OUT with the old rail transport department – IN with a new railway department… oops Centre

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The new location is unlikely to be popular with students. Map Google Maps.

In a breath-taking move that has left defenders of the Silesian University of Technology’s existing Department of Rail Transport wrong-footed, the University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Andrzej Karbownik, has announced that the University and PKP SA will be setting up a new Centre for Railway Research and Teaching. The Centre will have the status of a department of the University. According to PKP SA Chairman, Jakub Karnowski, the Centre will become a ‘strategic partner’ of PKP SA.

The Centre will be located in a new off-campus location in the disused buildings of the currently unused historic railway station at Sosnowiec Maczki. The extensive station buildings were constructed in 1848, when the station lay on the border of The Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires. The buildings will be restored and adapted to serve the needs of the new Centre which is intended to have a research and a teaching role.

Just over a fortnight ago, the University authorities announced that the existing Department of Rail Transport was to be closed with students and staff being moved into a new Department of Road and Air Transport. A shortage of suitably qualified staff and poor financial results were given as the reasons for the changeover. Yet, the under its Head, Professor Marek Sitarz, the Department generated a substantial extra income from external outside contracts, such as running courses on rail safety for UTK, the Polish rail regulator. Professor Sitarz himself is a internationally respected authority on rail transport and popular with his staff and students.

The new Research and Teaching ‘Centre’ is due to start teaching 1st year students in October 2016. Meanwhile, current rail transport students already at the University will be expected to finish their degrees in the ‘Road and Air Transport’ department. Why the two-year hiatus in rail teaching? Could it be that it is part of a clumsily disguised move to remove Professor Sitarz from his position of head of department?

The professor is well known for being a stalwart champion of rail transport and for his uncompromising stance with respect to railway safety – a dangerous position to be in given the low priority given by the government to its railways.

sosnowiec

The 1848 building of Sosnowiec Maczki station formerly on the border of the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires. Photo (CC BY-SA 3.0) W. Grabowski.

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