Polish railways are dying and dangerous

Thursday, 10 April 2014 by

public funds rail%road

Public funds invested in railway infrastructure as a proportion of public funds invested in road infrastructure

TOTAL rail%road

All funds invested in railway infrastructure as a proportion of funds invested in road infrastructure (2007-2011)

fatalities_per_trainmiles

Fatalities on EU railways per million train-km

 

No deal. No steam.

Sunday, 30 March 2014 by

Friday’s meeting between representatives of PKP Cargo and the Wielkopolska provincial government ended without agreement.

No further talks are scheduled until 18 April, and with no agreement, steam services will cease on 31 March.

Ol49-59 has the dubious honour of hauling the last service, the afternoon Wolsztyn to Leszno turn. After that the loco will return light engine to Wolsztyn with the return passenger working being completed by a diesel railcar.

Behind the Water Tower does not intend to sit idly by until 18 April. We encourage people to write to the main parties concerned and encourage them to work out a deal.  There is time for written representations to be delivered before 18 April.  A well written posted letter may carry more clout than an email and we would urge people to put pen to paper in the next few days so that it reaches the relevant parties before the meeting.

The main protagonists and stakeholders are:

Mr Jakub Karnowski
Prezes
Prezes Zarządu
Polskie Koleje Państwowe S.A.
ul. Szczęśliwicka 62
00-973 Warszawa
POLAND

e-mail: Jakub.Karnowski@pkp.pl

Marek Woźniak
Marszałek Województwa Wielkopolskiego
al. Niepodległości 18
61-713 Poznań
POLAND

e-mail: marszalek@umww.pl

With elections looming our editorial team have already heard from people who have openly said that  the current incumbents will not be receiving their vote given the current standoff. There may be an element of politics at play in all this. Who knows? The Wielkopolski Marszalek may be planning to pull a rabbit out of the hat and save the steam services as part of his election campaign. We hasten to add, that is pure speculation, however, if that is part of the strategy, it is a dangerous game to play.

If no agreement is reached on 18 April matters are likely to escalate up to Ministerial level. We would therefore encourage people to also write to:

Mrs. Elżbieta Bieńkowska
Ministerstwa Infrastruktury i Rozwoju
ul. Wspólna 2/4
00-926 Warszawa

e-mail: kancelaria@mir.gov.pl

A Mexican Standoff

Wednesday, 26 March 2014 by

IMG_1829 - 870x650

Ol49-69 heads towards Poznan at Steszew on 3 May 2012. Photo John Savery

The daily scheduled steam operation at Wolsztyn looks as though it will end next week. The Wielkopolska provincial government and PKP Cargo have failed to reach agreement on the cost of the service, and with no funding agreed from 31 March, the daily steam service to Leszno will not operate unless a compromise is agreed.

Sources indicate that the cost per kilometre that PKP Cargo wish to charge have increased dramatically since the service was moved over to the Leszno line. In itself, this is hardly surprising. There are the fixed costs of operating the shed at Wolsztyn, and the overhaul of the locomotives, which are done on a time based system, not a miles operated, or days in steam system. Nevertheless, it is believed that the charges have increased disproportionately.

TurKol’s charter traffic is covered by a separate contract and would remain unaffected, nevertheless, the viability of the depot must be questionable with the reduced mileage and income.

Wolsztyn is unique in being the last place in Europe (if not the world) where standard gauge steam still hauls daily scheduled services. It entices tourists from around the world, all of whom come because it is unique. All spend money whilst visiting, and this is estimated to be in excess of one million zloty annually.

If the services ends, scheduled standard gauge steam will have had its last stand in Europe.

For those wishing to put pen to paper, and explaining why the service should be retained, the following addresses may be useful.  We understand that a ‘last chance’ meeting between the parties is scheduled for Friday this week, so this could be the final chance to influence the outcome.

1. Minister of Culture
Mr. Bogdan Zdrojewski
minister@mkidn.gov.pl

2. Minister of Infrastructure and Development (Transport)
Mrs. Elżbieta Bieńkowska
kancelaria@mir.gov.pl

3. Chief Executive of Wielkopolska Provincial Government
Mr. Wojciech Jankowiak
wojciech.jankowiak@umww.pl

4. PKP Cargo Wielkopolska Division Manager
Mr. Andrzej Jabłoński
a.jablonski@pkp-cargo.eu

PKP plans York-style museum

Friday, 14 February 2014 by

A4s York-1608

Spotted at York, September 2013: 3717 City of Truro (the first steam engine to reach 100 mph) and A4 pacifics, 60008 Dwight D. Eisenhower, and 60010 Dominion of Canada (in LNER blue livery). A4 Mallard holds the world record for steam, 125.88 mph (202.58 km/h). Photo BTWT.

