My train? When and where will it arrive?

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Main arrivals board, Warszawa Centralna station. The train from Bialystok is shown as stopping at Lapy, Malkinia, Tluszcz and Warszawa Wschodnia, in fact it also stopped at Szeptiewo and Czyzew. Similar omissions occur with respect to all the other trains. Though the train is due in at 08:30, and the clock says that it was 08:38 when the photograph was taken, there is no sign whether the train actually arrived on time or was running late. Photo PKP.

(Click to enlarge.)

A recent trip to England left me reeling. The train arriving at platform 5 is the 12:14 for West Drayton Hayes and Harlington Ealing Broadway and London Paddington.

Amazing, I thought to myself, bloody brilliant! This is what customer service is all about. I then I took a firm grip of myself and told myself to calm down. This is, after all, what train announcers have been doing ever since the PA was invented. The reason for my excitement was my over exposure to train announcements in Poland and the sheer lack of information contained therein.

A similar announcement in Poland – translated for the benefit of our readers into English – would go like this, The train arriving at platform V, track 12, is for London Paddington calling at Hayes and Harlington and Ealing Broadway. A Polish announcer would not specify the scheduled or anticipated arrival time of my train, nor would he dream of listing all the intermediate stations. He would give out just enough information to lull me into a false sense of security to make me think that Hayes and Harlington, and Ealing Broadway were the 12:14s only intermediate stops. So if I wanted to go to West Drayton, off I would go tramping to the end of platform 5 with my heavy suitcase to reach platform 6 for the next stopping train to Paddington. Of course platform 6 would be deserted. With some luck and a following wind I might have elicited the information that stopping trains no longer depart from platform 6 and now depart from platform 5. If things went as well as the way they did when I tried to go to Stare Bojanowo from Poznan, by the time I had made my way back to platform 5, my train, the 12:24, would have departed!

The abysmal state of train information communication in Poland has been highlighted by several recent articles. One of the most pithy and hard-hitting was published under the title, Information Scandal – a normal state of affairs, in the industry monthly Rynek Kolejowy. Here is a short exerpt.

9 November 2010. Warsaw Central Station. The BW Express train from Berlin Hbf. Arrival according to ticket – 18:11. Arrival on printed timetable displayed on the platform – 18:18, platform IV. Arrival as displayed on the monitors 18:26, platform I. PA announcement as the train nears Warsaw, “The BW express will arrive at the scheduled time.” Actual time of arrival – 18:31.

The original article (in Polish) can be read by following the link at the end of the article. Many thanks to for the original link.

Official PKP publicity photograph of the main departures board, Warszawa Centralna station. The contempt for passengers wishing to travel to intermediate destinations is all-to evident. Photo PKP.

(Click to enlarge.)

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5 Responses to “My train? When and where will it arrive?”

  1. Podroznik Says:

    That’s a fairly newly-installed departure board, too. You wouldn’t know that that Bydgoszcz train goes anywhere else important (Torun, anyone?). Or the Bielsko-Biala train might stop somewhere like Katowice….

  2. richardlith Says:

    Greetings. My first post here.

    You missed the train numbers. From my experience, announcements in Poland and Lithuania (where I used to live) and indeed anywhere in Europe outside the UK and Ireland, always include train numbers. Most people refer to trains by their numbers and not the departure times (as the British do) , ie train IC 123 Warsaw-Berlin, not the 08.34 to Berlin.

    So if you know the train number, you are half way to solving the problems you outline. Of course, finding out if train P9 Warsaw-Moscow stops at Minsk and Smolensk is another question, bringing us back to the start of the problem…

    To be fair to Poland, it is not the only guilty country. Most announcements and information boards across Europe only give the principle stops of trains.

    • Dyspozytor Says:

      I travel around Poland quite frequently by train and certainly have not heard trains numbers mentioned on PA announcements over the last few years. Train numbers feature prominently on the printed timetables and on the on-line version. But what the good of knowing the number if you cannot identify the train?

      These days, if I have 5 minutes or more to spare, I simply walk along to the driver and ask him if he’s calling at … . The drivers don’t seem to mind and are usually quite friendly and will even look up the arrival time if asked politely.

  3. richardlith Says:

    Dyspozytor , I bow to you more up to date knowledge. I haven’t been in Poland for a few years, though certainly in Lithuania and Russia and Germany, where I have recently been, train numbers are always used in announcememts. I must try chatting to the drivers, though in Lithuania with its low platforms they usually tower above you. I’ll try shouting.

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