PESA ED74-001+ED74-002, wilful blindness? Photo Solaris8315.
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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.
- Puls Biznesuu – PKP Intercity dostało zadyszki
- Reczpospolita – PKP Intercity: w tym roku zbilansujemy budżet