Archive for May, 2012

Yet another collision!

Monday, 28 May 2012

The accident scene. Still from a video by OSTROW24.TV.

(Click image to read a report on the accident and see the complete video on the ostrow24.tv website.)

Hardly had the virtual ink dried on our post correcting our comment on the safety record of Polish railways when news came in of yet another collision!

This time the collision occurred on Sunday morning around 04:32 at Ostrow Wielkopolski. A freight train en route from Ilowo to Imbramowice hauled by an EU07 owned by PHU Lokomotiv ran into a PR Regio stopping passenger train waiting on track 10 by platform 3 for its scheduled departure to Wroclaw Glowny at 04:49. Four people were slightly injured.

A commission has been set up to investigate question, Why did a freight train with two people in the cab run onto a track already occupied by a passenger train?

 

 

Polish diary

Sunday, 27 May 2012

by Chris White

Chris White in an ex Duisberg articulated tram on inter-urban line 46 from Lodz to Ozorkow. Photo BTWT.

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Chris White has been involved in the Talyllyn Railway in North Wales since the 1950s. He started as volunteer guard and rose through the ranks to become the TR’s chairman. In the 1960s, he organised the Traffic and Operating Committee working parties some which were attended by Dyspozytor during his school holidays. Today, he is still actively involved in the operation of the TR and The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum in Tywyn. Between 9 and 16 May he came to Poland to explore some of Poland’s cities and their tramways, main line and tourist railways. This is his diary.

Wed 9 May

A Ryanair flight from East Midlands airport to Wroclaw landed me just after 18:00 by the new airport terminal which is largely finished and very impressive. What a change from my first visit in 2006, when the city was approached from the small terminal by what a seemed to be a country lane lined with allotment gardens. Now the whole area is transformed with new roads and developments of all kinds.

Bus 406 was waiting to take people to the city but there was no ticket machine at the stop, the one on the bus, which only takes plastic, was not working and the driver uninterested. So I just took a seat and relaxed. Soon the bus was packed to the doors and eventually set off and reached the city in good time. I stayed at Sifor Premium Europejski, as it was near to the station and not far from the city centre.

Thurs 10 May

In Wroclaw, I bought a 24 hour tram ticket and obtained train tickets for the next day from one of the various ticket outlets near but not at the Dworzec Tymczasowy (Temporary Station). A useful tram map showed two new lines, built since my last visit a year ago, to serve the newly complete Stadion Wroclaw and nearby Dokerska. I visited the city centre with its many monuments, botanical gardens and Szczytnicki Park with its musical fountain, the Centennial Hall built in 1913 to celebrate the liberation of the city from Napoleon and the 1948 steel needle erected to celebrate the regained territories.
polish rail

The light and airy interior of the restored station contrasts with this EN57 unit complete with the plastic seats ready to form the 10:30 Wroclaw Gl to Poznan Gl. Photo Chris White.

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Fri 11 May

Allowing myself plenty of time, I approached the station by a circuitous route and found the subway mentioned in the post Wroclaw Worries. When complete, the station will be modern and functional but whether there will be any passengers left to travel on the slow and, all too often, appalling trains, is another matter. Cheap and frequent local and regional bus services and a growing number of internal flights are alluring alternatives to those without a car.

SA132 railcar making up the Koleje Wielkopolskie 12:35 Leszno to Wolstzyn and Zbaszynek. Photo Chris White.

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Clearly major improvements will be needed to re-gain and grow the passenger traffic and sort out the labyrinthine ticketing systems. I took the 10.30 (Regio 67931) as far as Leszno and changed onto the 12.35 Leszno to Wolstzyn arr 13.34 (KW 79427), a modern diesel railcar. It was staffed by four people, one to drive, one to issue tickets, one to operate the doors and one who appeared to be a trainee.

Ol49-59 about to depart with the regular steam-hauled passenger working from Wolsztyn to Poznan. Photo Chris White.

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At Wolstzyn there was time to take a few photos before boarding (KW 77331) a steam train headed by OL49-59 departing at 13.40 for Poznan Głowny: a two hour run arriving at 15.47 . The filthy and dilapidated double deck carriages experienced on my previous trip last year had been replaced by two regular carriages but their interior and outside cleanliness left a lot to be desired. Both of these Koleje Wielkopolskie trains seemed to be enjoying a reasonable level of business. I was very interested to note the re-building of the traditional Prussian style signalling system in the Wolstzyn area.

The new station building under construction at Poznan. Fortunately the old station was still in business. Photo Chris White.

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The station facilities at Poznan, although also being re-built were much more inviting than those Wroclaw and, it being Friday afternoon, were very busy.

The tram system in the area is also undergoing major investment but no tram map was available even on the Internet, which made exploring the city a bit hit and miss. (The map was uploaded on 15 May!) There was a massive thunderstorm just after my return to the Hotel Topaz and the temperature dropped from over 30°C to around 15°C where it remained for most of my stay.

Ol49-69 and TurKol special at Poznan Franowo. Photo Chris White.

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Sat 12 May

Armed with a written list I went to the International Booking Office and bought tickets for the remainder of my stay. I had booked on the steam train trip from Poznan Glowny to Gniezno and received a warm welcome on introducing myself. TL49-69 headed four vintage carriages with frequent photo stops to Gniezno where the train was greeted by a fanfare of trumpets and a large crowd, many of whom opted to take a short trip on the steam train to Wrzesnia and back. Details and pictures on the TurKol website.

It was a big disappointment that there was no train provided on the Gniezno narrow gauge line; although Px48-1919 was posed with TL49-69, it was not in steam. I spent the time looking round this historic little town and even made it to the top of the Cathedral tower, before returning to Poznan on the steam special, which was looped twice for overtaking trains.

Sun 13 May

Back to Gneizno by TLK 65101, then on an ancient bus to Znin.

Work has taken place to renew drainage culverts on the Znin Narrow Gauge Railway. Photo Chris White.

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A sudden rain storm meant that the shelter of the Znin Narrow Gauge Railway’s refreshment room was very welcome before it was time for the train to leave. There were a lot of people around in the Biskupin area but very few on the two trains operating and I visited the iron age fort as well as enjoying the train ride.

A strategic retreat to one of the closed carriages was just as well as more heavy showers of cold rain developed during the afternoon. The station area at Gasawa has been improved recently by the construction of a new footpath to the centre of the village.