PKP S.A. is planning to build a York style museum at Szczesliwice to the west of the Odolany carriage sidings in order to provide a new home for the Warsaw Railway Museum. The plans received a recent boost when agreement was reached in principle at a meeting attended earlier this week by Elzbieta Bienkowska the Minister of Infrastructure and Development, Adam Struzik the Chief Executive of Mazowsze Province and PKP bosses.

It is hoped that the museum project will benefit from EU funds. The fact that Mrs Bienkowska is in charge of inter alia the allocation and disbursement of EU funds should greatly assist the project. The plans envisage creating a modern family-oriented facility with a focus of rail transport including trams. The museum is to be dubbed a ‘Centre of Communication and Technology’ which would allow it to provide a home for the historical relics currently in the care of the Museum of Technology inside Warsaw’s Palace of Culture.

The future of the Warsaw Railway Museum collection had been uncertain for over 10 years. For more than 10 years, PKP has wanted to redevelop the Warszawa Glowna station site, but the museum authorities had dug in their heels and refused to consider moving to any other location.

One of our editorial staff has been busy for the last four years campaigning behind the scenes that Poland deserves a world-class national railway museum constructed with the help of EU funds. The campaign attracted the support of senior figures in the European railway heritage movement, business leaders in Poland and at least one Polish government minister. For a time, he worked hand-in-glove with the museum authorities, but when they discovered that his objective was a proper national museum – but not necessarily on the current Glowna site – cooperation ceased overnight!

Some diehard preservationists are already campaigning against the move of the museum fearing that it will lead to the demolition of the Glowna station building. Unfortunately, PKP has no choice but to redevelop the Glowna site – under strict conditions set last year by Poland’s Ministry of Finance if PKP wants to benefit from EU cash during the new funding period, it has to generate its ‘own funds’ contribution itself from the sale of surplus assets. The Glowna site is the most valuable plum in the whole PKP property portfolio.

More:

Gniezno District Railway, 1939 (Part 2)

Saturday, 25 January 2014 by

by ‘Inzynier’

(continued from: Kujawy 1939 – The journey so far)

On the second day of our imaginary journey over the Kujawy network in 1939, we have just walked between two branch termini to continue our journey to Gniezno from Mielzyn…

mielzyn-karsewo

The Mielzyn branch. Extract from the WIG map of 1935.

(Click to download the full size map. Warning: Very large file)

The Jaworowo – Mielzyn section of the railway runs largely along the side of the road and Mielzyn station is the basic rural terminus consisting only of a run-round loop and a short siding to a turntable, the latter a relatively recent addition and only a lightweight affair suitable for turning railcars.

We wander further into the village square, find a shop to buy some beer and head back to the station in time to see the afternoon train arrive at 15.01. Quite a number of passengers leave the train, presumably having returned from market in town. We are fortunate it is a Tuesday, as trains only serve Mielzyn on Tuesdays and Fridays, with a morning train which arrives at 06.35 and departs at 06.45, and this afternoon service which lingers at the station until 16.18.

The locomotive is No. 12, a 0-8-0 tender locomotive built by the Warszawa factory in 1927(18). The train is the usual two coaches and a van, plus a few wagons which have been brought in; fortunately there are none waiting to leave, as this would make shunting rather complex. The coaching stock all dates from the early days of the district railway, with plates showing manufacturers to have been Weyer and Hofmann. The locomotive runs round the train, shunts the wagons into the loop and takes water, during which time the fireman also cleans the fire and moves coal forward in the tender; it will be tender-first back to Gniezno.

As departure time nears, the fireman livens up the fire and a handful of passengers arrive. Then we are on our way again, initially running westward alongside the road we earlier walked and then turning north at Jaworowo, passing the halt without stopping(19). We soon join another road, which we follow through a couple of slight left hand curves to Odrowaz, a halt with a loading loop at which one passenger alights and a couple board the train.

We cross a road and shortly curve left, at which point a branch comes in from the right; this runs a few hundred metres to a large farm. After a couple of kilometres through fields we cross a road and pass another halt with loop at Gorzykowo, following which we run roadside again to Karsewo, again a halt with loading loop(20). Crossing over a road junction in the centre of the village, we set out across fields, bridging over the occasional stream, then a road comes alongside again on our left for the run into Arcugowo. The ‘station’ itself has the usual loading loop and at the northern end a field railway branches off right to serve the estate farm.

arcugowo-niechanowo

Arcugowo and Niechanowo. Extract from the WIG map of 1935.

(Click to download the full size map. Warning: Very large file)

Leaving Arcugowo we cross the road and the line from Mierzewo comes in on the left, then we run through fields again to pass the village of Niechanowo, where another field railway heads back to the left, serving a distillery as well as the estate farm. We continue north to cross the Gniezno – Witkowo road and curve left across a couple of lanes as the Witkowo line comes in from the right at a triangular junction.

