Archive for the ‘Lodz’ Category

UFO near Koluszki

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Railway spaghetti at Koluszki

I had a pleasant trip recently on a wonderful train that runs from Przemsyl Glowny to Poznan Glowny. My own journey took me only from Przeworsk to Lodz Kaliska, running through Krakow Glowny, Kozlow, Deba Opoczynska, Tomaszow Mazowiecki, and reaching Lodz Kaliska without the usual stop at Lodz Widzew.

Flying saucer to the Southeast

As I checked out Google Maps to trace my journey through the complex junctions at Koluszki and the freight relieving line at Lodz Olechow I noticed a plane heading for Lodz and a silver blur moving in the same direction, but slightly to the north. Stealth bomber? UFO? I have no idea.

As for my train the TLK 37104, that sadly is being abolished in Andrzej Massel’s timetable ‘reform’ being introduced from 1 March.

Englehardt and Wach to go?

Monday, 20 December 2010

A happier winter – Febuary 2009. YouTube Video by Dominikq2.

There are very strong indications this evening that Undersecretary of State, Juliusz Engelhardt, will be paying the price for the disastrous implementation of the 2011 timetable. Engelhardt, who is responsible for Poland’s railways at the Ministry of Infrastructure, had already lost the support of his colleagues in the Sejm as a result of PKP’s failure to complete certain rail infrastructure improvement projects for which EU funding had already been secured. The final nail in the coffin is this year’s timetable fiasco. News from a number of sources would suggest that his dismal will be accompanied by the resignation of PKP Group Chairman, Andrzej Wach.

So far, Engelhardt’s boss, the Minister of Infrastructure Cezary Grabarczyk – a firm ally of Prime Minister, Donald Tusk – appears to be safe. But, for how much longer? It is Grabarczyk who is pushing through investment plans fora new underground station and for a multi-billion zloty tunnel under his home city of Lodz . He has also asked his team at the Ministry of Infrastructure to urgently prepare plans for a new branch line to link up with Lodz’s airport at Okecie. Meanwhile the rest of the PKP network is crumbling. Grabarczyk’s grandiose plans, have attracted little criticism, however the minister’s latest investment might just prove his undoing. While passengers shiver on station platforms for trains that never come, Grabarczyk has just bought himself his department three luxury limousines for 300,000PLN. It is just such petty acts of vanity that can break a seemingly charmed career.


A return journey – part 3

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Diesel bus masquerading as a tram at pl. Wonosci in Lodz. Photo Hubar.

(Click on image to see original on Wikipedia and for details of licensing.)

The third part of Robert Hall’s return trip to Poland.

16th – 19th July was spent in Lodz staying with Polish friends in the course of which I received some fascinating insights into life in Poland. I experienced life in a flat in a Polish city tower-block – shed your outdoor footwear, the instant you’re within – dog-poo from outside being a major issue. I tried out meat pierogi which proved to be much tastier than they looked, but unfortunately I was unable to embrace the Polish breakfast delicacy of zimne noszki (pigs’ trotters in aspic). Although I took on board the theory that the dish is an East European relative of the British pork pie, sadly I just couldn’t seem to get there – they looked like, and had the consistency, of jellied eels. Luckily there were plenty of other nice things for breakfast…

Dyspozytor had drawn up a feast of railed-transport-interest things that I should be doing whilst based in Lodz. Inevitably there were more things to do on his list than I had time available. For a start I made only a fleeting acquaintance with Lodz’s metre-gauge tram system – a 217 km network, that includes Europe’s longest interurban line – from Pabianice to Ozorkow a distance of 44 km. On a whim, I asked how long it would take to cover the whole network and received the answer of no less than three days. However, I reckon that if one cut out all the unnecessary frills and just rode the trams non-stop one would be able to emulate the achievements of the famous route bashers who could cover the whole the London Underground network in one day.

Friday July 16th got off to a bad start, Dyspozytor had offered to join me for some of my explorations and a run on tram line 46 to Ozorkow had been pencilled in as the major attraction for the day. Before we started I press-ganged him into helping me with a minor money-changing problem. I had invested in a pile of travellers cheques when my original journey included a Lithuanian leg. But by now I had decided to extend my stay in Poland and dispense with Lithuania, so the travellers cheques had to be exchanged into zloty. It was scorchingly hot. A Kafkaesque episode followed as we shuttled up and down Lodz’s al. Tadeusza Kosciuszki visiting one bank after another; in all of them we received the same answer. Unfortunately we no longer exchange travellers cheques, but why don’t you try bank so-and-so just a few minutes up (or down) the road. Soon we were both wilting. I was all for packing in and changing the travellers cheques back into pounds again in England, but by now Dyspozytor was treating the assignment as a personal challenge and nothing would deflect him from the task.

