Archive for November 27th, 2008

50,000 milestone

Thursday, 27 November 2008


1910 Pacific – the 50,000th locomotive built by Alco

(Photo from Growing With Schenectady – American Locomotive Company. Click to link to website.)

Around 16:35 GMT today, BTWT received its 50,000th hit. Since we started publication we have also received 241 comments. Our readers include people who work for Transport for London, Network Rail and a committee member of the European Heritage Railways umbrella body, Fedcrail. These are important milestones for BTWT, but there is also no reason for us to be complacent. In our first 5 months, our readership grew rapidly. In March we started with 912 hits and by July we had reached 7,628 hits. Over the next four months, our readership growth has levelled off, though we did have a ‘best ever’ month in October with 7,812 hits. This month we are averaging 238 daily hits.

So we still have some way to go to reach our target of 1,000 daily views! Why 1,000? Because we believe that with such a readership we will have recruited core of 50 committed supporters who we can count on to ‘make a difference’ by helping with our letter writing campaigns, particularly those aimed at decision makers in Poland. So how do we grow the next 760 readers?

The first step will be to improve the regularity and quality of our posts. Sometimes there is not enough time to prepare material to the standard that our readers have the right to expect. We need to recruit two sub editors who can feed in a couple of articles a week to give us more time to research and write up the remaining five.

The next task is to fine tune our focus. BTWT started because we wanted to publicise some of the problems faced by Poland’s surviving narrow gauge and heritage railways. Since then we have mixed in articles about railway policy and politics in the UK and Poland as well as a few items about railway heritage in Britain and further afield. The results of our readership survey tell us that we have got the ingredients right, but we need to adjust their proportions.

  • Polish railway news – 62% daily; 27% half the time
  • Polish heritage rail – 54% daily; 15% half the time (69%)

Much to our surprise, mainstream Polish railway news is by far the most popular subject with 89% of our readers wanting a daily, or every other day report. Polish heritage rail comes a close second with 69% of our readers wanting to read an article daily, or every other day.

  • British heritage rail – 23% every day; 62% once a week
  • British railway news – 19% every day; 69% once a week

British news clearly has a place, but with so many sites covering the topic, it is clear that the majority of BTWT readers would like to read a quality piece once a week rather than a ‘me too’ article daily.

  • World heritage rail – 23% half the time 65% once a week
  • World railway news – 17% half the time 67% once a week

A similar preference was revealed with respect to World news. Finally with respect to topics that BTWT should visit occasionally readers expressed their preferences as follows

  • Good railway blogs – 48%
  • Transport policy – 30 %
  • The environment – 11%
  • Steam locomotives – 11%

So how about it BTWT supporters, is there a budding journalist out there who would like the job of BTWT World News Editor and also another who would like to prepare a weekly article about the British Railway scene? We can help set you up with news feeds to make the news gathering task as easy as possible. All you have to do is to write one article a week. We in turn would use the time gained to focus on writing quality articles on the Polish railway scene.

If our recruitment campaign is a success and we complete our editorial team then we can renew our marketing efforts. So come on in and join us. Don’t be shy. Let’s reach 1,000 hits a day before the end of 2009 and make Beyond The Water Tower a power to be reckoned with.

End of cheap long-distance trains in Poland?

Thursday, 27 November 2008


The Przewozy Regionalne logo will go. Photo Tomek

(The photograph above is taken from the Palenie zabija, a rower nie (Smoking will kill you, but your bike won’t) blog. Click to see the photo in its original context and more PKP pictures.)

Poland’s inexpensive long distance operator, PKP Przewozy Regionalne, is to lose its long distance trains from 1st January 2009. Currently, if you want to travel by rail across Poland, you have a choice of operator: PKP Intercity and PKP Przewozy Regionalne. PKP Intercity operates trains under four different brands:

  • EuroCity (very expensive, international)
  • InterCity (expensive, fastest long distance)
  • Ekspres (expensive, fast long distance)
  • Tanie Linie Kolejowe (cheaper, not so fast, long distance)

All trains operated by PKP Intercity have compulsory seat reservations, and the first three categories of train are considerably more expensive, than the PKP Przewozy Regionalny trains. With the most prestigious (and most profitable) trains creamed off into PKP InterCity, PKP Przewozy Regionalne was left operating the trains that nobody really wanted:

  • Osobowe (cheapest, local, stopping)
  • Pospieszne (good value, long distance, fast and semi-fast)

The Osobowe trains are the cheapest way to travel by train in Poland, the Pospieszne are a little more expensive, but still excellent value, and much more comfortable. They take forever and a day winding across Poland connecting exotic locations such as Szczecin and Rzeszow.

Now the Przewozy Regionalne business is to be split in two. Those trains that run within one province, like the Wolsztyn-Poznan trains, will stay in Przewozy Regionalne. Those that run across provincial boundaries, like Lodz-Wroclaw, will go to a new operating company to be set up by PKP InterCity. Przewozy Regionalne itself is to be removed from the PKP Group of companies and administered by the local authorities.

What this will mean for passengers is not clear, but PKP watchers fear the worst. In the short term PKP InterCity has promised that season tickets bought before 1 January 2009 for PKP trains will be valid on the same trains after 1 January. It’s also announced that it’s not introducing any price hikes and that Pospieszne trains will not be bound by its compulsory seat reservation policy. But its also apparent that rail travel will become less flexible with Pospieszny tickets no longer being valid on Osobowy trains and Osobowy tickets no longer being upgradable to Pospieszny.

Long term, the prognosis for rail passengers is not good. What will happen to the inter-province stopping trains such as the Lokalny train from Lodz to Poznan? It doesn’t really fit in with the rest of PKP InterCity’s portfolio? But the train is well patronised and, using a more direct route, it takes about the same time to reach Poznan as the alternative of travelling by Pospieszny to Kutno and then EuroCity on to Poznan, for one quarter of the latter’s price! Once the dust of the transfer has settled, will PKP InterCity with its eyes on privatisation, want continue to run the long distance Pospieszny trains that run nearly empty across Poland mid-week, but are stuffed to bursting point on Friday’s and Sunday evenings?