Soon we are entering  Niechanowo, one of the more significant stations on the Gniezno system with a station building and two-road loco shed which is also used as a wagon repair shop; the track layout is quite extensive, with three through lines, a siding and another line looping round the back of the yard. We pause for a minute or so as a few people leave or board the train and then the stationmaster gives a wave, the driver gives an acknowledging toot on the whistle and opens the regulator.

Now that we are on the main line of the system, we seem to gather a little more pace and the halts are less frequent. At first the main road is some way off to our left and we pass through fields, crossing a couple of roads and watercourses, but at Zelazkowo (the usual halt and loop) we join the main road, which we follow to the edge of the city. The fields give way to woodland on both sides and then we pass Jelonek, a popular destination at weekends for excursions from the city. There is a loop from which a short siding leads to a turntable, and trains can be turned round here, but on this weekday afternoon we pass through without stopping.

Soon we are passing sporadic ribbon development and we pause briefly at the simple halt of Ogrod Wiktorji, where one passenger alights. Here we cross the road and soon run through the outskirts of the city – the cemetery on our right, then the barracks off to our left; with a sports ground on our right we cross the Wrzesnia road. A triangle of tracks on the left then marks the junction with the line to the sugar factory, with sidings full of empty wagons at this time of year. Passing the factory buildings we enter the station yard and come to a halt in front of the workshops and station building.

KDR_crop

Some of the principal lines of the western part of the Kujawy Narrow Gauge Railways. Map gkw-gniezno.pl.

(Click map to view a larger version.)

The 23 kilometres from Mielzyn have taken us 1 hour and ten minutes – an average speed of almost 20km/h. Once again, we pick up our bags and walk across the long bridge over the standard gauge lines to find our hotel in the city.

to be continued…

Notes:

18) Gniezno no. 12 was Warszawa works no. 094. It was renumbered 5 in 1939 (I have assumed after the German occupation), and taken into PKP stock in 1949, becoming Px1-771. It later went to Witaszyce and Zwierzyniec, became Px27-771 in 1961 and was withdrawn in 1964.

19) Mielzyn – Odrowaz officially opened in 1896 and was regauged to 750mm in 1957. It was officially closed in 1984, but had not seen any traffic since 1970.

20) Odrowaz – Niechanowo – Gniezno opened in 1883 as a 900mm gauge line to serve Gniezno sugar factory. In 1895 it was regauged to 600mm and became part of the Witkowo district railway, officially opening in 1896. It was regauged to 750mm in 1957. Mielzyn – Arcugowo closed in 1984 (as noted above, it had seen no trains for 14 years) and Arcugowo – Niechanowo officially closed in 1989 but was probably last used in 1986. Niechanowo – Gniezno is still open for tourist trains.

Rail Museum Director resigns

Tuesday, 21 January 2014 by

Light at the end of the tunnel?

PKP’s proposed new location for the Warsaw Railway Museum. Map courtesy Google Maps.

On January 10 Ferdynand Ruszczyc, the Director of the Warsaw Railway Museum resigned. Mr Ruszczyc had been in post since 2009. Prior to his appointment he had been Director of the National Museum for 12 years which he left after being censured by the Minister of Culture.

His reign at the Warsaw Railway Museum had not been without controversy. He felt more at home organising art exhibitions – his grandfather had been a famous Polish painter – than promoting Poland’s railway heritage.

Like his predecessor, Janusz Sankowski, Mr Ruszczyc stubbornly resisted all attempts by PKP to relocate the museum to a new site. For many years the PKP SA board have wanted to redevelop the fomer Warszawa Glowna station site. The redevelopment has become even more urgent after last years government cuts to the railway budget and the decision that if PKP wants to benefit from EU funded projects it will have to generate the required ‘match funding’ from the sale of its surplus assets.

PKP reportedly want to relocate the Museum to the Szczesliwice carriage siding site about 2 km to the West of Warszawa Zachodnia station. A small team has been charged with preparing detailed proposals and concluding negotiations with Adam Struzik, the Chief Executive of the Mazowsze provincial government.

More:

Metal thief strikes at Jarocin

Wednesday, 8 January 2014 by

TKt48-72 Jarocin-071

TKt48-72 in June 2012, shortly after its arrival in Jarocin. Photo Marek Ciesielski.

TKW, the preservation society based at the former loco depot at Jarocin, suffered at the hands of a scrap metal thief on 26 December.  The thief targeted TKt48-72, which had been stored outside the shed, stripping elements of the braking system from the locomotive.

