Smoke and mirrors

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BTWT EXCLUSIVE!

Today’s 11.40 Ozorkow-Leczyca shuttle at Strykow

The Krosniewice Railawy came briefly to life this weekend during a festival at Leczyca thanks to the lobbying of SKOKW (The Krosniewice-Ozorkow Narrow Gauge Railway Society) . An intensive shuttle service bewteen Leczyca and Ozorkow was operated on both days.

Andrzej Olszewski interviewed for the local TV news

The two day festival would not have been possible without the enthusiasm of the Mayor of Leczyca, Andrzej Olszewski. Mrs Barbara Herman, the Mayor of Krosniewice, agreed to the ‘reopening’ of the railway for the two days of the festival. On Sunday afternoon she graced the proceedings in order to establish her bona fides as a supporter of the railway. Unfortunately none of the media present asked the obvious question – if she supports the railway, why did she close it?

The Mayors of Leczyca and Krosniewice

Mrs Herman’s predecesor as Mayor had obtained a licence from PKP (Polish State Railways) for Krosniewice Council to manage the railway, granted an operating licence to SKPL and was in the process of acquiring the freehold to the railway land. But Mrs Herman had other plans and she closed the railway in March 2008. A month earlier she had given notice to SKPL, the railway’s operator, that their operating agreement was to be terminated. Since then she has made no moves to appoint another operator.

Krosniewice Town Council’s agreement with PKP was subject to a condition that the railway would be used for transport purposes. Mrs Herman regards this condition too restrictive and recently met with representatives of councils through whose land the railway runs to press the case for her own plan whereby each local authority along the line would takes over their local section of railway land from PKP without any transport condition being imposed. The danger of this plan is that it gives each local council a free hand as to what they might eventually do with the railway land. (Mrs Herman has friends who want to redevelop the railway station and workshop site at Krosniewice.) We already know that other local councils at the northern end of the line are more interested in building a cycle path than owning and running a railway.

Is this to be the sad future of the Kujawy Railways? The banner says “The Ozorkow-Leczyca-Krosniewice Narrow Gauge Railway”.

The Krosniewice Railway is a 110 km fragment of the former Kujawy Railway Network which in its heyday comprised some 2,000 kilometres of narrow gauge lines of both 750 mm and 600 mm gauge. The network comprised a core network of PKP operated common carrier railways and many hundreds of kilometres of private sugar beet railways. When PKP closed the network in 2001, the Kujawy Railway was split up into three sections based on Gniezno, Sompolno and Krosniewice.

Whereas railway enthusiasts were successful in persuading local councils in Gniezno and Krosniewice to take over their sections of line, they were less successful with the central section at Sompolno. The well equipped railway workshops were gutted by scrap thieves and this once important railway junction now resembles a wilderness. The Gniezno section is beong operated purely as a tourist line. Meanwhile SKPL, with its regular service which linked the sugar refinery at Breszcz Kujawski to the PKP network, maintained the Krosniewice Railway as Poland’s last narrow gauge rail servicing the sugar beet industry.

When Mrs Herman was elected Mayor, she immediately started making difficulties for SKPL demanding that the society hand over monies for rents which her predecessor had prevented it from collecting. She then demanded that SKPL vacate the railway workshops and when the society objected she terminated their operating agreement. From our own moles in PKP we know that Mrs Herman has threatened that if she does not gain control of the railway land she wants for redevelopment she will let the whole railway “go to the dogs”.

SKOKW Chairman, Pawel Papierz

During the festival Pawel Papierz, SKOKW chairman, said that this year there had only been one weekend of operation on the Krosniewice – Ozorkow branch, but that next year there would be trains every weekend during the operating season. It was significant that the line’s ‘owner’ Mrs Herman made no such promise, nor has her council entered into any agreement with SKOKW or any other potential operator.

The train at Leczyca about to return to Krosniewice

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