We entered bank number four. I could see from the body language of the lady behind the counter that Dyspozytor was getting the same reply as before. He interrupted the lady’s explanation’s and launched into a stream of rapid Polish… his words seemed to have some effect, a younger lady who appeared to have some authority appeared from nowhere and said a few words, the mood changed and I was given a form to fill in. A minor hiatus followed when I couldn’t find the receipt that I was given when I bought the cheques, but all came right in the end and after about three quarters of an hour I was clutching a bundle of hundred zloty notes. What on earth did you say to the woman? I asked Dyspozytor. I explained that you were a travel writer from Britain and that we had been shuttled from bank to bank and that at the last bank that we had visited – a subsidiary branch of the bank we were now at – we were told to come here. I was soon to learn that Dyspozytor’s way of getting things done in Poland is not so much to be ‘economical with the truth’ but rather to stretch it to the maximum extent possible.

The nonsense of the morning had cost us several hours and left us both hot and bothered. We walked through the baking sunshine to ul Piotrkowska and ordered a couple of large beers to be consumed in a booth set up in the road. Here Dypozytor told me that Lodz’s textile industry had developed along ul. Piotrkowska. The first textile settlement was set up here as early as 1821, the various tasks necessary to produce cloth – spinning, weaving, bleaching and dyeing – being performed in home workshops. It was also on ul. Piotrkowska that the first stationary steam engine in Congress Poland was put to work – in 1839 in the Biala Fabryka (White Factory) of Ludwik Geyer. However, the real architect of today’s Lodz was Karl Scheibler, who adopted Lodz as his home town, built his first cotton mill in 1855 and gradually built up his industrial empire to become the ‘cotton king’ of Congress Poland. Dyspozytor explained that Scheibler was the driving force behind many of the developments in the city including Lodz Fabryczna railway station, while his son Karol Scheibler jr. was involved in the development of the tramway system.

A strange vehicle looking like a vintage tram hove into view. Dyspozytor explained that the city’s principal north – south tram services used to run along ul. Piotrkowska, but were diverted along ul. Tadeusza Kosciuszki (running some 100 metres to the West) when Piotrkowska was pedestrianised. However, the ‘pedestrianisation’ does not seem to apply to the owners of large expensive cars with tinted windows and most pedestrians keep safe by staying on the pavement. Piotrkowska is the city’s longest street and soon after the trams were diverted the need for a replacement public transport service became apparent. The city’s mayor came up with the wheeze of running a diesel bus dressed up as vintage tram to provide the service. Dyspozytor pointed out how the city was destroying its genuine heritage and replacing it with a ‘Disneyland’ imitation.

Pastoral view – the loop at Stoki. Photo BTWT.

(Click image to expand.)

A couple of beers later we were sufficiently refreshed to return to ul Kosciuszki a street which offered little shelter from the sun. (The street had been widened in communist times by demolishing all the buildings along one side.) We waited till a Düwag GT8 tram on service 46 hove into view. Our plans were to explore part of the Lodz’s longest tram route travelling to some 25 odd kilometres to Ozorkow. But it was not to be. The tram driver made an announcement and all the passengers got off at the next stop. Dyspozytor spoke to the drivera mishap somewhere to the north of us meant no trams could run to Ozorkow for an unspecified period of time. We were allowed to stay on as the tram diverted to pl. Wolnosci to perform a ‘U’ turn. What to do now? An elderly articulated tram working service No 43 hove into view. The service comprises Lodz’s other inter-urban line running East – West and normally runs from Lodz to Lutomiersk, but due to road works the central section was being run by replacement buses. We were to return to service No 43 another day, but I am running ahead of my story.

Our tram was running to its eastern terminus at Stoki, with a short stretch at its furthest end, of single-line running. Our driver on this run turned out to be a tram-buff, doing his dream job. We stayed on board as he went round the loop at Stocki and enjoyed a copious conversation about sundry tram matters during the long layover.

to be continued…

10,000 million zloty down the drain?

Monday, 19 July 2010

Lodz Fabryczna as enlarged by PKP after WW I.

The Koluszki – Lodz railway line – a branch of the Warsaw – Vienna Railway – was opened on 18 November 1865 for the carriage of goods. Passenger services were inaugurated on 1 June 1866. Initially, the railway reached further west than at present; a temporary station was built at the location now occupied by the Lodzki Dom Kultury (Lodz Arts Centre). In 1868, the current Lodz Fabryczna station was built at the initiative of Lodz industrialist and philanthropist, Karol Scheibler. It was designed by Adolf Schimmelpfennig. The station was built in a Baroque-baronial style and when after WWI the newly formed PKP came to enlarge the station, the new extensions were carefully designed to complement the existing building. The extended station survived WW II and also was left unscathed by post-was PKP’s mania for demolishing all buildings of any architectural merit and replacing them with modernist non-entities.

So what are PKP and the City of Lodz planning for the future of Karol Scheibler’s station? Scheibler did after all establish Lodz as a major centre of Europe’s textile industry and his factories and railway lines established the shape of the modern city. Maybe they will give the historic building a light skin of glass like the Gare de Strasbourg in France? Not a bit of it! The plan is to demolish Scheibler’s building and replace it with an underground station at a cost of some 10,000 million PLN.