By chance, a society member noticed a man behaving suspiciously, and contacted the police.  The police attended promptly and arrested a 52 year old man in connection with the theft.  Officers found a number of parts in the grass close to the locomotive, as well as parts laid out in some of the surrounding buildings on the site, indicating that this was not the first time that parts had been removed.  The man in question is already known to the police, and, if convicted, could be sentenced with up to 5 years in jail.

TKt48-72 was built in 1951 and was originally based at Bielsko Biala, and then predominantly at Jaslo.   Brief interludes at Chabowka, and Nowy Sacz followed by a stint at Zielona Gora.  The engine spent 24 years of its life at Kepno, before being moved to Gniezno in 2000.  In 1995, it was placed on the register of historic monuments, though today it is little more than a shell with many parts missing.

The society took the locomotive under its wing in January 2013, and at present leases the locomotive from PKP.

The theft highlights the risks to the remaining redundant steam locomotives in Poland.  Even those in the custody of recognised societies run the risk of being stripped of easy to remove parts if they are stored outside.  Whilst TKW Jarocin takes security reasonably seriously – it does have a system of CCTV cameras installed to monitor the grounds outside the shed – like other societies it is prone to people wandering through the external grounds and helping themselves to metal.

Poland would do well to learn from the UK’s recent approach to the sale of stolen scrap metal.  Since the UK banned “cash in hand” scrap metal transactions, metal (and cable) thefts have plummeted.  Unless a similar approach is taken in Poland, metal thefts will continue to be a serious problem.

Kujawy 1939 – The journey so far

Tuesday, 24 December 2013 by

by ‘Inzynier’

witaszyce-sm

Tx3-194 near Sucha in 1976. Photo Werner and Hansjorg Brutzer.

(Click to see the full size image on Werner and Hansjorg Brutzer’s flickr photostream)

It has been three months since the last instalment of our imaginary journey on the 600mm gauge Kujawy narrow gauge railways in 1939. We left our intrepid narrow gauge traveller at the northern extent of the Wrzesnia District Railway.

In Part 1 we travelled north on the Jarocin District Railway from Witaszyce to Sucha. In Part 2 we took the branch line to Robakow, then continued to the northern end of the main line at Komorze. Then we walked to Pyzdry, the southern terminus of the Wrzesnia District Railway. In Part 3 we caught the evening passenger train to Sokolniki, and in Part 4 we continued north to Wrzesnia where we stayed the first night. Part 5 began the second day with a cab ride on a freight train north to Kleparz, where we rejoin the story, now on the Gniezno District Railway…

jarocin-wrzesnia-gniezno-1939-route-small

The journey so far. Extract from the WIG map of 1935 showing our 1939 narrow gauge route marked in green.

(Click to download the full size map. Warning: Very large file)

Onward from Kleparz we run alongside the road for a while, but then veer away to the left and pass Grzybowo Wlkp., a loading loop with a siding heading back to the left to serve the estate farm. Only a few hundred metres beyond that, beside the crossing of a side road, is the halt and loading loop of Grzybowo Rabiezyce, then we head back towards the road, cross it and turn again to run alongside it, passing Grzybowo Chrzanowice halt and loading loop.

These loading loops may be busy in the sugar beet season, when farmers bring sugar beet to be taken away by railway or collect the pulp to take back to their farms, but at this time of year they are deserted, while it is difficult to imagine the halts ever having seen much traffic during the brief periods when passenger services ran.

We follow the various turns in the road past the halt at Wodki, with its loading loop and siding on the right to the estate farm, only a kilometre beyond the last of the Grzybowo halts. After a further series of curves alongside the road we cross it again (the road is now on our right) and then comes a long straight beside the road to Mierzewo, 15km from Wrzesnia.

Mierzewo is by no means a large station but, after the succession of almost abandoned loading loops, it does give the impression of having arrived somewhere. As we enter the station, the junction with the Stanislawowo branch is formed by a triangle of tracks to the right, at which the main line curves slightly to the left, away from the road, to enter the run-round loop, beyond which is a level crossing and a siding on the right to a farm.

This siding turns out to be the destination for two of the empty wagons we have brought from Wrzesnia; some shunting is required before the loco can propel the two wagons into the siding and then it takes water before coupling up to the remaining wagons ready to propel them down the 4km branch to Stanislawowo. The brake van is detached and left at Mierzewo, while the guard climbs onto the end platform of one of the wagons to provide any braking assistance that may be needed.

mierzewo

Mierzewo, Stanislawowo and field railways towards Mielzyn. Extract from the WIG map of 1935.

