municipal transport company.
Semennikova drives a speed tram from Starovokzalna Street to Kiltseva Doroga at the edge of the city, along route number 3.
To drive that route, the driver has to be of the highest rank, and that’s what Semennikova is. Just three out of Kyiv’s 20 tram routes have speed trams, and they are relatively new to the city. Speed trams came about in 1978, while the first electric trams have been running the streets since 1892.
Driving the big metal machine calmly and confidently, Semennikova tells her story – a good illustration how people come to the bubbling pot of the capital to find a new life.
A native of Russia, she moved to Ukraine in 1988 with her husband, a professional Soviet army man. Since then, the Soviet Union collapsed, their two children grew up, and Semennikova became a tram driver.
“It happened by chance. My new neighbors were working on trams and offered me to try it,” she says.
Semennikova started off by selling tickets in 2000, and in four years she decided to do a half-year course to qualify for a tram driving license. Kyiv has an army of 480 tram drivers, the majority of whom – 276 – are women.
Semennikova says it’s easier for men to find a better job than driving a tram on a wage of Hr 3,800 per month. But the number of men is on the rise, she says.
Kyiv's trams service 405,000 passengers daily, but only a fraction of them are speed trams like the one in the photo. (Kostyantyn Chernichkin)
Tram drivers are very loyal to their jobs: When route number 3 was upgraded for three years, drivers had to take time off and a pay cut, but many of them waited patiently for their jobs to resume. Semennikova was out of her job for a year out of the three years it took the authorities to repair the tram lines.
Her route reopened in 2010, and the drivers are happy with the improved work conditions. The speed of trams increased two-fold after the upgrades, from 30 to 60 kilometers per hour, says Serhiy Adamenko, deputy head of service at Shevchenko district depot.
Moreover, the drivers are now in charge of brand new tram cars that run on speed lines.
“The depot has got 15 new trams made by the transport plant in Dnipropetrovsk, and waiting for more for the Euro 2012 football championship,” says Adamenko. Many of the rest are old Czech trams made in 1980s and repaired multiple times.
The new trams are loved by both their drivers and the passengers. “It’s great. It’s much faster. It’s warm inside in winter and you do not have to wait for a long time,” says Halyna Dzhambakieva, a pensioner riding Semennikova’s tram.
Others are unhappy because after the upgrades some of the popular stops along the route have gone. They complain about wet coats because of the leaky roofs of tram stops, about failure of both the new trams and tram stops to accomodate people with disabilities.
But Semennikova doesn’t mind. Despite the grumbles, she still loves her job and has never thought about changing it, despite various offers that have come in her driving years.
“We have people who do not quit even after they retire. I like my job and the place I’m working for and I am not going to leave or change it,” she says.
Kyiv Post staff writer Anastasia Forina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org