Transport of delight – outward

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Customer service which exceeds expectations

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There are still plenty of trains in Poland with ‘proper’ compartment carriages. Lodz-based EU07-457, on an empty stock working to Warszawa Wschodnia from Warszawa Odolany carriage sidings near Warszawa Zachodnia. From Wschodnia the locomotive and carriages will become a fast train to Lodz Fabryczna. August 2006. Photo ©Marcin Zaton.

(Click on image to see the more photographs of EU07 locomotives by Marcin Zaton and to view the conditions under which his photographs may be reproduced.)

The last post, Short change for Poland’s railways, provoked a flurry of comments. A number of correspondents drew parallels between what is currently happening in Poland and the decline of the railway network in the 1960s and 70s in Great Britain. There are many parallels, both in terms of what is happening on the ground, and also with regard to some of the external factors and constraints which helped to shape national transport policy in both countries. We will be examining some of these  in later posts. Today, I would like to address the comments of two correspondents who suggested that things have become so dire on Poland railways that it is no longer worth visiting the country and attempting to travel on its rail network. As a riposte consider the log of my outward journey on Monday.

My ‘customer experience’ started at 08:15 when I arrived at the ticket office at Lodz station. The undignified scramble which awaits early morning passengers trying to purchase tickets for trains arriving in Warsaw before 09:00 was already long over. There was just one passenger ahead of me when I joined the queue  to buy my ticket.  The price, 52 zloty (approximately £11) for a journey 292 km (181 miles) was a pleasant surprise.

Another pleasant surprise greeted me on the platform. My train wasn’t the hated ED74 PESA EMU waiting on another track but a decent locomotive hauled train composed of compartment stock. Trains between Lodz and Warsaw are regularly used by Minister of infrastructure, Cezary Grabarczyk, and I have a suspicion that in spite of the fact that there are sufficient ED74s to cover all the roster, the locomotive hauled trains have been retained for workings which the Minister might be using himself.

Once on the train, I found a compartment which was occupied by only one other person. Three ladies got on at Lodz Widzew and by Koluszki had become bored with their own company and had used their mobile phones to track down another of their friends on board the same train. Even when she joined them, and  there were six of us in the compartment, there was plenty of room to stretch and I could use my laptop in comfort.

It was only at Zyrardow,where a rather portly couple joined us, that the seating became rather tight and I was forced to put away my laptop. Thirty minutes later the portly couple decanted themselves at Warszawa Zachodnia and we could breathe again. I had decided to change trains at Centralna rather than at Zachodnia as prompted by PKP’s electronic timetable. At Centralna, the PA announcements are fairly clear, and the platforms are close together should there be a last-minute alteration. Soon my friend arrived on the Poznan train and we hurried off for a quick cup of coffee while awaiting the 11:05 to Bialystok.

Centralna is being given a facelift and builders and painters seem to be everywhere. Nevertheless, trains are running, train indicators are working and train announcements are clear and comprehensible. We were on the platform a good 10 minutes before our trains was due. The train had started at Bydgoszcz and not all the passengers had got off at Centralna. We had serious things to discuss and a PowerPoint presentation to review, so my friend suggested that we grab a first-class compartment and pay a supplement when the ticket inspector came to check our tickets. The inspector duly came and we launched into our prepared speech. The inspector gave us a broad smile, There will be no need to pay a supplement, gentlemen. I have a whole carriage reserved the Ministry of the Interior. I’ll unlock the compartment just for you.

Quality customer service experiences like these are caught occur more often than you might think Polish trains, particularly if you approach the staff politely. It’s just a pity that they not give more support by the men in suits who preside over them.

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9 Responses to “Transport of delight – outward”

  1. David Hughes Says:

    I was in a party of 12 travelling home to UK from Pabianice last summer. Eight of us used hire cars to get to Warsaw airport, while the others took the train changing at Lodz. Those on the train caught the plane: we didn’t.

    • Dyspozytor Says:

      The Lodz – Warsaw train service is first rate. I suspect that it may be due to the fact that the Minister of Infrastructure uses this line to commute to work.

      I do wonder though, why you didn’t fly out from Lodz Airport.

      • David Hughes Says:

        I’m not sure why we did it this way – the recommendation came from the bride, native of Pabianice but living in Salisbury. I did enjoy ‘discovering’ the tram lines in older parts of Lodz, peeping out from cobbled streets.

  2. Podroznik Says:

    A good question, though–in this period of a shortage of carriages, why is a whole carriage reserved for the Ministry of the Interior (and apparently empty)?

  3. Michael Dembinski Says:

    Court case? = Ministry of Justice

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