(Click to download the full size map. Warning: Very large file)

North of Mierzewo, the Gniezno district railway’s line to Arcugowo once had a passenger service, but this seems to have ceased during or shortly after the Great War, and the line now sees only freight traffic. We could walk the 7km to Arcugowo, but prefer to head for Mielzyn, terminus of another branch of the Gniezno system and, as Stanislawowo is closer to Mielzyn than Mierzewo, we continue with our friendly crew(17).

Initially, the branch seems to be dead straight and, after passing a junction with a short field railway to the left and throwing off a branch to the right, ends at a buffer stop beside a cart track at a location apparently called Krolewiec. It turns out that the branch we passed is in fact the ‘main line’ to Stanislawowo and the end of the straight is a siding, destination for another two of the empty wagons. With these uncoupled, we retrace our steps to the turnout and set off across the fields, passing another short field railway branching off to our left.

The true terminus of the branch is a large farm, at which an estate railway also terminates (we crossed one line of this field railway as we entered Stanislawowo), and for which the remaining empty wagons and the loaded coal wagons are destined. Here we bid farewell to the Wrzesnia crew and their railway and set off on foot for Mielzyn. The journey of some 19km has taken almost three hours, including the shunting at Mierzewo and Krolewiec.

We walk along the road, heading north east past Krolewiec; we could have saved ourselves a bit of a walk by disembarking at that location, but we have plenty of time to get to Mielzyn. Turning right through the village of Jaworowo we soon encounter a field railway on our right, and then another crosses the road along which we are walking.

On the far side of the village we see that this second field railway actually joins the Mielzyn branch at Jaworowo halt, where there is also a loading loop and a siding. We could catch the train from here but, as we still have a couple of hours before the train leaves Mielzyn, we continue our walk to the terminus.

Along the road we pass the occasional horse and cart, and one or two people on foot. In the surrounding fields we see the typical scenes of the Polish countryside – gently undulating fields that stretch away into the distance, a few watercourses, in places a group of people loading a horse-drawn cart, in other fields people are working the land by hand. There is little sign of mechanisation other than the railway.

to be continued…

Notes:

17) Mierzewo – Stanislawowo appears to have been a branch of the sugar factory’s 900mm gauge railway, but opened to public traffic on 600mm gauge in 1895; it was regauged to 750mm in 1957. Krolewiec – Stanislawowo closed in 1968 and Mierzewo – Krolewiec in 1973.

PKP PLK takes over train information

Monday, 16 December 2013 by

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Timetable change at Lodz Kaliska on 19.09.2013. Photo BTWT.

(All images can be clicked to enlarge.)

At midnight on Saturday 14 December, a new railway timetable was introduced. PKP IC are to run fewer trains than last year. Inter City will run 326 trains on the national railway network (355 – 2012/3) and 40 international trains running across the Polish border (52 – 2012/3).

PKP PLK, the company responsible for Poland’s railway infrastructure, will take overall responsibility for the quality of information provided to passengers at all of Poland’s railway stations with the exception of the Warsaw main line stations: Warszawa Zachodnia, Warszawa Centralna and Warszawa Wschodnia.

There will be standards for the way train services are announced as well as the information that is shown on the various display systems. There will quality inspectors to ensure that the standards are met, service level agreements and fines for those responsible for not achieving them.

timetable

Information is inconsistent and incomplete. Photo BTWT.

It is difficult to avoid the impression that PKP bosses are creating yet another management team to solve a problem that would just melt away after the application of a little customer feedback, analysis and common sense. The problem is not that one station announcer says, The train at platform 3, track 5, is for Lodz Kaliska, calling at Zyradow, Skierniewice and Koluszki, and another says, The train for Lodz Kaliska, calling at Zyradow, Skierniewice and Koluszki, is at platform 3, track 5; the problem is that in both cases the information is incomplete.

First of all, it would be helpful – as I hurtle through the station wondering if I have time to reach the platform or would my time be better invested by buying a ticket for the next train – to have the departure time confirmed. In the UK the station announcer informs us, The train at platform 3 is the 16:16hrs for Lodz Kaliska… . Why not also announce the departure time in Poland?

Secondly, the list of calling stations has stations missing. The train also calls at the Lodz main stations: Lodz Widzew and Lodz Chojny, but you will not obtain this information from the printed timetables displayed at Centralna or any of the electronic train departure indicators.

plakaty_rozklad

Heath warning on the PKP PLK passenger information portal.

The printed timetable displayed at stations is a plakat relacyjny which shows the train times and departure details, but not all the calling stations. So if you do not have access to the on-line timetable, or are not Internet-savvy it would seem that PKP wants you to go by bus.

Assuming that you have found the right destination, train and platform – all is well until things go wrong. There is then a dearth of information, and station staff and train crew seem to melt into thin air. A pertinent tale about the 18:46 from Warszawa Srodmiescie to Piaseczno was recently published on the W-wa Jeziorki blog. I wonder just how many people in PKP Informatyka are working on smart travel information systems?

