Around 04:00hrs ET22-2019, an electric locomotive designed for hauling heavy freight trains, hauled the first of Poland’s 20 Pendolino trainsets through Wroclaw station. Eight hours later the train was very carefully propelled back into the station for its first showing to its potential customers. So many people wanted to walk through the train that the event, which had been scheduled from 12:00 to 14:00 had to be extended until 15:30.
Pendolino’s first appearance at Wroclaw Glowny. Video Gazeta Wroclaw.
A phone call on Sunday afternoon gives me early warning of today’s media storm. Do I want to take part in an early morning TV breakfast show to discuss PKP’s latest toy: the Pendolino? For various reasons which will rapidly be made clear, I am not a great fan of the PKP Pendolino but neither do I want to spoil beleaguered rail minister, Andrzej Massel’s, moment of triumph. How early is early? 06:40, I’m told.
Hmm. My first train of the morning, the 04:17 ex Lodz Kaliska, is supposed to get in to Warszawa Centralna at 06:23, but there a note on the timetable advising would-be passengers that because of a ‘usterki tchnicznej’ (a technical fault) the train may not reach Centralna until 06:53. I gracefully give my apologies.
Which neatly brings me to the first of my Pendolino reservations. Some 5 years since the introduction of the special 100mph (160km/h) PESA-built ED74s and the start of a multi-billion PLN project to rebuild the the Lodz-Warsaw line for 100mph running, PKP IC TLK trains from Lodz Kaliska to Warszawa Centralna are still timetabled to take between 2hrs 1min and 2hrs 14min.
The run is timetabled (and this is excluding any delays caused by ‘usterki’) for an average speed of 41.3mph (66.1km/h). If PKP cannot run its ‘fast trains’ faster than at an average speed of 40 mph after a hugely expensive track upgrade, what hope is there that the Pendolino will be able to run at anywhere its top service speed of 156mph (250km/h)?
2nd class seating is decidedly tacky. Video Gazeta Wroclaw.
My second reservation is concerned with passenger comfort. The PKP Pendolino is being positioned as a premium service. Yet the seats look decidedly tacky – a cut down version of something I would expect to find on RyanAir and a million miles away from the sumptuous comfort that I recently experienced in a (quite old, but superbly maintained) DB ICE coach. Look at this carefully staged photograph with the models leaning over to make the seats appear bigger.
1st class seating does not seem more comfortable. Video Gazeta Wroclaw.
My third reservation is why, oh why, are PKP buying Alstom rather than supporting Poland’s own railway industry? Both Newag and PESA were quoting for 125mph (200km/h) trains at substantially below the French company’s bid. 125mph running would be a step change from today’s railway and would leave cash to spare for other much-needed improvements.
The start of today’s event in Wroclaw. While the picture quality is appalling the video does capture how the special announcer brought in for today’s event stumbles over the word “Pendolino”. On two occasions he starts to say “Prendolino”, before correcting himself. While “Prendko” is the Polish for ‘fast’ is it really possible that the announcer never heard of a pendulum? Video Gazeta Wroclaw.
My fourth and final reservation is that while PKP bosses focus on shiny new trains, nobody seems very interested in the overall passenger experience. For a relatively small investment on such matters as: decent interchange with public transport transport, secure parking for bikes (and cars!), full height platforms, and fast and friendly ticketing the ‘user experience’ could be transformed for all passengers, not just those lucky enough to be able to travel by ‘Premium InterCity’.
Non-tilting PKP Pendolino bogie. Photo courtesy PKP IC.
After today’s launch, the Pendolino unit will undergo certification trials on PKP’s test track at Zmigrod test track, and after that further trials and driver training will take place on the main line. If all goes well, the first Pendolino trains will start running in regular service at the end of 2014.
- rp.pl – Pendolino jak mandolina, każdy gra co chce
- nakolej.pl – “Każdego roku budżet państwa będzie musiał dopłacać do Pendolino ok.180 mln zł”
- rp.pl – Pendolino w Wrocławiu
- rynek-kolejowy.pl – Pendolino zaprezentowane we Wrocławiu
- BTWT – Pendolino