Pending Pendolino


Around 04:00hrs ET22-2019, an electric  locomotive designed for hauling heavy freight trains, hauled the first of Poland’s 20 Pendolino trainsets through Wroclaw station. Eight hours later the train was very carefully propelled back into the station for its first showing to its potential customers. So many people wanted to walk through the train that the event, which had been scheduled from 12:00 to 14:00 had to be extended until 15:30.

Pendolino’s first appearance at Wroclaw Glowny. Video Gazeta Wroclaw.

A phone call on Sunday afternoon gives me early warning of today’s media storm. Do I want to take part in an early morning TV breakfast show to discuss PKP’s latest toy: the Pendolino? For various reasons which will rapidly be made clear, I am not a great fan of the PKP Pendolino but neither do I want to spoil beleaguered rail minister, Andrzej Massel’s, moment of triumph. How early is early? 06:40, I’m told.

Hmm. My first train of the morning, the 04:17 ex Lodz Kaliska, is supposed to get in to Warszawa Centralna at 06:23, but there a note on the timetable advising would-be passengers that because of a ‘usterki tchnicznej’ (a technical fault) the train may not reach Centralna until 06:53. I gracefully give my apologies.

Which neatly brings me to the first of my Pendolino reservations. Some 5 years since the introduction of the special 100mph (160km/h) PESA-built ED74s and the start of a multi-billion PLN project to rebuild the the Lodz-Warsaw line for 100mph running, PKP IC TLK trains from Lodz Kaliska to Warszawa Centralna are still timetabled to take between 2hrs 1min and 2hrs 14min.

The run is timetabled (and this is excluding any delays caused by ‘usterki’) for an average speed of 41.3mph (66.1km/h). If PKP cannot run its ‘fast trains’ faster than at an average speed of 40 mph after a hugely expensive track upgrade, what hope is there that the Pendolino will be able to run at anywhere its top service speed of 156mph (250km/h)?

2nd class seating is decidedly tacky. Video Gazeta Wroclaw.

My second reservation is concerned with passenger comfort. The PKP Pendolino is being positioned as a premium service. Yet the seats look decidedly tacky – a cut down version of something I would expect to find on RyanAir and a million miles away from the sumptuous comfort that I recently experienced in a (quite old, but superbly maintained) DB ICE coach. Look at this carefully staged photograph with the models leaning over to make the seats appear bigger.

1st class seating does not seem more comfortable. Video Gazeta Wroclaw.

My third reservation is why, oh why, are PKP buying Alstom rather than supporting Poland’s own railway industry? Both Newag and PESA were quoting for 125mph (200km/h) trains at substantially below the French company’s bid. 125mph running would be a step change from today’s railway and would leave cash to spare for other much-needed improvements.

The start of today’s event in Wroclaw. While the picture quality is appalling the video does capture how the special announcer brought in for today’s event stumbles over the word “Pendolino”. On two occasions he starts to say “Prendolino”, before correcting himself. While “Prendko” is the Polish for ‘fast’ is it really possible that the announcer never heard of a pendulum? Video Gazeta Wroclaw.

My fourth and final reservation is that while PKP bosses focus on shiny new trains, nobody seems very interested in the overall passenger experience. For a relatively small investment on such matters as: decent interchange with public transport transport, secure parking for bikes (and cars!), full height platforms, and fast and friendly ticketing the ‘user experience’ could be transformed for all passengers, not just those lucky enough to be able to travel by ‘Premium InterCity’.


Non-tilting PKP Pendolino bogie. Photo courtesy PKP IC.

After today’s launch, the Pendolino unit will undergo certification trials on PKP’s test track at Zmigrod test track, and after that further trials and driver training will take place on the main line. If all goes well, the first Pendolino trains will start running in regular service at the end of 2014.




4 Responses to “Pending Pendolino”

  1. M.P. "Preki" Says:

    There’s tons of propaganda about its success, they even already know its planned income! – the whole PR campaign about Pendolino could have looked like this! It’s the same, or even worse than in communist times.

    The entire long-distance network of PKP IC is sinking like the Titanic; carriages and locomotives are being scrapped in high amounts (with no replacement), and yet they have to show off with that Pendolino thing. The Ministry and PKP IC are trying to fool us, but we know the current miserable state of the railway network.

    Pendolino won’t make up the loses being made from 2009, it will even make matters worse, because all the citizens of Poland will have to pay for it in their taxes. For what? For a train that is only for business people? No regular passenger will be able to afford a train that has tickets from 49 to as high as 250 zloty, while not reaching speeds of anywhere 200-250 km/h.

    Polski Bus and private motorists are just waiting to take this opportunity, while Intercity will continue to ignore needs of its passengers.

    This is going to be a BIG failure, the biggest after the 2009 PKP PR takeover and regionalisation.

    PS. Sorry for my erratic writing, but I had to comment on this neuralgic matter.

  2. Alexander Says:

    The seats look like standard Alstom seats to me, just like the ones on the Eurostar.

    And about buying in Poland. That would have been the preferred option for me too. But do not forget politics. You mentioned before Poland lost out because of not ordering at the Germans, and loosing EU money. Buying in France, and manufacturing in Italy is the perfect way to keep Brussels happy, and securing some money.

    BTW. If you want to learn about how not to buy semi high speed trains, ask the Dutch. Yes, I am from Holland, and a frequent visitor to Warszawa.

    Best regards, Alexander

  3. Podroznik Says:

    You forgot to mention that the ED74 EMUs ordered specially for the Warszawa-Lodz line have been scattered to the four winds, and trains on the line have reverted to locomotive+coach haulage… .

    • Dyspozytor Says:

      Don’t I know it? I have a back injury and was left half-paralysed after a 5.5hr journey from Lodz to Krakow in one of these cursed ED74s a couple of years ago.

      Incredibly PR has rebuilt the EN57s that it uses on its Lodz – Warszawa services with seats that are almost, but not quite, so bad as those on the ED74s.

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