Source:

More:

Pyskowice – some good news at last!

Sunday, 15 December 2013 by

ty42-24_130618

The pride of the fleet, restored Ty42-24 steam test, 18.6.2013.
Photo Marek Ciesielski

On Monday 9 December the District Court in Katowice threw out the case brought by PKP SA against TOZKiOS, the railway society that is responsible for the Pyskowice railway museum. PKP SA were claiming that the society owed several tens of thousands of zloty in unpaid rent and were seeking a court order requiring the society to pay the back rent – or have its assets seized – and forcing TOZKiOS to quit the site.

The court found that the society had a perfectly valid agreement with infrastructure company PKP PLK and that it had kept its rental payments up to date. Of course, the court order does not provide TOZKiOS what the society most needs – security of tenure and access to the old roundhouse area of the  site, but it does buy time.

It is to be hoped that it may be possible to persuade both parties that the way forward is the path of conciliation and not litigation and that through constructive dialogue a solution can be found that represents a ‘win-win’ for both sides.

Waiting for some TLC, the Pyskowice engine shed. Photo BTWT.

For many years TOZKiOS has been prevented from accessing the old roundhouse site. Without an effective guardian, the engine shed has been deteriorating fast. Several years ago accumulated snow led to a roof collapse.

broken_door

Smashed down and stolen door. Photo TOZKiOS.

TOZKiOS have tried to keep the old shed area secure, but a week ago scrap thieves smashed down an old door and are now helping themselves to the metal contents inside the shed.

PKP boss launches clean up campaign

Friday, 13 December 2013 by

lukasz_boron

Former PKP Cargo Chairman, Lukasz Boron. Photo PKP Cargo.

Shortly after sacking PKP Cargo boss, Lukasz Boron, PKP SA Chairman, Jakob Karnowski, launched a drive to introduce a code of ethics across the whole of the PKP Group.

Each PKP subsidiary is to have its own code of practice and a person responsible for making sure that it is implemented. A senior project manager, reporting direct to Karnowski, will oversee the whole process.

‘Spanish customs’ were once common in PKP. It was not unknown for regional heads in the infrastructure company, PKP PLK, to run their own track maintenance companies employing PKP PLK staff and bidding for PKP PLK contracts.

Conflicts of interest were rife. Some PKP Cargo bosses had shares in Cargosped, a logistics company that bid for freight haulage contracts in competition with PKP Cargo.

Industry sources claim that the wagon standing time scam is still common. PKP Cargo customers are charged for the amount of time wagons are left in sidings waiting to be unloaded, certain Cargo officials are happy – in return for a small consideration – to book a lower amount of standing time.

More:

Audit Commission slams railway infrastructure

Thursday, 12 December 2013 by

kwiatkowski

Krzysztof Kwiatkowski, Chief Executive of NIK. NIK video.

(Click image to go to the source page on the NIK website.)

Poland’s National Audit Commission published a report today about the poor safety record of Polish railways. Poland’s railways had the second highest accident record in 2010 and 2011 (Romania had first place), though they were knocked down to third place by the Slovak Republic in 2012.

The most common reason for railway accidents was the bad state of the track, points and signalling equipment. Only 43% of Poland’s railway infrastructure is in good condition, 30% is in a satisfactory condition (speed limits are in force and certain elements need renewal); 23% is unsatisfactory (major speed limits are imposed, and many elements require renewal; 4% is in bad condition.

safety league table

European railway accident league table. Source UIC.

(Click to enlarge.)

While the National Audit Commission report highlights the need for more investment in Poland’s railway network, Polish government representatives in Brussels are lobbying hard to be able to use more EU funds on road building. See More on Massel sacking.

More on Massel sacking

Friday, 6 December 2013 by

Andrzej_Massel

Former Rail Minister Andrzej Massel. Photo Shalom.

BTWT has been told by sources close to the Ministry of Transport the reasons why the Undersecretary of State responsible for Poland’s railways was sacked by Elzbieta Bienkowska, the new Infrastructure and Development Minister – he was too pro rail!

Apparently, the Polish government has been trying to wriggle out of the EU Commission’s requirement that 60% of the next tranche of EU transport infrastructure funding should be spent on rail. Polish government negotiators have been claiming that there was no way that Polish railways could use all the funds and that most of the funding should be spent on road building.

Massel broke ranks and told European Commission officials that Polish railways could use all the funds. So he was sacked.

More:

Rail Minister sacked!

Thursday, 28 November 2013 by

fabryczna-2

Former Rail Minister, Andrzej Massel; Railway Industry Association, Director General, Jeremy Candfield; British Ambassador, Robin Barnett, in conversation at TRAKO, September 2013. Photo BTWT.