I took the 16.10 bus from Znin bus station and, although it was going through to Poznan, I changed at Gneizno and took a Regio train back to base. The Znin Narrow Gauge Railway is to be congratulated on operating a daily train service and deserves every success in this area which is obviously popular with visitors. The town centre is quite attractive but the area around the now closed standard gauge line and station is looking very sorry for itself. Hopefully it will not be too long before this part of town can be re-developed.

Wls40 built in Poznan in 1956 at work on the Maltanka Park Railway. Photo Chris White.

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Mon 14 May

Emil, one of my Polish friends, had recommended a visit to the 60cm gauge Kolej Parkowa Maltanka and I arrived there in time for the second round trip of the day. Being a Monday. a diesel loco was in operation. and I took a return trip before returning to explore some more of the long distance tram lines, or more properly, light rail lines. Then it was time to take TLK 83106 from Poznan to Lodz Kaliska (250km in 3½ hours).

Poznan light rail – route 12 tram heading towards the city at Aleja Solidarnosci. Photo Chris White.

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Tues 15 May

The day was spent exploring two of the three surviving Lodz inter-urban lines with Dyspozytor. Our first run was on line 46 out to Ozokow. This trip was delayed in both directions by a total of 30 minutes by cars crashing into the trams almost as if the local competing bus companies promote this kind of activity.

A very friendly driver on the outward trip spoke with us for a long time at the terminus about hopes and fears for the remaining long inter-urban routes out of Lodz and told us that the tram company staff had been encouraged by the international support for the campaign to save the line. The track beyond the city boundaries is in a very variable state, mostly single with passing loops and in need of heavy repairs in places.

Chris White and friendly tram driver at Ozorkow. Photo BTWT.

We found (the only?) restaurant in Ozorkow and, after a schabowy (pork chop) for lunch, rode the line back into Lodz for afternoon tea with vintage tram owner and operator Tomasz Adamkiewicz. We changed trams at Plac Niepodleglosci and took service No 41 to Pabianice in the rain and gathering gloom. The track had been renewed as far as the city boundary but beyond the mixture of double and single track with sections of street and roadside running could do with some investment.

Our service was operated by a single car which was pretty well patronised in the early evening. We changed trams and after a longish wait caught one of the city trams at Port Lodz. We reached our starting point near Manufactura. By now cold and damp was beginning to overcome us and Dyspozytor organised a rescue party to take us to his home for a very welcome hot meal.

Plac Niepodleglosci, the start of line 41, the inter-urban service to Pabianice. Photo BTWT.

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Wed 16 May

Lodz Chojny dep 07:48 (TLK 16101) to Wroclaw Glowny arr 1:.20 – ten minutes late (250km in 4½ hours). A walk round the east side of the city revealed work going on to replace a lot of tram track on routes 0 and 5 and then I had a very late lunch in the Rynek. Buying a ticket for Bus 406 to the Airport again proved a problem. My cash stuck in the machine and another would be purchaser came and inserted their cash, banged the machine and shrugged and got on the bus so I did the same. At the airport I noticed the large number of internal flights and the new service to Lviv which has recently started. By Ryanair from Wroclaw dep 19:05 arr East Midland Airport 20:25.

Lodz Chojny, the 07:48 departure (TLK 16101) to Wroclaw Glowny – one of the through services that does not call at Lodz Kaliska. Photo BTWT.

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On my return I was asked “How was Poland?” to which I replied “Very Polish!” I met lots of friendly people, except for bus drivers who were equally grumpy to every-one. I observed: a lot of re-construction going on at breakneck speed; many monuments to various episodes of the land’s troubled history; much good renewal of the infrastructure of trams and trains. However, a lot more remains to be done, especially to provide user friendly services and much faster connections on the main lines and to develop the full potential of local and tourist lines.

Polish rail accidents NOT EU’s worst!

Saturday, 26 May 2012

The Szczekociny crash scene. From a photo by Wojciech Janaczek.

(Click image to see original on Wikipedia and for details of licensing.)

Yesterday we were guilty of sloppy journalism. We reused a quote from The Warsaw Voice claiming that ‘According to the European Railway Agency, Poland has the most dangerous railroads in the EU’. Actually it is not true. Whilst Poland does have the highest number of railway accidents in the EU region, such figures should be normalised per total train kilometres run before performing any inter-country comparison.

This was pointed out by one of BTWT’s readers, Mike, who sent us a detailed comment which we are republishing below. Our sincere apologies for repeating a highly misleading claim and our thanks to Mike for his incisive comment and analysis.

I don’t think it’s entirely right to say “Poland’s railways have the worst safety record in the EU.” Certainly in 2010 Poland saw 449 rail accidents, compared to only 31 in Estonia. However, Estonia has only 900km of working rail compared to 20,000km in Poland, so it’s not really a fair comparison.

I went to the PDF in the post and did some sums on the raw numbers. In terms of 2010 accidents per million train-km, Poland managed 2.05 compared to 3.44 in Estonia. Thus Estonia has more crashes per train-km than Poland. On the other hand, Germany only has 0.29 crashes per million train-km, so there’s a long way to go. Overall, Poland has the 7th highest number of crashes in the EU, according to the numbers in the report. For those who like charts, I have uploaded one here: Accidents per million train km.

This is similar to the charts on pages 26 and 27 of the report which show Poland as being worse than EU average for rail safety, but certainly not the worst. If you don’t want to open the PDF, their summary sentence is “The results show acceptable railway safety performance in the six risk categories in all countries except Romania, Lithuania and Slovakia.”.

Head on collision in Warsaw

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Polish rail

The crash scene. Local PKP PLK director, Jan Telecki, describes the movements of the two trains immediately before the accident. Video by .

A head-on collision between two early morning commuter trains in Warsaw on Thursday morning (24 May) brought back memories of the head-on train collision near Szczekociny – Poland’s worst train crash in 22 years – which killed 16 people and wounded 57. This time, the relative velocity of the two trains was small and the lead coaches only suffered minor damage. Two people were injured; one sufficiently seriously to need hospital treatment.

The accident occurred at 05:45 in the vicinity of Warszawa Praga station. The trains involved were KM 1521 – an EN76 trainset belonging to Koleje Mazowieckie running from Warszawa Gdanska to Ciechanow, and SKW 40222 – a 19WE trainset belonging to Szybka Kolej Miejska running from Legionowo to Warszawa Gdanska.

