Shunting in Smigiel

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smigiel_shunt

Shunting in Smigiel yard, May 2008. Photo BTWT.

Robert Hall, who wrote to the Mayor of Smigiel regarding the problems of the Smigiel Railway has received a reply. Robert has already posted this as a comment, but we thought it sufficiently important to republish it as an article.

Smigiel
09.10.2009

Dear Mr Hall,

I gratefully accept many European countries’ concern with the future of our local narrow-gauge railway. I want to say that its fate is also important for the local authorities and the inhabitants of Smigiel. That is why I want to deny the rumour concerning the intentions of burdening the current owner, I mean ‘The association of local rail transport’ (SKPL) a special tax. Moreover, I would like to present the legal situation of our narrow-gauge railway.

Since April 2009 the Commune of Smigiel has become the owner of the property on which ‘The association of local rail transport’ works, offering its service. As in other European countries, the situation is similar in Poland; the owners of the properties are obliged to pay taxes. This obligation, concerning the property on which narrow-gauge railway was working to the end of March 2009, was supposed to be fulfilled by the Polish National Railway. However, since April 2009, the owner of the land and buildings of the local narrow-gauge railway has become the Commune of Smigiel. In this case, according to Polish law, the owner has got the duty of paying the tax concerning the property, if the act of owning stems from the agreement with the owner.  Here, the owning of the property results from the agreement of lending, so the tax, according to the act about taxes and local payments, must be paid by the haulier. I mean, ‘The association of local rail transport’. The mayor of Smigiel is obliged to exact this tax. Moreover, he does not have any legal opportunities to exclude from the tax obligation, as it would be illegal. The owners of ‘The association of local rail transport’ have known that information since April 2009.

As I have mentioned, the future of our narrow-gauge railway, taking into account its historical character, is surrounded by special care of the local town council. That is why, in case of a possible resignation of the current haulier, the most important matter will be the maintenance of tourist and passenger transport. Moreover, we do not resign form doing the earlier planned renovation. In this situation, I would like to calm all people, who are worried with the fact that the local narrow-gauge railway may not survive.

Yours sincerely

Wiktor Snela
BURMISTRZ SMIGLA

The first thing to say is that the letter is consistent with what the Council is saying to SKPL – the law requires Smigiel Town Council to levy local taxes. The statement that “Moreover, he does not have any legal opportunities to exclude from the tax obligation, as it would be illegal.” is also exactly what the Town Council are saying to SKPL. One of the solutions that SKPL put to the Council was that each year the Council and SKPL would meet and agree the railway’s budget for the year ahead. SKPL would pay the taxes and the Council would agree to put a similar sum aside for the maintenance of the railway’s infrastructure. But the Council’s interpretation of the law is that this would leave the Council open to a charge of illegally by-passing the tax obligation. Whether this really would be the case remains to be tested.

Which brings us to the current situation. SKPL believe that withdrawing the monies demanded by the Council from the railway’s budget in order to pay the local tax demand will lead to a terminal decline of the railway’s infrastructure. Accordingly they have agreed to pay the local tax for the period April – December 2009 and have given the Council notice that they are withdrawing from their operating agreement as from 31 December 2009. They have also said that they are willing to discuss with the council any other solution which may be available to continue passenger and freight services on the railway. The Council are looking at the legal ramifications of operating the railway – but only passenger and tourist services, no freight – themselves. Watch this space.

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One Response to “Shunting in Smigiel”

  1. John Ball Says:

    This is ominous. Smigiel’s attraction is that it remains a real railway, and now it looks as if it will become at best a tourist operation.

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