Last surviving Polish university department of rail transport liquidated

Friday, 11 July 2014 by

Politechnika Slaska

The Silesian University of Technology in Katowice. Photo Google Maps.

On July 10, the Dean and Council of the Faculty of Transport of the Silesian University of Technology in Katowice voted to close down the University’s Department of Rail Transport – the last such such department in Poland.

Under its head, Professor Marek Sitarz, the Department has become a world-class facility with its teaching skills much in demand.  In order to ensure the highest standards, entry to the Department is by means of a competition with an 80% grade being compulsory for entry.

The Department is closely involved in monitoring and promoting rail safety in Poland. Its post graduate courses have been attended by employees of the Urząd Transportu Kolejowego (Polish equivalent to ORR in the UK) as well as managers from many private railway companies.

The Department conducts world-class research in the field of the rail/wheel interface. Recent research papers describe work in the field of tribology and the plastic distortion of wheelsets under thermal stress. Professor Sitarz himself has been a leading member of the team conducting the acceptance test of the Pendolino trainsets being delivered by Alstom.

Profesor Sitarz

Professor Marek Sitarz. Frame capture by BTWT.

The resolution to close the Department alleges a lack of competent teaching staff and that the Department operates at a loss – which happen to be the few particular conditions under which a university may close down a whole department.

Professor Sitarz strongly disputes these claims, pointing to the fact that some 30 students graduate with an M.Sc. in rail transport each year and – in what must surely be a record for any Polish university department – 100% of them walk straight into employment, over 90% in the rail industry. He also explains that due to its external contracts the Department brings the University a substantial revenue stream. In spite of the decision being announced in the middle of the summer holidays his students have organised a petition and are planning other moves in a bid to encourage the University authorities to reconsider their decision.

So why is the University closing down Professor Sitarz’s Department? The Professor is remaining tight-lipped, hinting at personal differences with the Dean of the Transport Faculty, Professor Boguslaw Larzaz. However, our own sources in the Polish academic world have told us that such a serious decision could not just be the result of a personality clash of two academics.

Professor Sitarz is known to be an enthusiastic proponent of rail transport. The government is known for its lack of interest in developing Poland’s railways and is channelling nearly all its transport infrastructure funds into road-building. Is the opportunity being taken to silence a dissenting voice – and fire a warning shot across the bows of other would-be critics – as Poland nudges forward to its next general election?

Sources:

 

Tram skateboard

Tuesday, 8 July 2014 by

Sustainable transport in Bratislava. Video © Tomáš Moravec

With tram frequency only a fraction of what it was 10 years ago, is this DIY approach the solution to the problem of providing a decent public transport service in Lodz?

A hat tip to Tomasz Adamkiewicz for the link.

Poland’s brand new narrow gauge line

Sunday, 6 July 2014 by

First day of public operation as a 785mm gauge line, 19 June 2014. Video courtesy Sarmacja Film.

BTWT has had a longer than usual hiatus. I have had many things on my mind over the last twelve months and at some point all the creative energy drained away. The fact that this Polish railway blog is running at all owes a great deal to our deputy editors, John Savery and Ed Beale.

I would also like to thank all those who have provided articles and stories, especially ‘Inzynier’. My thanks to all BTWT readers and contributors. Please do continue sending us your stories and pictures. Our e-mail address is: railfan[at]go2[dot]pl.

What better to celebrate the return of BTWT than this story about the rebirth of the Park Slaski Railway, a line that many had given up for dead? Our thanks to Andrew Goltz for sending us his photographs.

Dyspozytor 1

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Industrial narrow gauge in the park. Las49-3343 being serviced. Photo Andrew Goltz.

(All photos can be expanded by clicking the image.)

The Park Slaski line has had three gauges! It opened in 1957 as a 1,000mm line. Trains were operated by 3 sets of single-directional railcars and trailers. The railcars had to be turned on special turntables located at each end of the line.

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First the tanks are topped up with water. Photo Andrew Goltz.

By 1966 the railcars and trailers were life expired. The line was re-gauged to 900mm – a gauge for which wheelsets and locomotives were readily available from nearby coalmines. Three 2WLs50 diesel locos were acquired and ten light coaches were specially constructed. The 2WLs50 locos struggled with the steep gradients between Zoo and Wesole Miasteczko stations and were replaced in 1973 by two more powerful WLs75 locos.