According to The Warsaw Voice, a report published by the European Railway Agency, shows that Poland’s railways have the worst safety record* in the EU. There were 449 rail accidents in Poland in 2010. Germany was second with 297 accidents followed by Romania with 271.

More:

Krzysztof Dyl appointed UTK Chairman

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Krzysztof Dyl. Photo UTK.

Today the Urzad Transportu Kolejowego (UTK, Office of Railway Transport) announced* that Krzysztof Dyl has been appointed its chairman. Mr Dyl has been acting chairman of UTK since 5 January 2012, when his predecessor Krzysztof Jaroszynski was sacked on the orders of the Prime Minister.

Mr Jaroszynski was sacked for ‘soliciting for EU funds behind the back of the responsible minister’ which somehow does not seem a very credible explanation. For three months, no moves were made to appoint a permanent replacement and then, on 3 March, two passenger trains collided head on at speed near Szczekociny. As opposition politicians stormed that the UTK had been made toothless by political sackings of its senior inspectorate, the new transport Minister, Slawomir Nowak, announced that a competition would be held to choose Jaroszynski’s successor. Now, three months later the result has been announced.

Krzystof Dyl has an MA in electronics and telecommunications from the College of Technology and Agriculture (now University of Technology and Life Sciences) in Bydgoszcz. In 2000, he started work in the Ministry of Communications as principal specialist in the Department of Multimedia Policy and Regulation. He was one of the authors of ePolska, a programme for the development of the information society in Poland. He was also a member of a team working on a national strategy for the deployment of information and telecommunications technology.

He was then recruited by an independent government office working on the demonopolisation and regulation of the Polish telecommunications market. In the period 2001-2002 He worked for the Office of Telecommunications Regulation, and subsequently, in the years from 2002 to 2006, in the Office of Telecommunications and Postal Services Regulation.

From 2006 to 2011 he worked in the Urzad Komunikacji Elektronicznej (UTE, Office of Electronic Communication). For the first 3 months he was the acting Deputy Director of the Wholesale Market for Electronic Communication, and he was then appointed to the position of Deputy Chairman of UKE with responsibility for telecommunication and postal matters.

On 18 January 2011, he was appointed vice Chairman of UTK, by Cezary Grabarczyk, the former Minister of Transport.

Pursuant to paragraph 11 on page 12 of the Railway Transport Act of 28 March 2003 (Journal of Laws of 2007 No. 16, pos. 94, as subsequently amended.) the result of the recruitment is announced:

1) The name and address of the [government] office:

The Office of Railway Transport, ul. Chałubińskiego 4, 00-928 Warsaw;

2) the position for which the enrolment was held:

The Chairman of the Office of Railway Transport;

3) the name of the selected candidate and his place of residence within the meaning of the Civil Code:

Mr Krzysztof Dyl, Ząbki.

* The UTK announcement. Translation BTWT.

600mm rally returns to Bialosliwie

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

7-10 June 2012

Bialosliwie during the Zlot Milosnikow Kolejek 600mm in 2011. Photo Ed Beale.

Following the success of the Zlot Milosnikow Kolejek 600mm (600mm Railway Enthusiast Rally) at Bialosliwie in June 2011, the event is to be repeated from 7 to 10 June this year. It represents a rare opportunity to visit and travel on one of Poland’s most elusive and fascinating narrow gauge railways. The plans for this year’s event are for public trains using visiting steam and diesel locomotives to run from 13:00 to 19:00 on Thursday 7 June and from 10:00 to 19:00 on Friday and Sunday. On Saturday, public trains will run between 09:30 and 11:00, and 15:00 to 19:00, with the official welcome and locomotive parade at 11:00, followed by a special train for invited guests only. In addition there will be catering stalls, book and model stalls, railway film screenings, a model railway exhibition, hand trolley rides, and shed tours. Two steam locomotives are expected to visit the festival, a recently-restored Las 0-6-0, and the Borsig 0-4-0 from the Maltanka park railway in Poznan.

Sugar beet trains from Czajcze to Naklo in 1991. Slideshow by

The Wyrzysk Local Railway was opened in February 1895. It was extended northwards and eastwards and at Suchary north east of Naklo it connected with the Bydgoszcz local railway, also of 600mm gauge. In 1949 the two railways were formally joined as one system, PKP’s largest 600mm gauge network at 256km long. In 1955 the system carried 1,474,000 passengers and 256,000 tonnes of freight. The first branch closures began in the 1950s and lines were progressively closed in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, until final closure on 1 January 1994. In the last few years the Bialosliwie line was freight only, and sugar beet and coal were carried in 600mm gauge wagons into the 1990s.

Bialosliwie is relatively close to the German border and the survival of such a large 600mm gauge system did not escape the notice of enthusiasts there. In 1992 just a year prior to closure, a remarkable series of special trains was organised by Hermann Schmidtendorf, co-founder of InterLok Pila, in partnership with JS Rail film production and rail tourism agency IGB. These trains traversed the entire surviving network from Bialosliwie in the west to Koronowo in the east, including a crossing of the spectacular viaduct over the Brda river at Koronowo. The viaduct had not seen a train for years and a special engineering inspection had to be made to ensure it was safe before the train was allowed to use it.

The viaduct still exists today and is part of a foot/cycle path. Steam hauled freight trains ran onto the tracks of the private railways at Naklo sugar works and Gadki brandy distillery. The film made during the event remains unpublished. If any readers would be interested in purchasing this on DVD, please send an email to Hermann Schmidtendorf, redakcja [at] kolejwizja [dot] pl – if enough interest is received this film material will be published. Hermann is also gathering expressions of interest for a second unpublished film made in the same year at the Witaszyce 600mm gauge railway. Excerpts from this material can be found in this recent edition of Kolejwizja.

The Bialosliwie railway existed in a legal limbo following closure. The local enthusiast group Towarzystwo Wyrzyska Kolejka Powiatowa (TWKP – Wrzysk District Railway Society) maintained the Bialosliwie sheds and the first 3.5km of line to Kocik Mlyn but were unable to run any public trains. In September and October 2000, and again in April 2001, the Poznan model railway club organised a series of trips from Bialosliwie to Lobzenica using the Borsig 0-4-0 steam loco which is normally based on the Maltanka park railway in Poznan. In 2009 Pila District Council were finally able to take over the first 12km of the line between Bialosliwie and the crossing of the A10 road north of Niezychowo from PKP and TWKP were able to commence operations over the cleared section of track.

