Metro fiasco good news for Warsaw!

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Proposals for line 2 of Warsaw’s metro

(source Wikipedia Commons, click for larger image and licence)

It’s not every day that BTWT celebrates the cancellation of a planned public transport investment, but the decision on 31 July by Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewica-Waltz to cancel a tender for a 7km section of the proposed central section of the Warsaw Metro line 2 is in our view very good news for Warsaw residents. Not only did the 6,000 million zloty price tag look a little inflated, the line would not be available for traffic until 2013, one year after the 2012 football championships.

So why are we celebrating? Barely one week later, on 6 August Mrs Gronkiewicz-Waltz announced the signing of a 20 year contract between the City of Warsaw and the Warsaw Tramway Company. The agreement envisages a 16 billion zloty investment in the capital’s ailing tramway system over the next two decades.

The investment involves the purchase of 246 ultra-modern trams, the construction of three new tram lines and renewal of much of the existing track network.

Almost all of the existing trams, some of which date back to the 1960s, will be replaced by state-of-the-art low-floored and air-conditioned cars, up to 32 metres in length. The tender for the first 186 vehicles will be issued later this month.

“These trams will be one of the city’s trademarks for the Euro 2012 football championships,” Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz told reporters this week. The whole deal will be funded with bank loans and city money – and is not dependent on cash from the EU.

An investment of this size in the tramway system, coupled with Warsaw’s chronic traffic congestion, really has the potential to change commuting habits. Perhaps, the breathing space that the tram investment gives the City authorities will be put to good use to investigate more cost effective alternatives to ‘heavy metro’ construction such as tram-train and semi-metro.

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