Wolsztyn – Poznan

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The end?

At a recent meeting of the Wielkopolska provincial council’s Infrastructure Committee, councillors voted to end the 3 million zloty subsidy to Przewozy Regionalne, which operates the regular Wolsztyn – Poznan steam turns and instead to transfer the money to the Wielkopolska Tourism Organisation (WOT). Ironically one of WOT’s key projects is to develop railway tourism in Wielkopolska!

These services were supposed to be an important element in promoting railway tourism. It turns out that they are not, and it all costs an enormous sum of money – claims Councilor Zbigniew Czerwinski. One of the deciding factors was the increased subsidy demanded by the operator to maintaining the steam services. Steam locomotives will not disappear, but will be hauling – hopefully on a regular basis – special trains throughout Wielkopolska – adds Czerwinski.

Deputy Governor, Wojciech Jankowiak, disagrees with the decision. Removing steam haulage from the Wolsztyn – Poznan timetabled trains will mean the end of the roundhouse.  He believes that organisational changes at Wolsztyn are needed, but does not have an easy solution. The end of Wolsztyn – Poznan regular steam working is not yet a foregone conclusion. The final decision regarding the funding needed to maintain the regular steam turns belongs to the Wielkopolska provincial council, and work on next year’s budget is still proceeding.

Wojciech Lis, who works in the promotion department of Wolsztyn Town Council and is a committee member of the Society of Friends of Wolsztyn Shed, is shocked by Committee’s decision. He also believes that, if the decision is upheld by the main council meeting , it will be the beginning of the end of the Wolsztyn shed. He points out that in Western Europe there are many steam-hauled special trains, but only in Wolsztyn is possible to savour authentic steam-hauled trains in regular main line service. This attracts tourists from all around the world .

Wojciech Lis has not lost hope that the timetabled services can be saved. On Wednesday, the national feastday of railwaymen in Poland, Witold Wojtkowiak – the Wolsztyn shedmaster said that the new timetable, which enters into force on 13 December, still shows daily steam trains from Wolsztyn to Poznan and back and return. The trains even appear on the DB railway timetable.

The Wielkopolska provincial government meet to discuss budgets on Monday 30th November. There is still time to overturn the committee’s decision.

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9 Responses to “Wolsztyn – Poznan”

  1. John Ball Says:

    The best way that we can help save steam at Wolsztyn must be either to join the WE holidays or jump on a Ryan Air cheap flight to Poznan and spend a few days there. I’m sure that Wolsztyn businesses would miss out if the steam operation ended.

    I’m happy to write a letter if that might help. Clearly there is a perception with some local politicians of the Polish taxpayer subsidising wealthier people from the West, which needs to be dispelled.

  2. Gavin Whitelaw Says:

    WHY do politicians get it SO wrong EVERY time? They don’t see that the real cost of the diesel railcars was paid by European Money (The politicians seem to think they just fell from heaven!) and that if THAT is taken into account and the money for running steam is ring fenced that it IS an asset. I am not sure that ALL the monies paid HAVE gone into running steam. 3 Million Zloty is A LOT of cash – around £650,000 which works out at around £900 per train run. Now THAT is enough I would think to keep the locos in some sort of reasonable condition, and they patently are not so where is all the money going? I have not seen a breakdown of the costs involved, but from knowlege of the sort of costs (spares, maintenance and fault finding) that diesel and electric locomotives cost to run (I work on electric traction in London) I know that the costs MUST be comparable, if not less when you take into account the fact that the steam locos (and coaches)are written off on the capital cost side long ago whereas the railcars capital costs at (a conservative) £300,000+ each have not been taken into account and IF they were then I think it would come down firmly on the side of steam.

    But as I said, the politicians seem to think that the railcars have dropped from the skies and do not see that in five years or so they will require really expensive maintenance that will put the £650000 subsidy in the shade!!

    If they put more (say 2 or 3) Ol49s back into service at a cost of say £50000 each then the steam service would become more reliable. But Cargo have not been terribly proactive in runnning steam – or keeping it in ANY sort of condition that is reliable. The locos are run into the ground at the moment and it needs another 2 steam locos to allow the fleet to be brought up to a state that ensures that they are reliable.

    If steam finishes regular timetabled services then it WILL be the end. Tourist trian will not be enough to keep the tourists coming to Wolsztyn and the town will suffer financially. The politicians need to see that it needs more money, NOT less, and if they could approach Europe then I feel it would be available. It has been made availble in large amounts for the rebuilding of the Poznan – Wolsztyn line and a fraction of that could see reliable steam operations for the future and this is FAR too important to be left in the hands of here today, gone tomorrow local small minded politicians.