Kipplore works train near the A10 road crossing. Photo Ed Beale.

In 2010, Pila county signed a three party agreement with TWKP and Peter Erk, the owner of the 600mm gauge railway FBG Ilmenau in Germany. Peter is one of the partners of the Kipplore German 600mm gauge enthusiasts group’s annual festivals, and he convinced the group to hold their 2011 festival in Bialosliwie. Several of this group then visited Bialosliwie for week-long periods to cut down weeds, dig out crossings and repair broken rail joints, and by time of the Kipploretreffen festival in June 2011 they had restored the line all the way to the A10 road crossing.

In the meantime, TWKP had decided to hold a special event targeted at Polish enthusiasts and local people over the last few days of the week-long Kipploretreffen, and so the first Zlot Milosnikow Kolejek 600mm was born. Px38-805 ‘Leon’ which had previously worked at Bialosliwie, was brought in from Znin for the event, and the Kipplore enthusiasts brought an Orenstein & Koppel steam locomotive, around ten small industrial diesel locomotives and draisines and a battery tram from various locations in Germany.

The festival found additional support from the local EU co-financed development group Nadnotecie and the Foundation for Polish-German Cooperation amongst others. PKP PLK cleared weeds from their standard gauge track, the regional passenger operator Przewozy Regionalne agreed to reduce the speed of all their trains passing the festival grounds during the festival and blow their whistles, and InterLok, the Pila-based steam loco repair workshop, checked and repaired some of the passenger carriages so that they could be used again.

Many thanks to Hermann Schmidtendorf for help in preparing this article.

Okecie spur gets fast track approval

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The approach tracks to the new underground station at Warsaw’s Okecie airport. Still from KolejTV video.

(Click image to see the whole KolejTV video on YouTube.)

On 19 May, Poland’s Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, accompanied by Transport Minister, Slawomir Nowak; PKP SA Chairman, Jakub Karnowski; Warsaw Deputy Mayor, Jacek Wojciechowicz; and PKP PLK board member, Andrzej Pawlowski rode on a special train from Warszawa Stadion to the brand new station at Warsaw’s Okecie airport.

The Prime Minister declared that he was pleased that passengers arriving at the airport will be able to board a train of a similar standard to which they would find in London or other European cities. Mr Nowak added that a day earlier PKP PLK received authorization to operate over the airport spur and that trains would definitely be running over it from 1 June.

BTWT’s analysts were somewhat surprised at this news, and even more so when diligent searching failed to uncover any further information about the event on any of the press release pages of PKP SA, PKP PLK, or SKM. As test trains had only started running a month earlier, the commissioning of a new railway line, which includes an underground station, in 4 weeks would surely constitute a new Polish record?

Rzeczpospolita, Poland’s newspaper of record, only carried a brief note that football fans will be able to travel from the airport to Warszawa Stadion in 30 minutes and that this was personally checked by the Prime Minister.

The only news source that we could find that included details and pictures of the event was Rynek Kolejowy. RK’s headline was somewhat tongue in cheek, Premier z wizyta, Okecie z pozwoleniem, which translates literally into English as ‘The Prime Minister visits, Okecie with a permit’. Of course the comma here is all important, without it RK readers might have thought that the PM arrived at Okecie with the permit in his pocket.

Given the absence of Warsaw Mayor, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, and acting PKP PLK Chairman, Remigiusz Paszkiewicz, some unkind souls might have thought that the event had been hastily arranged by the PM’s office in response to criticism from opposition politicians that preparations for Euro 2012 are far from complete.

This of course is utter rubbish as is the suggestion that Krzystof Dyl, acting chairman of the Polish rail regulator, UTK, and tipped as hot favourite for the permanent post, may have allowed his career plans to influence the speed with which the airport line received its certification.

Footnote

The KolejTV video includes: cab footage of test train running over the new airport spur; a brief clip of the new station at Bochnia; an extensive report about the 52 million zloty rebuild of Warszawa Stadion station; an evacuation exercise in the cross-Warsaw rail tunnel, Tunel Srednicowy; and steam and diesel operation on the 600mm gauge Kolejka Parkowa Maltanka in Poznan.

Fabryczna goes out in glory

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Lodz City Hall wanted land for development. Unfortunately no one thought it necessary to keep the trains running. Photo BTWT.

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Stripped of its external clutter Fabryczna has returned to its original glory. Unfortunately soon memories will be all that will be left. Photo BTWT.

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Across what were once railway tracks Skanska are hard at work converting an old power station into an art gallery. Pity about the railway station! Photo BTWT.

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The vanishing skansen at Elk

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Alerted by a PKP estate department’s tender for the sale of items from the erstwhile ‘skansen’ at Elk, John Savery leaves his car at home and travels by Wizz Air and TLK to photograph the remains.

How do I get to Centralna without getting wet? Photo John Savery.

I have regularly driven to Poland in recent times, my hands-on involvement in the preservation scene here makes carrying tools and equipment easier and more practical. I had not used Wizz Air’s Warsaw flight for about 5 years, however a bit of research showed that this was the best way of getting there. A late evening departure from Luton meant a 23:00 arrival at Okecie and, despite knowing Warsaw well, I opted to pay the extra and use the Wizz Air bus connection to the centre of town.

Okecie is still being modernised, and seems huge compared to what it was like when I first used it back in 2000. Despite the Euro 2012 championships being less than a month away, like many other projects, the airport still needs some finishing touches, and parts of the arrivals hall are still fenced off.

Leaving the terminal building and following the contradictory directions for the connecting bus, I decided discretion was the better part of valour, and took the liberty of phoning the helpline number for the driver. After a reassuring person told me that there would be someone with me in 8 minutes, there followed a 30 minute wait, and several more phone calls before I finally found myself in a Wizz Air taxi on the way to the centre. Next time, if there is a next time before Wizz locate to Modlin airport, I will take the 175 bus!

Zlote Tarasy interior. Photo John Savery.

A central Warsaw hotel provided convenient accommodation, close to Centralny station, however breakfast was not provided in the price, and being unwilling to part with the extortionate fee of EUR 20 for the privilege of eating in the hotel, I decided to do breakfast on the hoof or on the train.