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Then the locomotive is coaled. Photo Andrew Goltz.

In 1988, the WLs75 locos were themselves replaced by two WLs150 locos that had been obtained from the KWK Katowice mine. When they became worn out they were replaced in 1994 by a single WLP50 loco which was painted in garish colours in the style of a steam loco as imagined by a drug user during a psychedelic delirium.

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Details for model makers. Photo Andrew Goltz.

In 2003, the operator of the Bytom Narrow Gauge Railway – the Stowarzyszenie Górnośląskich Kolei Wąskotorowych – took over responsibility for running the Park Slaski Railway.The Society ran the railway until the end of the 2011 running season. By this time services the single WLp50 was breaking down at frequent intervals and services suspended. The track was also in a very bad state.

In May 2012 the operating agreement with the SGKW was terminated and in October that same year the track was lifted and the track bed was bulldozed away. In spite of assurances to the contrary by the Park authorities, many people thought that the track-lifting heralded the end of the Park Slaski Railway. However, in 2013, a new bed of ballast was laid down. On this the company that had built the 750mm gauge park railway at Krosnice started constructing a brand new 785 gauge railway.

Initially the track has been laid between Wesole Miasteczko and Zoo stations (about 1 km) with a spur to the engine shed beyond. Eventually the Park authorities intend that the line should rebuilt for the full length of its former route – just over 4 km.

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Builders Plate. Photo Andrew Goltz.

On the 19 June 2014, operations commenced on the new line utilising rolling stock, staff and volunteers from the 785mm gauge railway at Rudy. Motive power was in the form of a Las49 0-6-0WT and a Romanian Lxd2 diesel. The Las 49 was only supposed to work the first three weekends, but has proved so popular (the police had to be called in to control the crowds of would-be passengers on the first day) that its guest appearance in the park was extended.

More:

Wolsztyn – The Final Parade?

Wednesday, 14 May 2014 by

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Ty42-24 passing through the signals on the erstwhile line to Konotop. Photo Marek Ciesielski.

(Click images to expand.)

Wolsztyn’s annual May parade took place on 3 May.  A much smaller event than usual, which has cast doubts on whether or not the event will continue.

No German based locomotives were present. Poland’s fractured rail industry appears to have put paid to that. From what we understand, faced with swingeing track access charges and other fees, the German railtours could not break even for a sensible fare. Given that the fees levied on last year’s trains led to them making a loss, a decision was made by German railtour organisers not to risk making further losses this year.

Chabowka based Ty42-107 and TKt48-191 during the Parade, 3 May 2014..

Chabowka based Ty42-107 and TKt48-191 during the Parade. Photo John Savery.

Chabowka supplied 3 in ticket locos: Ty42-107, Ol12-7 and TKt48-191, all being moved from their southern Polish base. Wolsztyn could only muster 2 in ticket locos, Ol49-59 (making it’s last appearance before overhaul at Leszno), and Ol49-69. Quite why PKP allows Chabowka to keep 3 locos in working order (with the boiler for the OKz32 also standing by ready to fit) compared with Wolsztyn’s single remaining loco is beyond reason, given that the number of steamings and charters done by Chabowka is minimal, and is probably worth an article on its own.

 

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Chabowka’s Ty42-107 and Pyskowice’s Ty42-24 in the shed at Wolsztyn. The devil is in the detail! Photo Marek Ciesielski.

Pride of the show was Ty42-24, restored in Pyskowice by Zbyszek and Krzysiek Jakubina.  Making its debut at the Chabowka gala last year, the standard of restoration is exemplary, and the quality of the finish is far superior to that on Ty42-107, overhauled by full-time staff at Chabowka.

Also present were a Czech loco (2-8-2 Mikado 475- 179) and Club Albatross’ Slovakian 4-8-2 498-104.

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Slovakian 498-104 during the Parade, 3 May 2014. Photo John Savery.

So what does the future hold?

Despite optimistic reports in this month’s Railway Magazine, there are no firm guarantees that steam will actually return to the daily services.  As yet no deal has been reached, however it is clear that the lobbying by concerned supporters is hitting the mark. From what we have heard, at least one letter prompted by the appeal in BTWT has actually reached Jakub Karnowski, the boss of PKP, and he has charged the team looking at the Warsaw Railway Museum project to also look closely at the situation in Wolsztyn.

