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.

8 Responses to “Point-less”

  1. Gavin Whitelaw Says:

    Perhaps THEY need the Zubrowka as they obviously cannot run the proverbial in a brewery!

    I wouldn’t let some of them in charge of a chimps’ tea party never mind a railway company!!

  2. White Horse Pilgrim Says:

    Hmm, not even in Britain do we have anything quite this stupid.

    How about: “either start behaving like intelligent Europeans or we turn off the EU subsidy”? After all, we have plenty of unemployed British, French and German people who need help.

    • dyspozytor Says:

      Ah, I understand your frustration, but gentle Pilgrim you forget one thing. It was the young men in smart suits from the USA and the UK who told the Poles that this is how things must be from now on. When the Poles shook their heads in wonder and said, “This cannot be right,” then more men were sent wearing even smarter suits. The new visitors said, “If you do not do as our young men told you, we will not lend you any more money. And it came to pass that the Poles saw the light…

  3. John Ball Says:

    I didn’t think it was possible to make a bigger mess of railway privatisation than the British did. Well, you learn something new every day!

  4. Gavin Whitelaw Says:

    Ah, YOUNG men in suits….and that’s where it all goes wrong. You cannot get experience by merely attending university, doing a degree in geology and then trying to run a railway……….

    It all went wrong at the start of privatisation in the UK when most of the old, experienced people left with golden handshakes and the railway was then run by 12 year olds!!

    I worked through it and saw how bad it all went at the time.

    Unfortunately, the government STILL cannot see how badly wrong they got it and still harp on about the PPP that went so wrong for the London Underground as being the best thing since sliced bread!!

    • dyspozytor Says:

      It’s interesting to reflect how our greatest locomotive engineers: Churchward, Stanier, Gresley and Bulleid (add your own favourite engineers) all started as apprentices in their local loco works and worked their way up the ranks.

      Sometimes, I think that a similar scheme should be introduced for the politicians who run the country.

  5. Mike Winslow Says:

    I can’t believe this. I’m due in Poland next week, how am I going to get around if everything is frozen solid? I retired from Railtrack in 1997, you don’t suppose that some of the whiz kids they brought to run (ruin) the railway moved on to Poland do you? Still have the occasional nightmare about my time with Bob Horton’s outfit, some of the stunts they tried to pull.

    • dyspozytor Says:

      Well, the good news that although it’s still snowing, the deep frost has lost its grip. The majority of trains are still running although many are running late. You should be in time to get some great winter photographs!

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