Walking around to the station, the area has changed considerably since I last visited, (although I have kept apace with developments through Michael Dembinski’s excellent Warszawa Jeziorki blog) and the partially completed Zlota 44 tower now rivals the other buildings around it.

Not wanting to risk a long wait at the ticket office, I opted to buy my ticket first, and joined the back of a fairly quick moving queue at the ticket windows. It is pleasing to see that there were common queues for multiple ticket windows, much improved on the previous system of choosing a window and finding yourself behind an awkward or complicated request, although for the life of me, I could not work out why there were two queues each leading to half the windows. With an internet printout of the train I wanted in my hand, the purchase of my ticket was swift. With that completed in less time than anticipated, I wandered back through the bus station to Zlote Tarasy, the Eden Project style shopping mall opposite, to find food for the journey.

Better information and signage. Photo John Savery.

Warszawa Centralna is greatly improved following the facelift. Lighting and ambience are better, and gone are the dark entrances to the platforms. Like the airport, I would be amazed if it is complete by the time the football starts, but at least it has taken a big step in the right direction. I have always been wary around Centralna, and despite living in more dangerous places, it is the only place where I have nearly been pickpocketed getting into a train. The improved lighting helps the atmosphere. Platform information is adequate, with departure listings on the digital screens at platform level, however the individual platform screens are not utilised well, with confirmation of the train only being put on the platform screen at the last minute. This results in a last minute rush of passengers to the platforms.

The TLK itself was comfortable. I opted for first class, more expensive but more roomy, and there was only one other person in my compartment. Striking up a conversation it transpired that he was from Lodz. The conversation turned to what I thought of Poland now as to compared to what it as like when I had lived here previously, and the state of manufacturing in the UK. With the bar car conveniently located in the next coach, I sat back with a coffee and watched the Polish countryside roll by.

SU45-168 takes over the train. Photo John Savery.

On arrival in Elk, I wandered down to the front of the train to see the loco being changed. EP07-456 giving way to SU45-168, which would take the train forward to Olsztyn. The narrow gauge railway is immediately opposite the station on the opposite side to the town, however with no obvious access, (and no signage) I wandered down the road immediately opposite the station to my hotel for the night.

The Rydzewski was reasonable, and importantly had a town map on reception, so after dropping my bag in the room, I retraced my steps under the leaden skies towards the station, followed the road under the under-bridge and into the narrow gauge area. Elk could make more of its narrow gauge railway. The signage was woeful, only a small sign near the entrance was visible. Walking unchallenged through the security gate I set about exploring the yard.

N.g. coaches recently touched up. Photo John Savery.

The narrow gauge coaches were parked neatly in the station, and the area itself was kept tidy. Grass was kept in check, and the line’s Px48-1752, which although cold, looked as though it had been recently steamed, with fresh ash in the pit.

Elsewhere in the yard, SM42-002, one of the items on PKP’s tender list stands forlorn; next to it lie the remains of what appear to be a set of wheels which have been crudely cut from the axles – it wasn’t possible to tell what they were from, however they looked suspiciously like pony truck wheels from an Ol49.

Nice grass, pity about the locos. Photo John Savery.

There are two standard gauge locos on the adjoining tracks, Ol49-11 and Ty2-1285. Both have been heavily stripped, with hardly a single item inside the cab. The connecting rods of the Ol49, along with some of the axle box covers on the tender were also missing. Both are in dire need of a coat of paint to protect them from the elements, however, this is the very least of the concerns from them. Theft of further components appears to be a real risk despite the narrow gauge area being fenced off and having steel shutters at the entrance.

I took a wander over to the ticket office, as up to now, I had not seen hide nor hair of anyone else, and found it locked. How many other potential customers have wandered in and out without paying?  However, this also meant that I could not view the small museum inside either. Wanting to see more of the standard gauge locos that were stationed around the former roundhouse, I set off towards the standard gauge tracks.

What a railway museum this could have made if only PKP and the local council could have reached agreement. Photo John Savery.

The first two locos that I came across were Ol49-80 and 102. Both were plinthed on a separate section of track next to what appeared to be living accommodation in coaches. Ol49-80 holds the dubious distinction of probably being the only Ol49 to be fitted with a satellite dish! That, and its appearance on PKP’s auction list may not bode well for the loco’s future. Whilst most of the motion on the side closest to the station appeared intact, metal magpies had again been at the bearings, and the crank and con-rod bearings had been stripped from the fireman’s side of the loco. The cab had been stripped bare, with even the firebox doors missing.

Ol49-102 was in a similar state. Being on a separate section of isolated track, coupled with the removal of key components may make it extremely difficult to move either of these locos. The fact that the tender and loco are listed separately on the auction page would seem to suggest that they are trying to generate as much money as possible from the sale, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that the scrap man may be interested.

Blacksmith forge awaiting scrapping. Photo John Savery.

Elsewhere on the site, demolition is in full swing. Spying through a chink in the modern section of the roundhouse, industrial sized skips are present, as stripping continues. This is clearly a place in its death throes, with contractors moving in with the axe. In the older part of the roundhouse, which again, is secured to deter intruders, a tiny chink in a door reveals Ty2-1279. Alas, this too has been the victim of theft, and despite not being able to get close to it, it is possible to see that the crank and con-rod bearing have been taken from the side that is visible.

With the shed all but abandoned, it is probably as easy for a thief to work under the cover of the shed, as it is for them to work outside. The roof of the shed looks anything but secure. Daylight spews in through blatant cracks in the planking and felt roof, its sieve like properties must do little to protect the interior.

How much longer before these locos are quietly scrapped? Photo John Savery.

Despite probing, I am unable to access the shed, and turn my attention to the remaining engines in the yard. Aside from a small diesel shunter, the yard contains two Ok1’s and three Ol49’s. All are in abysmal condition, stripped to ex-Barry hulk status. All have motion missing to some degree or other, and one, Ol49-61, has trees growing in its tender. Exploring some of the others is risky business, and I tentatively worked my way around the cabs, probing gently at the wafer thin metal of the cab floors, ensuring it was load bearing before taking each step.

Ok1 waiting for rescue. Photo John Savery.