IMG_6990 - Ty42-24 at Wolsztyn, 05-05-14

With the sun glinting off the gleaming paintwork, Ty42-24 prepares to return south to Wroclaw. Photo John Savery.

A team in PKP Cargo’s strategy unit is now working on a business plan to set up a cultural institute to take over long-term responsibility for the shed and its locos. In the meantime, it is probably not a bad idea to keep up the pressure! If you were thinking of writing a letter, but have not already done so why not drop a line to one or both of the people below. Physical letters are best, but you could also send a pdf file version of a properly formatted letter as an e-mail enclosure.

We believe that the cultural institute idea deserves support, however it is important to point out that what made Wolsztyn absolutely unique was the daily timetabled regular passenger service, hauled by the steam engines stabled there, and that it was this that attracted visitors to Wolsztyn from all around the world.

1. Chief Executive of Wielkopolska Provincial Government

Pan Wojciech Jankowiak
Marszałek Województwa Wielkopolskiego
al. Niepodległości 18
61-713 Poznań
Poland

wojciech.jankowiak@umww.pl

2. PKP Cargo Chairman

Pan Adam Purwin
Prezes Zarządu
PKP CARGO S.A.
ul. Grójecka 17
02-021 Warszawa
Poland

a.purwin@pkp-cargo.eu

 

Wolsztyn plan gets EU chair support!

Thursday, 8 May 2014 by

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

PT47-112 at Wolsztyn. Photo Hubert Smietanka. CC2.5 licence.

Brian Simpson, the chair of the European Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee, has entered the battle to save the Wolsztyn engine shed, and its daily timetabled steam workings. Mr Simpson has sent a detailed letter to Adam Purwin, the new boss of PKP Cargo, strongly supporting the idea that a new entity be created to be the long-term custodian of Wolsztyn and that the new entity take the form of a cultural institute.

The idea of a cultural institute is the third iteration in the development of ideas for the long-term future of Wolsztyn in over three years. BTWT has had an opportunity to talk to the people who are working on the plan at PKP HQ in Warsaw, and the plan seems the best solution yet.

Previous plans for the long-term future of Wolsztyn envisaged setting up a company for the specific purpose of operating the shed and maintaining the locomotives used for the daily steam trains. The main drawback of the plan was that the company would have operated with the legal status of a commercial entity – precluding certain kinds of donations and financial support.

A cultural institute, could be the beneficiary of all sorts of grants and donations – including EU support – that would be not be available to a commercial entity.

Flirting in Lodz

Thursday, 1 May 2014 by

The first Stadler FLIRT EMUs have arrived in Lodz. They are part of an 110 million euro project grandly called “The Building of the Lodz Urban Area Railway system” (Budowa  systemu Lodzkiej Kolei Aglomeracyjnej). The project is actually nothing of the sort – no new railway lines, urban or otherwise, are being built – but does include the purchase of 20 two-car FLIRT EMUs, the construction of a maintenance depot on the site of the erstwhile Lodz Widzew marshalling yard and a 15 year maintenance contract for the EMUs.

The EMUs will operate services from Lodz to Sieradz, Kutno, Lowicz and Koluszki. The first of these, Lodz-Sieradz is due to start on June 15.

A number of old stations have been refurbished and a a few entirely new stations have been built. On 30 April, 6 units were displayed to the inspection of the public and press at Lodz Kaliska Station.

Inspired by the name FLIRT (Fast Light Innovative Regional Train) Questia, the PR company which managed the event, decided to give the ceremony a wedding theme. And so, in keeping with the spirit of the occasion, here is our slightly tongue-in-cheek report of the proceedings.

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The celebrant anxiously awaits the arrival of the bride and groom – Witold Stepien, the Chief Executive of Lodz Province gets ready for his speech. Photo BTWT.

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The best man frets – Andrzej Wasilewski, Chairman of the Lodzka Kolej Aglomeracyjna, delivered the second speech. Photo BTWT.

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Here comes the bride! Security guards and a railway man spoil the view as the first train consisting of 3 two-car EMUs arrives at platform 2 of Lodz Kaliska station. Photo BTWT.

