Poland’s vanishing railway lines

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The two tracks on the left lead to the site of Gdansk’s first railway station. Photo Ewa Kowalska.

(Click image to see more photos by Ewa Kowalska on the ibedeker.pl portal and read her article [in Polish] about the damage by thieves to the 17th century walls in this area.)

In a frank interview with wnp.pl’s Piotr Stefaniak, Zbigniew Szafranski, the chairman of Poland State Railway’s infrastructure company PKP PLK, paints a stark picture about the deteriorating Polish railway network.

For many years we have been running a deficit as regards the amount of track that we rennovate and the track where we have to apply speed limits. This year we have had to reduce speed limits on 1,477 km of track and we have raised speed limits on only 638 km. Our schedule for 2011 is even worse, we will be able to raise speed limits on 421 km of track,  but we will be reducing speed limits on 1978 km. We are also assuming that we will be closing 1,523 km of track. Currently we are running on just over 19 thousand route kilometres, ten years ago it was 23 thousand.

We have over 5,000 temporary speed restrictions. This works out on average as one such speed restriction every 4 km. Although it’s true that such bottlenecks aren’t evenly distributed. If someone travels from Krakow to Rzeszow they will encounter 80 such speed restrictions. The journey turns into a nightmare.

Szafranski goes on to explain that by 2015, some 3,600 route km of track will have been renovated – leaving the remaining 15,400 km in a worse state than they were before! Although the EU is contributing some 4,300 million PLN to upgrade the so-called TEN-T routes, for this to happen PKP PLK needs to find some 5,600 million PLN of match funding. Unfortunately, the money for this simply isn’t there – it will have to be borrowed from the European Investment bank saddling PKP with heavy debt servicing costs. Szafranski reckons it would cost 47,000 million PLN to bring the rest of the network up to scratch. At the current rate of progress this would take him 43 years!

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