Walking back to the hotel, I pondered on the question raised by Gary Boyd-Hope in this month’s Steam Railway magazine. Is the breaking up of steam locomotives acceptable in the 21st Century? The question appears to be rhetorical. To some people it is. Locomotives that were once complete are being taken apart piece by piece, by thieves and others until they no longer have a future or purpose. At that point, it is easy to call the scrap man in to take away an eyesore, or to cash in on the value of the scrap metal asset that exists.

Take a piece of precision machinery and leave it out in the open for Polish weather and metal thieves to do their worst. Photo John Savery.

One thing is for certain. The remaining locos at Elk face a very difficult future, and I would be amazed if the majority are not lost in the coming years.

Wroclaw worries

Thursday, 10 May 2012

by ‘Zgredek’

Train shed, will all be ready one month from now? Photo BTWT.

At Wroclaw Glowny workmen are racing to finish the major renovation of the station before the Euro 2012 football championships, a race they seem certain to fail. The first match in Wroclaw kicks off on 8 June, Russia vs Czech Republic, but work is still ongoing on the platforms, lifts, subways, station buildings and approach tracks. In the meantime the passenger experience at the main station in Poland’s 4th largest city is absolutely terrible.

Only one subway is in use, at the extreme western end of the station. The subway is half its proper width, with the other half boarded off with work going on behind. Work is also going on above passengers’ heads in the stairwells, with suspended metal roofs which might protect them against any falling objects, though I wasn’t personally 100% confident of that and hurried past those points. On the floor there are steep boarded ramps at intervals along the subway. The subway is full of dust. The platforms can only be reached by steps as none of the lifts have been commissioned yet.

There are two information screens. One is in a small and extremely dusty and dirty half-finished ticket booking hall at the end of the subway. A huge crowd gathers here both inside and outside the building, because platforms are announced at such last minute that anyone not here risks missing their train. Meanwhile workmen with wheelbarrows are coming in and out of the same entrance. Some people even feel the need to wait in the subway itself, relying on the loudspeaker announcements to hear the platform for their train. The second, older, information screen is outside the same booking hall, but unfortunately a stall selling sunglasses obscures part of the screen.

The Subway. Photo BTWT.

The temporary station building, Dworzec Tymczasowy, is some distance away along the road. A further information screen is located here. It would be the most pleasant place to wait as it is the only place free of the dust that fills the unfinished ticket hall, the subway and often the overall roof, but anyone waiting for their platform number to be announced here is at severe risk of missing their train, unless they run. Indeed while I was walking from the Dworzec Tymczasowy to the subway the platform for a delayed train was announced and three or four people ran past me at full tilt carrying their luggage.

Facilities inside the subway and the Dworzec Tymczasowy are limited to coffee machines, while snack stalls and a portacabin toilet can be found on the far side of the Dworzec Tymczasowy, a long way from the platforms. Half the shop units here are empty which seems to attest to how few people make it this far.

For arriving passengers, signs in the subway point to Wyjscie do Miasta (Exit to Town), but unfortunately the temporary subway entrance and station building are on the opposite side of the station from the city centre, and there is no sign, or at least nothing remotely obvious, to point out this fact to arriving passengers. Anyone who does not have a very clear sense of the geography of the area is likely, as I did, to walk in exactly the opposite direction to the one they intend!

More:

Gniezno charter

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

by John Savery

Gniezno idyll. Some BTWT readers will remembers scenes like this on the Smigiel railway! Photo John Savery.

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For the last few weeks I seem to have been spending all my spare time in Poland. A Wolsztyn Experience organised charter was a great excuse for a trip out to Gniezno and a chance to view the narrow gauge line in operation, once as a passenger, and once to chase the train and photograph the line.

For those who are not familiar with the railway, the Gniezno Narrow Gauge Railway forms the most western part of the one enormous Kujawy narrow gauge system, and is currently the only operational section. The political situation at the Krosniewice Railway have been well covered elsewhere on this blog, and the centre section around Sompolno did not survive the purge of narrow gauge lines following abandonment by PKP in 2001. The line survives down to Anastarzewo, however the charter trips were only down to Witkowo, an intermediate town.

Blessed with glorious sunshine all weekend, the weather has been ideal for being outdoors. That coupled with a working narrow gauge steam locomotive, Px48-1919, made for a fun day out. Pottering along at 15 to 20 mph, through the Polish country side, with the sight and sound of steam has to be good for the soul. A very different pace of life to that in the UK, and a far more relaxed (but sensible) attitude to health and safety. No central locking doors here, and with both windows and doors flung wide to add to the ventilation, there probably isn’t a better way to see the Polish countryside.

With the line hugging the main road down to Witkowo for part of its length, before diving into the countryside and around the back of villages, it’s easy to see the contrast between the paces of life. The modern bustle of traffic, then open fields. Wildlife abounds. Deer and hare are still common along the line, both bounding out of the way when approached by the iron horse pulling our train. So close is the line to the country roads that shadow it between villages, it is possible to transfer goods between rail and road vehicles without either of them stopping!

Photostops were arranged for the outward journey to Witkowo, with multiple runpasts for the participants. At Niechanowo, the remains of the sidings and former junction can be seen, the rails into the siding covered with a thin layer of asphalt at the level crossing.

At Witkowo, the train was watered, before running back tender first. No crane or column here, but a blockwork hut by the side of the line contains the water standpipe. The hose is stored within the tender coal space, pushed onto the pipe poking out of the hut each time it is filled.

A steady run back to Gniezno was broken by a stop for refreshments. There can’t be many places where a train will stop by the roadside to allow the passengers to go for refreshments at a local bar!

The railway has a regular service planned from mid-June until the end of August, at weekends and holidays, plus additional services on several other dates throughout the year. Further details are available on the railway’s official website: www.gkw-gniezno.pl .

Protests by local residents killed the Gniezno Railway’s freight operations though in many cases the railway pre-dated the adjoining houses! Photo John Savery.

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PKP IC Ticketing system tested – part 2

Monday, 7 May 2012

FAILS TEST!

Test 2 – Lodz to Krakow

Following Friday’s less than satisfactory results, I thought it only fair to give the PKP IC ticketing system another chance to prove its worth. However, before trying to book a hypothetical journey in Poland, I had another task to perform – to book a real journey in the UK for June 5.

A morning trip from Bath Spa to Slough was bound to be expensive. The rail distance between the stations is 88 miles 35 chains* or about 142.5 kilometres. So, although I knew there were cheap ‘advance’ tickets to be had, I wasn’t very optimistic about getting a good deal on a train that suited my plans.