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Followed by the groom! The second train arrives on the other track. Photo BTWT.

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The groom is relaxed – Christian Spichiger, Chairman of Stadler Polska and Vice Chairman Stadler Central Europe, talks to the media. Photo BTWT.

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The happy couple – Christian Spichiger and an unknown admirer. Photo BTWT.

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Everybody wishes the couple a long and happy future – another bright idea from the PR company. Photo BTWT.

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The 1970 – 90s re-building of Lodz Kaliska left the station with low platforms. Photo BTWT.

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Getting on board is much easier when the step is extended. Photo BTWT.

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Stadler are to be congratulated in meeting the provincial government’s requirement of squeezing in the maximum number of seats and, at the same time making them very comfortable. Photo BTWT.

Gniezno District Railway, 1939 (Part 3)

Sunday, 20 April 2014 by

by ‘Inzynier’

(continued from: Gniezno District Railway, 1939 – Part 2)

After two days travel, we have reached Gniezno, operating base for the western part of the Kujawy narrow gauge railway network…

gniezno

Gniezno. The narrow gauge line runs south east. Extract from the WIG map of 1935.

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

The third day of our tour presents us with two problems. Firstly, we need to continue our journey across the network via Anastazewo, but that end of the Gniezno system has a rather sparse service. On Tuesdays and Fridays there is an afternoon working, while on Mondays and Thursdays there is an evening train to Anastazewo which overnights there and returns early on Tuesdays and Fridays. Today is Wednesday, so we have no way of reaching Anastazewo by train. Secondly, our mission is to cover the whole of the linked Kujawy system and yesterday we missed out the Mierzewo – Arcugowo section of the Gniezno railway, which links that system to the Wrzesnia line. Consequently, we resolve to spend the day covering the missing link on foot.

Fortunately, the Gniezno – Powidz section of line has a daily passenger service, so we will be able to journey to and from Niechanowo by train and, as we will be staying in the same hotel tonight, we can travel rather more lightly for our railway ramble. The first departure of the day from Gniezno is at 09.15 (there was an arrival from Powidz at 07.40 to bring folk into the city), which turns out to be railcar No.1, built in Hannover in 1928(21). Passenger loadings are relatively light and the car’s 30 seats are more than sufficient as we re-trace yesterday’s route to Niechanowo. The advantages of the railcar are clear in terms of journey time, as we cover the 10km in just 22 minutes at an average speed of 27 km/h (17 mph).

And so we start walking. From Niechanowo station we cross the Witkowo road and pass through the village, turning left (and crossing the field railway we saw yesterday) to eventually reach the crossroads by Arcugowo halt. Here we turn right, for the branch to Mierzewo runs along the right hand side of the road(22). Shortly before Mikolajewice the railway crosses the road and we follow it, skirting round the village, to the unused halt with a loop which clearly is used, as there are two wagons in it, one of them partly loaded with hay. The railway then heads south alongside a road, crossing a couple of streams and then crossing to the other side of the road and throwing off a short siding to the left that crosses back over the road.

At Malczewo comes an oddity, for the railway passes under a road bridge. Why a bridge? From the topography it would seem that the railway could have crossed on the level, while the road is by no means a busy highway; indeed, a few kilometres to the east, the Mielzyn branch crosses the same road on the level. Continuing south of the bridge, the railway runs on the left hand side of another road and shortly a field railway branches back to the left; this splits into three branches, each perhaps a kilometre long. There is also a halt. The main line continues to Czechowo-Grotkowo (various names seem to have been used for this halt) which is a three-way junction beside a crossroads. To the right a field railway runs beside a cart track to the village and farm at Grotkowo, straight ahead runs the district railway’s branch to Czeluscin, with a loading loop alongside the road, while to the left is the main branch to Mierzewo, also alongside a road.

We turn left and follow the road and railway for a couple of kilometres until the railway swings right, away from the road, to run behind the cottages of Mierzewo and then we come to the station at which we witnessed some shunting yesterday; today all is quiet here. It has taken us well over two hours at a stroll (anything more would be uncomfortable in the heat) to get here from Niechanowo, which is 9.6km by rail, and it is clear that although the narrow gauge trains may seem slow, they are an essential means of transport for the local population, for most of whom walking is the only alternative.