Four deputy Ministers – including rail minister,  Andrzej Massel, at the former Ministry of Transport, Construction and maritime Affairs – have been dismissed by Elzbieta Bienkowska, the new boss at the ‘super-ministry’ of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

Massel was appointed Undersecretary of State responsible rail by previous transport boss Slawomir Nowak on 28 December 2010 to sort out the timetabling chaos that occurred under his predecessor Juliusz Engelhardt.

Krzysztof Opawski has died

Wednesday, 27 November 2013 by

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Krzysztof Opawski, the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of PKP SA, died today.

Krzysztof Opawski was born in 1950 in Lodz. He studied at the University of Lodz where he was awarded a PhD and then taught at the university from 1974 to 1982. He was awarded a research and teaching fellowship by the Polish Academy of Sciences where he worked from 1983 to 1993.

During the period 1990 to 1992, he lead projects to promote the development of private enterprise in Poland on behalf of the Krajowa Izba Gospodarcza (National Chamber of Commerce) and the Krajowa Rada Towarzystw Gospodarczych (National Council of Chambers of Commerce).

In 1994, he joined Schroders, and in 1996, he became chairman of Schroder Polska (trading as ‘Schroder Salomon Smith Barney Polska’ from 2000, and as ‘Citigroup Global Markets Polska’ from 2003. From 2000 – 2005 he was a member of the supervisory board of Bank Handlowy.

On 2 May 2004, he joined the Government of Marek Belka as Minister of Infrastructure and served in that capacity until 31 October 2005 and afterwards returned to Citigroup. In 2007, he founded Saski Partners, a consultancy company specialising in mergers and acquisitions and on 17 December the same year, he became the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of PKP SA.

During his long and distinguished career Opawski lead the teams advising the government regarding some of Poland’s largest privatisations such as TPSA and served on the supervisory boards of some of the most important companies in Poland.

Opawski was a supporter of the reforms being instituted by PKP SA Chairman, Jakub Karnowski. The appointment of his successor by Minister of Infrastructure and Regional Development, Elzbieta Bienkowska, will be thoroughly analysed by PKP SA’s friends and foes alike.

Pendolino nudges record by 2km/h

Monday, 25 November 2013 by

 

The 293km/h record=breaking run on 24.11.13. Video by vwpassatfan.

While many observers, including BTWT, thought that Saturday’s 291 km/h run along approximately 5 km of the CMK line was likely to remain the Polish railway speed record for the foreseeable future, another batch of VIP passengers on Sunday 24 November hoped to witness a record breaking run. They were not to be disappointed and the driver notched another 2 km/h on the speedometer and reached 293 km/h.

While Sunday’s 293 km/h is a very credible performance bearing in mind the power limitations of 3,000 DC electrification and lack of experience in Poland with maintaining high speed track alignment standards it is hardly revolutionary compared with what is being achieved elsewhere in Europe.

A very informative article published today on the wyborcza.pl portal reminds readers that in several countries including France and Spain 300 km/h running is a regular occurrence. In two years time when the Polish Pendolino is in service and line speeds are raised between Warsaw and Gdansk it will be possible to travel between the two cities in some 2½ hours approximately the same times as it currently takes to travel from Madrid to Barcelona.

The distance between the two Polish cities is 328km and the average speed of the Pendolino will be 123 km/h. The distance between the two Spanish cities is 628km and the high speed train averages 248km/h.

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New municipal transport museum for Lodz

Sunday, 24 November 2013 by

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Open day at the former Tramwaje Podmiejskie depot, Zajezdnia Brus, on 22.9.2013. Photo BTWT.

(All photos can be enlarged by clicking on the image.)

Thanks to the initiative of Thomas Adamkiewicz and a group of tram enthusiasts the former Tramwaje Podmiejskie Brus tram depot on the Lodz-Konstantinow-Lutomiersk interurban line has been earmarked by the city of Lodz for a new municipal transport museum.

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‘Sanok’ built in 1928 was withdrawn from service and served as a garden shed until it was rescued by Tomasz Adamkiewicz, After an 11-year restoration to working order it is back on the tracks. Photo BTWT.

The depot is already home to a growing collection of withdrawn trams. Some of these were previously stored at the now closed Helenowek tram depot which serviced the Międzygminna Komunikacja Tramwajowa trams serving Zgierz and Ozorkow.

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Tramway freight vehicles! Photo BTWT.

Goods vans dating back to the days when the Łódzkie Wąskotorowe Elektryczne Koleje Dojazdowe (Lodz Electric Narrow Gauge District Railways) carried freight as well as passengers.