The cheapest fare finder on National Rail Enquiries.

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Plan one month ahead and get some real bargains.

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To my delight the ‘cheapest fare finder’ on the National Rail Enquiries website came up trumps offering me three morning connections to Slough (changing at Reading) for £10:50! What’s more I could add a ‘Plusbus’ option at either end for only £1.50. The bus journey from Sough railway station usually costs £3.50 so adding this was a no-brainer.

The whole process was delightfully simple and straightforward. Once I had chosen my train, my travel details were seamlessly passed to First Great Western’s booking system. Here I was asked to log on (or register if I had not been a returning customer) given the choice of postal delivery, or printing the tickets myself at any UK station with a self-service ticket machine. (Do not forget to bring the card that you used to pay for the journey with you if you choose this option.)

Altogether the process involved 16 screens (including my bank’s verification process) and took about 5 minutes. I had saved £17.00 on the cheapest ‘walk on’ fare available on the day and another £2.00 on my bus journey. A good morning’s work!

Apparent  dearth of trains from Lodz to Krakow.

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So now I was curious to see what would happen if I gave the IC ticketing system the same chance to prove itself by trying to set up a journey about a month in advance. I enter ‘Lodz Kaliska’ and ‘Krakow Glowny’ as my starting point and destination and choose 5 June as the date of my journey.

The first problem that hits me is that there appears to be no convenient train to get me to Krakow in time to do a morning’s work. The former 07:00 + something connection is no more – The Swinoujscie – Krakow train now runs via Wroclaw rather than Lodz. There is a 05:27 connection via Warsaw which gets me into Krakow for 12:39, but the 09:18 direct train gets me there for 12:45 so that would be a sensible choice.

In fact the system only shows two decent services – the 09:18 and 13:13  – and only these trains appear to be bookable on-line.

So maybe the answer is to take a later train and stay overnight and do my business in Krakow the following morning? Clicking the ‘pozniej’ (later) button a couple of times gives me some more choices.

The train to get would appear to be the 19:30, but that gets into Krakow at 23:05 a but too late to book into my accommodation and sample Krakow’s rich night life. True I could take either the 14:22 or the 16:25 connection via Warsaw which arrive at 22:08 and 22:51 respectively, but that is still rather late and do I really want to spend over 6 hours travelling in a train? So should I take the 13;13 and arrive at 18:08?

If the IC route planner is to be believed there are only three connections to Krakow, the 09:18, 13:13 and 19:30 which provide a journey time of less than six hours. But hold on a moment, there must be something wrong! Since Andrzej Massel took over rail at the Ministry of Infrastructure connections from Lodz to Krakow have improved. The IC booking system would seem to indicate that the opposite is the case. Let’s see what happens if I look up my journey on the official PKP journey planning system.

More choices on http://rozklad-pkp.pl !

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Ah that’s better! Suddenly there are more choices that had been hidden from me by the IC booking system! The 04:41 start is uncomfortably early, but offers the attraction of Euro InterCity travel from Warsaw; the 06:00 gives me 88 minutes extra sleep and still reaches Krakow at 10:50. Both trains have a buffet car serving a cooked breakfast.

After that Przewozy Regionalne’s 06:40 InterRegio offers excellent value for money at 47 zloty and a 11;41 arrival in Krakow, still  early enough for a meeting before lunchtime. I can understand IC not wanting to publicise PR’s services, but why is the company hiding their own quite decent 04:32 and 06:00 connections and promoting the quite dreadful 05:27 connection which takes 7 hours 12 minutes?

The 07:00 connection offers the prospect of a good night’s sleep beforehand and arrival in Krakow just after noon. Again the IC train finder manages to lose this connection. The 09:18 direct train appears on both systems. But the 09:41 and 10:36 connections again do not. Presumably this is because in each case some of the journey takes place on a PR service.

The most peculiar difference between the two systems concerns the 14:22 connection. The main PKP system advises that this should get me to Warszawa Zachodnia for 16:19. There is ample time to catch the 16:39 EIC from Zachodnia to Krakow Glowny. The EIC offers the attraction of a proper wagon restauracyjny (restaurant car), not wagon barowy (buffet car). But when I look up the 14:22 connection on the IC journey planner, I’m advised to wait at Zachodnia (and a less inspiring place to wait at I cannot imagine) until the 17:10 TLK which as we already know gets in to Krakow at 22:08.

So now I know all my options. I decide on the 13:13 direct service, because the ‘Kup bilet’ button shows that it is bookable on-line and I don’t want the hassle of standing in a queue at Kaliska during the summer holidays.

PKP IC Log on screen

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Pressing the button takes me to a log on screen. I have not yet registered on the system, that takes a while as the system is quite demanding on what I am allowed to enter as my logon name and password. At last that’s all done to the system’s satisfaction and I am returned again to the log on screen. I enter my logon name and password and…

Ticket sales start 7 days before the train departs.

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… am told that tickets are only available 7 days before the departure of the train!

…/to be contiued

PKP Cargo to test 3 chinese wagons

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Jinan Railway Vehicles Equipment Co. C70 coal wagon. Photo JRVEC.

PKP Cargo is planning to take delivery of three Chinese coal wagons and conduct tests as part of the process of obtaining Polish homologation. The wagons will be built by the Jinan Railway Vehicles Equipment Company Ltd in China.

JRVEC is a wholly owned subsidiary of China CNR Corporation Limited which was formerly the Jinan Locomotive and Rolling Stock Plant. JLRSP was established in 1910 to repair steam locomotives and, consequent upon the withdrawal of steam haulage, the company branched out into the design and manufacture diesel locomotives.

In 1993, the company further expanded its activities to encompass the design and manufacture freight wagons with the help of investment funds from the Chinese Ministry of Railways. JLRSP became JRVEC on July 9th, 2007.

In June 2010 PKP Cargo and JVREC set up a joint venture CNR Cargo Wagon Sp. z o.o. with a view of testing the feasibility of importing railway freight vehicles wagons in CKD kit form from China and assembling them in a new facility to be set up in Szczecin.

The venture was politically controversial at a time when many ex Cargo workers were being laid of at former PKP Cargo wagon works up and down the country. Also the feasibility study indicated that any competitive advantage was marginal when the costs of assembly in Poland were taken into account.

