Andrzej Massel, new Rail Minister

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Andrzej Massel. Photo IK.

Andrezj Massel, the Deputy Director of Instytut Kolejnictwa, Poland’s Railway Research and Development Centre has been appointed Minister responsible for railways by Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk. Massel who takes over as Undersecretary of State responsible for railways in the Ministry of Infrastructure, will be taking over the seat vacated by Juliusz Engelhardt, fired on 21 December after 3 years in the job. Massel will be starting his new job on Tuesday 28 December and as an immediate priority has been tasked to decide what heads should roll within the PKP Group.

Andrzej Massel is well-liked by his colleagues in the railway industry, unlike Engelhardt who was regarded as arrogant and unapproachable. Massel has worked on a number of feasibility studies for EU-funded projects including: a joint CNTK (1) / W S Atkins study into upgrading the Siedlce – Terespol line; a study into new rolling stock for the Wielkopolska provincial government; a preliminary study for the Warsaw – Wroclaw / Poznan high speed line; a study into upgrading the Warsaw – Gdansk corridor; and a study for the construction of a new section of the Warsaw Metro. Massel is also one of the authors of the Ministry of Infrastructure’s Masterplan for Poland’s Railways until 2030.

So how did Massel, who is a competent technocrat, but relatively unknown outside the railway industry, pick up his this high profile (some might say poisoned chalice) job? It seems that his hobby of collecting old railway timetables as well as his work on the upgrading of the Warsaw – Gdansk corridor may have been to blame! After a week of chaos following the introduction of the new timetables Masel wrote a hard-hitting piece in his regular column for KOW (Railway Publishing House). Here is a brief extract.

The new timetable – fact or fiction?

The new timetable came into force on 12 December. The media are reporting that its introduction marked a greater crisis for the railways than the severest frost or the greatest snowstorm.

It provides information about trains that depart from platforms that don’t exist, about trains which do not have enough room for intending passengers and about trains that – because of defective rolling stock – have failed somewhere en route to their destination. The loudest complaints come from travellers who cannot get hold of up to date information. It is impossible to get through on telephone numbers to information centres, websites crash apparently because too many people are trying to access them.

Theoretically all is well. A week before it was due to be implemented, detailed timetables were published on the Przewozy Regionalne website. On 3 December PKP Intercity made its new timetable available as a pdf download. Both timetables have a significant fault – neither of them have much connection with reality.

I am personally interested in the timetable for trains operating between Warsaw and Gdansk. According to table 400 on the Przewozy Regionalne website, and the appropriate PKP Intercity webpage, the service on this line has undergone a radical improvement, both in terms of train timings and frequency.

Kazub, the fastest train between Warszawa Centralna and Gdansk Głowny should complete its journey in 3 hours 57 minutes, whereas upto now it has been taking 5 or even 6 hours to complete its journey. Of course, from the first day of its introduction, the new timetable published by both operators will not be applicable. The upgrading work being carried out on this line entails a great deal of single line working. The consequent delays mean that for a long time trains will continue to take around 5 hours to complete their journey. But you will only find out about this if you read the small print: Because of the modernization of the line between Warsaw and Gdansk and the modernisation of Gdansk Oliwa station journey times are subject to change.

This raises a moot point, Why make passengers angry by promising levels of service that cannot be achieved in practice? The systemic fault is the process practised by PKP Polskie Linie Kolejowe whereby two timetables are created in parallel: the timetable for the year and a timetable for a specific period.

Click here for the complete article (in Polish).

As the most senior railway professional who dared to say publically what was really going wrong, small wonder that he has found himself chosen by prime minister to clear up the mess!

Andrzej Massel was born in 1965. He graduated from, and was subsequently awarded a Ph D by, the Land Construction Department of Gdansk Polytechnic. Since the early 1990s he has worked for the Centrum Naukowo-Technicznym Kolejnictwa (Railway Research and Development Centre) now renamed Instytut Kolejnictwa.

From 2005 he has held the position of Deputy Director with responsibility for studies and research projects. During the period 2000 – 2001 he was the plenipotentiary for railways in the office of the Chief Executive of Pomerania Province. During the period 2001 – 2002 he was a member of the supervisory board of PKP SKM in Gdansk.

His hobbies include collecting old railway photographs and postcards and railway timetables.

We wish him well with his Herculean task.

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