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Czechowo-Grotkowo and the Czeluscin branch. Extract from the WIG map of 1935.

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

After a pause to rest our legs, we walk back to Czechowo-Grotkowo and, as we have plenty of time before the last train leaves Niechanowo, we decide to explore some of the Czeluscin branch. As previously indicated, the line runs along the left hand side of a road for almost two kilometres to Czechowo, where it crosses the road and a siding branches off right to the farm(23). The main branch continues alongside the road for a short distance, past a couple of ponds, and then turns right across fields. We pass what looks like a sand pit and then come alongside another road on our left.

The railway crosses the road and heads across fields again to Zolcz, with a long siding branching off to the left for a few hundred metres. Crossing a couple of lanes in Zolcz the line continues west with a roadway on the right to a T junction, where the railway turns sharply south with another road still on the right. Somewhere along here another line branched off for a few years to a standard gauge interchange at Czerniejewo station, but the route has disappeared under the plough.

Following the road and railway south from the junction we are amazed to see, as we approach Czeluscin, the smoke from a locomotive. As we get nearer we can see that it is Krauss 0-6-0T+T No. 4, one of about eight such locomotives built for this line and the Znin system between 1894 and 1913(24). What seems bizarre is that we can hear standard gauge trains on the Gniezno – Wrzesnia line and Czerniejewo station is less than 2km from Czeluscin, yet this locomotive has travelled about 24km from Gniezno to reach here; presumably it passed Czechowo-Grotkowo while we took our diversion to Mierzewo.

As on the Wrzesnia line, when the crew see our interest in their locomotive we are invited to take a closer look and, when they finish their shunting and are ready to set off back towards Gniezno, we are invited to join the guard in his van, an offer we gratefully accept. The train by now consists of just the loco and van, but at Zolcz we stop to pick up a couple of empty wagons, and at Czechowo a wagon load of manure is added. At Czechowo-Grotkowo the loco uncouples from the train and runs up the siding to Grotkowo, reappearing with a couple of vans, while at Mikolajewice one of the wagons we saw earlier is now completely loaded with hay and is added to the train; at each stop there is a long break in the journey as, not only do the wagons have to be added to the train, but the guard has to do the necessary paperwork.

On arrival at Arcugowo the loco again uncouples, as there are apparently some wagons to collect at Mielzyn. Not knowing how long the business at Mielzyn might take, we bid farewell to the crew and set off on foot again to Niechanowo. We arrive there in plenty of time to rest our feet before railcar 1 arrives from Powidz. After our day’s walking through the countryside it is a relief to know that we only now have the walk from the station to our hotel. There are only two other passengers by this time of day and all the halts are passed without stopping. As we near Gniezno the speed noticeably reduces, to avoid getting too far ahead of schedule, and soon we pull into the platform as a nearby church clock strikes 19.00. Tonight will be early to bed, for not only has our walk and fresh air taken its toll, but tomorrow we travel east towards the main Kujawy network and it will be a few days before we get another night in bed.

to be continued…

NOTES

21) Gniezno’s railcar 1 was tested on the Mecklenburg-Pommersche Schmalspurbahn and possibly on the Bydgoszcz district railway before arriving at Gniezno in 1929. It was taken into PKP stock in 1949 and designated Mzx-044 but is believed to have been scrapped in 1950.

22) The Arcugowo – Mierzewo line opened in 1896 and was converted to 750mm gauge in 1957. Grotkowo – Mierzewo closed in 1979 and Arcugowo – Grotkowo in 1986.

23) Grotkowo – Czeluscin opened in 1916, as did Zolcz – Czerniejewo, but the latter closed in 1923. The Grotkowo to Czechowo section was converted to 750mm gauge in 1957, but Czechowo – Czeluscin was closed rather than regauged. Grotkowo to Czechowo closed in 1973.

24) Gniezno 4 was Krauss works no. 3179 of 1895. It was renumbered 8 in 1939 (I have assumed after the German occupation), and taken into PKP stock in 1949, becoming Py1-723. It was sold to industry in 1954 and its fate thereafter is unknown.

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)

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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

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

timetable-2

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:

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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.

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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.

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