The project was mothballed for a couple of years. Now the first three wagons have been ordered and will be tested to see if they meet Polish and European certification standards.

If the test are successful a further 17 will be ordered in kit form to test the logistics and economics of assembly in Poland.

What is the betting that the cheapest option will be to assemble the freight wagons in China?

(With a hat tip to the Railway Gazette.)

Sources:

New PKP IC Ticketing tested – part 1

Friday, 4 May 2012

‘Rafal’ and the PKP IC website: http://intercity.pl/pl/

(Click image to go to website.)

Early in Febuary, PKP IC launched a new website which encourages passengers to purchase and print their own tickets via the Internet. Two months later, on 15 April, IC introduced the e-bilet, electronic ticketing – no paper ticket is necessary, just show the conductor the ticket code on your laptop, tablet or smartphone.

Nobody likes hanging around in ticket queues, and at busy stations it can take half an hour or more to research one’s journey (at a separate window!) so the new ticketing system – if it delivers – will make life easier for Internet-savvy passengers. PKP IC boss, Janusz Malinowski, is expecting the new system will help to boost ticket sales. So having given PKP IC a fair bit of time to iron out any bugs, BTWT’s own veteran software tester, took a look at how well the system performs in practice.

Googling ‘PKP IC’ takes the one to intercity.pl/pl/.  There is a button to go to the English language version of the system intercity.pl/en/ on the top right hand corner of the page and Rafal a ‘virtual assistant’ on the left. Rafal, like many flesh and bone employees of IC, is very courteous, but not much help! The first journey that I tried to set up was Lodz to Krakow Perhaps Rafal can help? Here is my ‘conversation’ with him translated into English. (Rafal is not available on the English version of the website.)

Rafal. Remember that if you want to talk, I’ll be here to answer your questions.

BTWT. Great! How much is a ticket from Lodz to Krakow?

Rafal. The price of railway tickets depends on the length of the journey and the number of changes. Ring the railway information office and you will quickly discover the price of a ticket.

BTWT. If I wanted to ring the railway information office I would not be asking you!

Rafal. The telephone numbers of the railway information office are: 19 757 from a landline phone and 42/20 55 007 from a landline. The cost of a call, irrespective of telephone operator, is 1.05 zloty ex Vat (1.28 zloty inc, VAT).

BTWT. Let’s try again. From which station in Lodz can I catch a train to Krakow?

Rafal. I’ve filled in your destination in the route planning system, just fill in the other fields and click ‘Find a connection’ to obtain the results.

BTWT. But I want to travel to Krakow!

Rafal. I’ve filled in your destination in the route planning system, just fill in the other fields and click ‘Find a connection’ to obtain the results.

BTWT. That’s better. Thank you!

Rafal. The pleasure is all mine.

Hmm. I’m not sure that I can take much more of Rafal, polite as he is. Let’s see what happens as I start typing in ‘Lodz’ as my starting point.

In spite of the fact that the bulldozers are flattening Fabryczna as this article is being written, it is the system’s first choice as a starting station for journeys from Lodz.

Predictably clicking ‘Szukaj Polaczenia’ (Find a connection) comes up with a warning ‘No connection found’, but there is no prompt that Fabryczna is no more, nor any hint that one should try inputting the journey details again starting from another station.

These days most trains from Lodz start from, or run through, Kaliska, so let me try that.

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Some ghastly choices. All three remaining connections would get me into Krakow about quarter of an hour before 11pm and there is no facility to buy tickets for any of them! I think I’ll skip the journey to Krakow this afternoon and check out the Polski Bus timetables instead.

…to be continued.

Could PKP IC go bankrupt?

Thursday, 3 May 2012

PESA ED74-001+ED74-002, wilful blindness? Photo Solaris8315.

(Click image to see original on Wikipedia and for details of licensing.)

On 12 April, the day after Jakub Karnowski took over as chairman of PKP SA, the Polish business daily, Puls Biznesu, reported that PKP IC had problems in paying its suppliers. Its smallest creditors face real difficulties. Few companies were prepared to speak ‘on the record’, but privately Puls Biznesu was told that individual companies are have as as much as several million zloty worth of invoices overdue. The PKP IC press office disputes this account and claims that everybody is being paid on time.

In an effort to raise cash PKP IC has put its debtors list out to tender. The company is owed nearly two million zloty, mostly in unpaid fares. PKP IC is haemorrhaging customers; increased journey times, rising fares, grossly overcrowded trains are the principle causes, but the company’s ‘customer interface’ – the way it interacts and treats its passengers also leaves a great deal to be desired. At the beginning of April the number of passengers booking journeys from Krakow to Gdynia was down by 48% from the same period in 2011.

In 2011, PKP IC made a deficit of 25 million zloty; in the first two months of 2012 the company had already lost 20 million zloty. PKP IC boss, Janusz Malinowski, assures everybody that things are getting better and that the company was on track to lose 45 million in 2011, before it began to recover.

Malinowki is betting on a surge of traffic during Euro 2012, more competitive fares and new ticketing technology to turn round IC’s fortunes. But the PKP group as a whole appears ill-prepared for the football championships and, while PKP dithers, the new local airlines and Polski Bus are making the most of the opportunity.

PKP IC’s problems are systemic. With all the PKP group companies and the state treasury determined to extract the last pound of flesh from Poland’s ‘commercialised’ rail industry, IC has to pay unrealistically high track access charges. The track renewal works taking place on many key routes are anither problem – with so many other PKP companies having a say in the matter, not to mention the claims of the independent freight operators, the track authority, PKP PLK, finds it difficult to program line closures in a way that would minimise delays to IC passengers.

To compound its difficulties, PKP IC has a bloated management structure, an appalling company culture, and regards its passengers as a necessary evil rather than as a major stakeholder.

The saga of the incredibly uncomfortable PESA ED74s which the company inherited from PKP PR in 2008 are a good example of the contempt with which the company treats its customers. Though acquired by PKP PR for the Lodz – Warsaw services, their unergonomic seating makes them fit only for 30 – 40 minute city centre to outer suburban workings. PKP IC continues to use them on off-peak Lodz – Warsaw services – a run which can take up to 2½ hours. Now they are also being employed on TLK services between Lodz and Krakow, a run of nearly six hours.

Sources: