Archive for the ‘Information’ Category

“Too many cooks spoil the broth”

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Volunteer-assisted train information. From a photo by Krzysztof Smietana of Warszawa

(Click on the image to read the original article in Polish on Warszawa, or here to read a computer-generated English translation courtesy of Google translate.)

Polish media have been providing in depth coverage of the Euro 2012 football championships, and have also devoted considerable space to discussing how Poland’s roads and railways are coping with the influx of visitors. Not all the stories are flattering to Poland. Perhaps the saddest published so far, appeared yesterday on Warszawa, the Internet edition of the Gazeta Wyborcza daily’s Warsaw supplement.

It seems that PKP’s brand new train indicators at Warszawa Centralna do not indicate that the Malopolska, a train from Krakow to Gdynia, actually calls at Gdansk, which is unfortunate as four of the tournament’s matches are actually being played there. Happily, one of the many hundreds of volunteers recruited for the tournament came up with a low-tech solution which is shown above.

Full marks to Gazeta Wyborcza for reporting on this nonsense. Though the article pulls its punches and does not ask the obvious questions – how many millions of zloty were spent by PKP in developing a train information system that fails to provide the necessary information and who was responsible for signing off the defective system? For BTWT readers with a feeling of deja vu, yes, we covered this problem in November 2010!

A fortnight ago, I attended the Rynek Kolejowy Railway Business Forum in Warsaw which had a small exhibition area outside the conference hall. The PKP Information Technology subsidiary, and the PKP Telecommunications subsidiary were both proudly displaying their wares. Afterwards, I travelled out to see the refurbishment carried out at Warszawa Wschodnia and then caught the Lodzianin train.

There was some confusion at the ticket counter as to which train I wanted to catch. According to the TLK on-line timetable the Lodzianin was to leave Wschodnia at 16:58; according to PKP IC’s ticketing system it was to depart at 16:56; according to PKP Dworce Polskie’s indicator board it was due to leave at 17:03.  I see we’ll be leaving five minutes late, I said to the guard. No, we’re due to leave on time at 16:58, he replied. I’ll bet you we won’t, I joked. We did not.

The stupidity of breaking PKP up into so many – sometimes competing – companies was never better demonstrated.

With a hat tip to Podroznik for the link.

My train? When and where will it arrive?

Friday, 19 November 2010

Main arrivals board, Warszawa Centralna station. The train from Bialystok is shown as stopping at Lapy, Malkinia, Tluszcz and Warszawa Wschodnia, in fact it also stopped at Szeptiewo and Czyzew. Similar omissions occur with respect to all the other trains. Though the train is due in at 08:30, and the clock says that it was 08:38 when the photograph was taken, there is no sign whether the train actually arrived on time or was running late. Photo PKP.

(Click to enlarge.)

A recent trip to England left me reeling. The train arriving at platform 5 is the 12:14 for West Drayton Hayes and Harlington Ealing Broadway and London Paddington.

Amazing, I thought to myself, bloody brilliant! This is what customer service is all about. I then I took a firm grip of myself and told myself to calm down. This is, after all, what train announcers have been doing ever since the PA was invented. The reason for my excitement was my over exposure to train announcements in Poland and the sheer lack of information contained therein.

A similar announcement in Poland – translated for the benefit of our readers into English – would go like this, The train arriving at platform V, track 12, is for London Paddington calling at Hayes and Harlington and Ealing Broadway. A Polish announcer would not specify the scheduled or anticipated arrival time of my train, nor would he dream of listing all the intermediate stations. He would give out just enough information to lull me into a false sense of security to make me think that Hayes and Harlington, and Ealing Broadway were the 12:14s only intermediate stops. So if I wanted to go to West Drayton, off I would go tramping to the end of platform 5 with my heavy suitcase to reach platform 6 for the next stopping train to Paddington. Of course platform 6 would be deserted. With some luck and a following wind I might have elicited the information that stopping trains no longer depart from platform 6 and now depart from platform 5. If things went as well as the way they did when I tried to go to Stare Bojanowo from Poznan, by the time I had made my way back to platform 5, my train, the 12:24, would have departed!

The abysmal state of train information communication in Poland has been highlighted by several recent articles. One of the most pithy and hard-hitting was published under the title, Information Scandal – a normal state of affairs, in the industry monthly Rynek Kolejowy. Here is a short exerpt.

9 November 2010. Warsaw Central Station. The BW Express train from Berlin Hbf. Arrival according to ticket – 18:11. Arrival on printed timetable displayed on the platform – 18:18, platform IV. Arrival as displayed on the monitors 18:26, platform I. PA announcement as the train nears Warsaw, “The BW express will arrive at the scheduled time.” Actual time of arrival – 18:31.

The original article (in Polish) can be read by following the link at the end of the article. Many thanks to for the original link.

Official PKP publicity photograph of the main departures board, Warszawa Centralna station. The contempt for passengers wishing to travel to intermediate destinations is all-to evident. Photo PKP.

(Click to enlarge.)