Archive for January 14th, 2010

Point-less

Thursday, 14 January 2010

A double slip or in Polish rozjazd angielski (literal translation ‘an English point’) with electrically heated stock rails. Photo PKP PLK.

Given Poland’s frequent freezing winters, PKP had fine tuned the railway’s response to perfection. Thermostatically controlled automatic point heaters which came on at a pre-determined temperature were part of the railway’s defences against snow and ice. So why have hundreds of trains been delayed this winter by points that froze solid?

The story starts with the Ministry of Infrastructure who when reorganising Poland’s railways decided to improve on the British model. When PKP was broken up into hundreds of separate companies, instead of just hiving off infrastructure into a single company the Ministry split up infrastructure into PKP Polskie Linie Kolejowe (track), PKP Energytka (electricity supply) and PKP Telekomunikacja (telecommunications).

Each company is looking for ways of earning more money and PKP Energetyka is no exception. When PKP Energytyka boss Tadeusz Skobel thought up a scheme whereby he would charge PKP PLK not just for the electricity consumed, but for the infrastructure company’s potential to use electricity he thought he had hit a jackpot. PKP PLK chairman, Zbigniew Szafranski, countered Skobel’s move by order the electric point heaters to be disconnected. After all Poland had had a run of several mild winters in a row. Thousand’s of delayed trains and hundreds of thousands of late journeys is the result.

It is time for Andrzej Wach, the chairman of PKP SA to sort out his two daughter companies. If he feels powerless to sort matters out, then rail minister Juliusz Englehardt should act decisively to end this nonsense.