A mixed bag



Mail bags in a travelling post office carriage

(Picture from The British Postal Museum & Archive website. Click on the photograph to see it in its original context on the Travelling Post Office page.)

The personal narrative style of writing is a challenge to do well. Witness my From Poznan to London train journey where we have not yet left Poland. Some writers don’t have this problem, Michael Dembinski author of the W-wa Jeziorki blog is a master of the genre.

It’s a one kilometre, 12 minute walk from home to W-wa Jeziorki station. (A pavement along ul. Karczunkowska would be helpful, though. Two months ago, I was forced off the roadway by a truck while walking to the station in the dark; I slipped, ripping the knee of the trousers of my best suit)

The journey to W-wa Powisle (nearest station to my office) took 39 minutes. Ten minutes of that was waiting to clear the points outside W-wa Zachodnia, where trains from the south, south-west, west and north-west all converge on the city. Still, what’s that to traffic jams?

And the lovely walk at the other end, through the Rydz-Smigly park (above) to the office, takes another 15 minutes. Around an hour. No stress, no worries, environmentally friendly. As long as the train is on time.

Click here to read the complete article. Both photos in this extract are by Michael Dembinski.

Three short paragraphs and Michael has already questioned the priorities of the local authority in not providing him with a pavement, criticised PKP for not running their trains on time and highlighted the beauty of Warsaw in winter. Me? In three short paragraphs I would still be in the bathroom attempting to shave.

Let’s see if I can emulate Dembinski’s pithy writing style. Here goes.

Yesterday’s Warsaw train was one of those PESA trains that have taken over most of the Lodz – Warsaw turns. After running up to a maximum speed of 139 km/h for the first few months, they’ve been throttled down to 129 km/h. Officially it is because the rulebook says you need a second man in the cab above 130 km/h. Privately it is, I suspect, because the trains bumped about so badly on the poorly aligned welded joints on the newly laid track. The track was relaid and the trackbed rebuilt at enormous cost supposedly to accommodate 160 km/h (100 mph) running. What a joke!

For the first time ever I had to navigate Warsaw’s public transport with a large heavy luggage trolley. Warszawa Centralna is atrocious. One of the escalators not working, the other only working in the down direction. You get to the passage over the railway tracks, then its steps down to the long connecting tunnel, more steps down to the passage underneath al. Jerozolemskie, then slippery stops up to the busiest tram stop in Warsaw. No shelter from the freezing wind.

My residual affection for Warszawa Centralna evaporates as my body temperature drops. I’m going to start lobbying for a brand new station on the old Dworzec Warszawa Wiedenska site with a direct connection to the Warsaw Metro and a decent covered tram interchange.

The Metro itself is a revelation. I did not realise that there are working lifts at every station. I and my shopping trolley have no problems at all. For a brief moment I want to rush out and award the Metro boss BTWT’s Golden Oilcan Award. However, my enthusiasm is tempered by the knowledge that the Metro board have not been very helpful about providing cycle parking at their stations and that the provision of access for disabled passengers was probably a condition of the EU grant which was used to complete the one and only line.

My next day’s journey brings the realisation that the Metro’s integration with other transport modes is generally poor. At Polytechnika I needed to change to a bus running on the Trasa Lazienkowska urban motorway (shown as al. Armii Ludowej) on Google maps) I had to walk as far as Marzalkowska, dodge some tram tracks, cross a busy street and take my trolley down some trecherous stairs before I reached the bus stop. Haven’t the Poles heard of integrated transport.

In the evening I caught the 18:20 Pesa train out of Warsaw. Enough people for 10 carriages and only a four car PESA unit running. I stand all the way to Skierniewice.

Where the rest of the train? I asked the guard.

It broke down, he answers.

So why didn’t you get a locomotive and some coaches?

I did ask the Dyspozytor for a loco and 8 coaches, replies the guard, looking shiftily around for a means of escape.

Please bring me a copy of the complaints book, I demand.

Our old ones have been taken away by Przewozy Regionalne and InterCity have not yet issued our new ones yet.

Memo to self: write complaint letter to chairman of PKP InterCity.

Tomorrow, how to complain in Poland. I never could master the art of writing briefly.

2 Responses to “A mixed bag”

  1. Jacek Says:

    “the provision of access for disabled passengers was probably a condition of the EU grant”.

    No! This is standard requirement for each new or renovated building.

  2. Michael Dembinski Says:

    The following day I attempted to repeat my pleasurable journey to work using the services of Koleje Mazowieckie. I checked the train timetable online, and decided to go for the 08:37 from W-wa Jeziorki into town. I turned up with a few minutes to spare, after which I heard the station (well, ‘halt’ really) loudspeaker say “Duh DUH DUH, Duddududuh DUH DUDdudDUH…) The train arrived at 09:10, so I don’t know whether the 08:37 was running 33 minutes late or the 09:06 was running 4 minutes late. Either way, I froze on the platform for well over half and hour.

    I boarded the train, within minutes the carriage was filled with black smoke and smell of burning rubber. It transpired that the chap sitting opposite me had placed the heels of his boots onto the heater, which melted them. He pulled them away, to reveal black patches of burning rubber. So, no disaster, but we had to open the window to clear the smoke. It was -5C outside.

    Two steps forward (new rolling stock, new liveries) two steps back (chronic delays, Health & Safety boo-boos).

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