The Warsaw Railway Museum occupies some prime development land. Map courtesy Google Maps.
For some time now, it has been clear that PKP SA and the Warsaw Railway Museum were on a collision course. PKP bosses have wanted the Railway Museum to move to another location so that they could develop the former Warszawa Glowna land. It is PKP’s premium development site in the centre of Warsaw. Ferdinand Ruszczyc, the museum director and his staff do not want to move. The current location is comfortable for their commuting and, if there is going to be a profitable development, they feel the museum should share in any development premium going.
In July this year, Infrastructure Minister, Slawomir Nowak, refused a request from the museum to stay PKP’s hand with respect to starting court proceedings to expel the Museum. The first salvoes were fired in a Warsaw court this Tuesday (20 November). There will be several more sessions before the court reaches its decision. While it is totally unacceptable that PKP appears to shirk its responsibilities with respect to its history and heritage, it is difficult in this case not to have some sympathy with its position.
The current site is far from ideal. Locomotives and rolling stock are cramped together nose to tail and slowly rust away under open skys in the toxic city air. The Museum has had several years to develop a ‘Plan B’. That time has been frittered away in its dispute with PKP. Meanwhile the opportunity to create a world-class railway museum elsewhere with the aid of EU funding has slipped away. Projects which lack a minimum of five years security of tenure cannot be funded from EU funds. On Tuesday this week, the first legal salvoes were fired in Warsaw court.
One of several meetings organised by the Railway Museum to promote its own plans for the Warszawa Glowna Site. The PKP SA team state their position. Photo BTWT.
Adam Struzik, the chief executive of Mazowsze province (the operators of the Museum), says that he has no money to fund the move of the rolling stock, nor to develop a new museum in another location. PKP are unapologetic, they are between a rock and a hard place and need to generate the maximum possible returns from the redevelopment of their redundant real estate. Any surplus left after making the scheduled yearly debt repayment, is desperately needed as ‘own funds’ for the next round of EU-funded investment projects.
As often is the case with problems that appear to be insoluble, the solution lies in some ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking. It seems unreasonable that all the burdens of running what is de facto a national railway museum should rest on the shoulders of the Mazowsze provincial government. The Mazowsze province includes the city of Warsaw and has much of its funds is committed to modernising the trunk transport infrastructure of the region.
If the province cannot fund the running of a proper national railway museum, then why not look to a more modest objective. If the city of Szczecin, which is hard up relative to Warsaw, can develop a municipal transport museum in an old tram depot, then why does the provincial and city government not work together to do the same? After all there is a tram depot complete with workshops and skilled staff less than half a kilometre from the current Museum site!
This would be a grand place to display limited collection of locomotives and rolling stock that have connections with the city and province as well as trams and road vehicles that have local links. Meanwhile time is fast running out for discussions with local government officials elsewhere as regards establishing a proper national railway museum worthy of Poland’s rich railway heritage and history.
- The PKP press office was asked for a comment regarding the company’s dispute with the Museum, but were unwilling to do so over the telephone.