  3. warwickian Says:

    The unique selling point of Wolsztyn is that it is regular scheduled passenger trains that are steam hauled. If PKP moves to only providing steam for tourist specials, then the uniqueness disappears. There are many other places people can go to see steam hauling planned specials. There is only one place you can go to see steam hauling scheduled services – Wolsztyn.

    Whilst I was in Wolsztyn last week, I had chance to talk to several groups of tourists who were travelling between Poznan and Wolsztyn. The same thing was mentioned several times: There is not much information available for a general tourist to tell people what Wolsztyn is about, and which trains are steam hauled, and what else is in the town. Despite there being a display board about the shed at Wolsztyn in the underpass at Poznan Glowny, I do not recall any mention of current train times on the board. How many potential visitors have been put off by not having enough information?

    Travelling regularly on the line during the week, I could not help but notice the number of people taking photographs from the lineside. Some had foreign registered cars, others Polish. All would have been spending money in the local economy, and the financial benefits to hotels, restaurants, and even fuel stations are not easily visible.

    If the decision is taken to withdraw steam from the scheduled services, then how many of these people would be visiting the area and contributing to the local economy? They could easily spend there money elsewhere.

  4. Michael Says:

    Are the trains still running right now?

  5. Rik degruyter Says:

    This news is really falling from the sky.

    At the Warszawa conference last Thursday Howard Jones confirmed the on going steam hauling from next new time table in December.

    If regular steam is dropped, then Wolsztyn will become the next struggling museum shed with all the problems to solve that were items on the conference.

  6. rik degruyter Says:

    Congratulations, Gavin !

    I support 100% Gavin’s duly calculated view on today’s and future situation. The maintenance of the depot and the engines at an acceptable level and at a minimum cost brings a lot of money into local economy.

    But politicians do not think like that…

  7. Gavin Whitelaw Says:

    I perhaps forgot to factor in the track access charges that are levied at a higher rate for steam than for the diesel railcars.

    So, not only have the railcars fallen from the skies like magic, they cost less to run compared to a steam train on a scale of charges set by the track company (who are getting the track rebuilt with European money next year!) that has done little to maintain the track in a fit state over the past years. The number of speed restrictions grows and grows. Especially the restriction just after the new bridge at Lubon where badgers have burrowed into the embankment and you brake to a dead slow as the loco heaves over about 10 inches!

    Not exactly a level playing field (neither was the road/rail argument in Britain in the 1930s onwards!), yet the blinkered politicians don’t take THAT into account and can ‘see’ the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

    I would think that all told, the 3 million zloty brings something similar into the local economy in an area where there is NOTHING else to entice tourists, yet no mention is made of the steam trains at Poznan and even the local Poles are unaware that these trains are running daily from a MAIN station.

    Why are the Poles so inept at advertising (unless it is draped all over a city by a western conglomerate!) and incapable of marketing properly something unique? (And I speak as a Polophile and not meaning this as a derogatory comment!)

    Well, it SEEMS safe for another year, but the seeds of doubt have been sown and the politicians have a year to ruminate over their bloody nose. It may get worse next year…………unless they are voted out, or a more financially aware and relaxed rail regime takes over.

  8. warwickian Says:

    To Gavin’s comments on track access charges, unless I am mistaken, there was a recent case where an in steam Ol49 was towed to and from a charter by a diesel (with the diesel being sent from the charter destination, to Wolsztyn) as this was the cheapest option. Does Dyspozytor or anyone else know how the access charges for a steam loco compared with a railcar measure up?

  9. Gavin Whitelaw Says:

    The Copper Mine, who were running specials, south of Leszno sent their Russian diesel to haul the Ol49 and some vintage four wheel coaches and brought it back again the next evening.

    Now it isn’t unknown for the steam locos to be hauled if they are going some distance as watering facilities are sparse now away from certain routes as there is no need to keep them in working order so it is sometimes prudent to haul the steam loco to conserve water and possibly coal if the distance is great (as the solid concretions of pulverised coal that lie at the bottom of an Ol49s tender that you dig into at the end of a long run have to be seen to be believed and would possibly defy dynamite!). But it was a bit of a farce to send a diesel loco to haul the train the relatively short distance involved this time and I was told it was due to the access charge being cheaper if the steam loco was hauled.

    NOW, I am no mathemetician, but surely ANY increase in charges by running the steam loco and coaches on their own would be more than nullified by the diesel fuel, wear and tear on the diesel loco and the crew hours involved. (Especially as a Wolsztyn – Poznan normal steam turn costs around £35 in track charges so this would have been similar)

    Sometimes Poland just doesn’t make ANY sense at all. And that is why I love it so much!

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