The vans were the subject of our last competition. Congratulations once again to Eric Binamé for getting the answer absolutely correct. John Schøler Nielsen was also a close runner up – he had identified the wagons correctly, but had not realised that they had been moved from the Helenowek depot since he had last seen and photographed them.

The bogie flat wagon in the foreground has a colourful past. Built by the Gregg Company Ltd in Belgium for export to a sugar cane railway. It was seized by the Germans together with the factory in which it had been built during WWI and sent to Poland.

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291 km/h – Pendolino sets new record

Saturday, 23 November 2013 by

 

The 270 km/h run on 17.11.2013. Video by ralfovski.

On 16 November 2013, high-speed testing of Poland’s ETR 610 Pendolino trains began on the CMK trunk rail line. Test runs are being carried out on the weekends of: 16-17 November, 23-24, November 30 Nov – 1 Dec, and 7-8 December.

During the course of the tests, which take place approximately between 10:00 and 15:00hrs, normal train services are suspended over the CMK, and the trains that were due to run are either cancelled or re-routed through Chestochowa.

The speed and breaking trials are part of the certification tests for the Alstom-built Pendolino trains being delivered to Poland. Twenty 7-unit ETR 610 sets, together with a new depot and a 17-year maintenance contract were ordered by PKP IC for 2,640 million PLN (65 million euro).

The trains are being certified for up to 250 km/h (155 mph) running. With a requirement for a 10% safety margin the objective has been to work up to a speed of 275 km/h (171 mph).

On the first day of the trials on 16 November 2013, the test train reached 242 km/h. On 17 November, it reached a speed of 270 km/h, breaking a little publicised record of 250.1 km/h set by an earlier generation Pendolino test train some 19 years earlier.

Today, the test train, with Rail Minister Andrzej Massel and other rail VIPs on board, achieved its objective and exceeded the 275 km/h target reaching a top speed of 291 km/h (181 mph).

To enable the high speed tests to take place, the section of CMK track used for the tests (between Gorą Wlodowska and Psary) had to be re-fettled with new ballast, and its overhead catenary replaced. For today’s record-breaking run the 3k DC voltage supply was tweaked by PKP’s electricity distribution company, PKP Energetyka.

Sadly, there is nowhere on Poland’s railway network actually certified for 250 km/h (155.3 mph) running, although a number of sections of line, including a short section of the CMK trunk line, are certified for 160 km/h (100 mph) running. PKP has plans to upgrade the CMK for 200 km/h (124 mph) running, and then in stages up to 220 km/h (137 mph), and eventually to 230 km/h (143 mph).

Sources:

 

Black hole

Friday, 22 November 2013 by

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Lodz Fabryczna construction site, 22 November 2013. Photo by BTWT.

(Click picture to see full-size.)

Transport Minister Nowak resigns

Thursday, 21 November 2013 by

Bienkowska to head new super-ministry

Senat RP

Elzbieta Bienkowska. Photo Adam Nurkiewicz, Senat Rzespospolitej Polskiej, via Wikipedia.

Slawomir Nowak, the Minister of Transport, Construction and Maritime Affairs has resigned. Responsibility for running the transport ministry will pass to Elzbieta Bienkowska, currently head of the Ministry of Regional Development. Bienkowska will have the title of ‘deputy prime minister’ and head a new combined ministry of Infrastructure and Development, becoming the most important Polish politician after Poland’s Prime Minister, Donald Tusk.

The changes are part of a cabinet shake up announced by Tusk at a time when opinion polls shows public support waning for the ruling party, Platforma Obywatelska. Nowak’s fate was sealed when Warsaw prosecutors investigating the afera zegarkowa (the retiring Minister had a penchant for very expensive watches) made a formal request for Nowak’s parliamentary immunity to be revoked. Other changes announced by the Prime Minister included the replacement of Jacek Rostowski as Finance Minister by Mateusz Szczurek.

Mateusz Szczurek is regarded by people close to the Ministry of Finance as a relatively inexperienced, but safe, place-holder until the next parliamentary elections; not so Bienkowska who is thought to be the most competent minister in Tusk’s government.

Elzbieta Bienkowska was born on 4 February 1964 in Katowice. She obtained an MA degree in Oriental Studies at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow. She also studied at the National School of Public Administration and was awarded an MBA by the Warsaw School of Economics. Throughout her career she was involved in the implementation of EU-funded projects. In 1999-2007, she was director of the Department of Regional Development in the Office of the Chief Executive of the Province of Silesia. Earlier she had worked on regional development strategy in the office of the Governor of Silesia in Katowice.

With the administration of EU-funded projects seen as a major weakness in the current arrangements for the renovation of Poland’s railways, it is hoped that Bienkowska will ensure that the necessary reforms are implemented at the appropriate levels in her new ministry and PKP.

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