The new Lodz Centralna as envisaged by PKP

Juliusz Engelhardt, the Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Infrastructure responsible for rail, has recently said that only 22 of Poland’s 1,000 top stations come up to contemporary requirements. Rafal Szafranski, the chairman of PKP PLK (the Polish State Railways infrastructure company) has said that some 10,000 route kilometres of Poland’s railways face the axe. In such circumstances sending 10,000 million putting Lodz Fabryczna underground is an act of wanton folly. And the reason for this madness? To turn make Lodz a ‘City of Culture’. Poor Karol Scheibler must be turning in his mausoleum.

Best and worst station revamps

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Lodz Fabryczna station as ‘improved’ in the 1960s.

Photo from Informator Biura Projektow Kolejowych w Lodzi by J. Boryczka

(Click on the image to see more Communist-era railway architecture photos on the Klub Starych Dobrych Czasow website.)

Work has begun on dismantling some prefabricated buildings at the old Lodz Fabryczna railway terminus – the start of a 10 billion PLN project for PKP to relinquish the 1865 station building and build a brand new railway station… underground! Lodz is – in terms of population – Poland’s third largest city. It was the second… but many of its young generation are now working on building sites in the UK. So it is interesting to look at PKP’s plans for its new station and compare them with the latest practice in the construction and renewal of major railway station around the world.

Bejing South Railway Station

(Click image to see this and other photographs of Bejing South on the Amazing Architecture website.)

Bejing South opened in August 2008. It was designed by Terry Farrell & Partners with Arup as structural and services engineer and Atkins as railway engineer. The station has 24 platforms and a capacity of 30,000 passengers per hour – 242 million passengers per year. It will serve high speed trains which will travel at up to 350 km/h. The passenger concourse is on the ground floor and escalators take passengers up to the platforms at first floor level. Access for vehicles and car parking is on the next level above. The new station replaces an earlier construction dating back to Victorian times. Bejing South is undoubtedly the most exciting new railway station design in the world.

Gare du Nord in Paris. Photo by Ignis.

(Click to see original on Wikipedia and for details of licensing.)

Gare du Nord is the most important railway station in Paris. It serves 180 million passengers a year and is the busiest station in Europe and the third busiest in the whole world. The first station on this site was built in 1846. By 1854 the station was already to small and it was demolished in 1860 . The stone facade was preserved and rebuilt at Lille. The present station was designed by Jacques Hittorff. The choice of architect was made by the chairman of Chemin de Fer du Nord, Baron James de Rothschild. The support pillars inside the station were cast at Alston & Gourley’s ironworks in Glasgow. Since it opened in 1864, the buildings and railway tracks have been extended several times. In 1975 Gare du Nord was registered as a historic monument. Today it is a major transport hub which is served by Eurostar, Thalys and TGV high speed trains; local services are provided by RER lines D and B and Metro lines 2, 4 and 5 There is also a Velib bicycle sharing facility.

Recycled Atocha Railway Station, Madrid. Photo Logan 5.

(Click image to see – and give your opinion on – the original photograph on Pixdaus.)

Madrid’s Atocha Station is a major hub on Spain’s railway network. It is served by AVE high speed trains, ordinary main line trains and the Madrid metro. Excluding metro journeys, the complex serves some 80 million passengers a year.

The first railway station on the site was opened in 1851. After a fire, it was rebuilt and reopened in 1892. The architect for the replacement was Alberto de Palacio Elissagne, who collaborated with Gustave Eiffel and Henry St James on the engineering aspects of the design. The arch of the glass roof is slightly pointed, perhaps inspired by the arch of London’s St Pancras station opened 24 years earlier in 1868.

This complex of railway tracks expanded through the years. 1985 marked the start of a major rebuilding project. In 1992, the original building was taken out of service as a train shed, and converted into a concourse with shops, cafés, a nightclub and a 4,000 m² covered tropical garden. A much larger train shed designed in the modern minimalist style by Rafael Moneo has been constructed behind the old building in the area that was formerly the station throat. There are separate mainline and commuter stations as well as a 4 track underground station for trains travelling across the city.

Part of the platform level at Berlin Hauptbahnhof. From a photograph by Daniel Schwen.

(Click image to see original on Wikipedia Commons and for details of licensing.)

Berlin Hauptbahnhof is the most important station in Berlin and has become the city’s most important transport node. It provides facilities for East – West mainline services (served by platforms raised above the concourse) and the new North South rail-link (served by platforms in the basement). It also provides facilities to a number of Stadtbahn services and is linked to a new branch of the Berlin metro. It is used by some 110 million passengers each year.

The first station to be built on the site was Lehrter Bahnhof, the Berlin terminus of the Magdeburg Halberstädter – the Hannover – Lehrte – Berlin railway. It was was designed in the French Neo-Renaissance style by Alfred Lent, Bertold Scholz, and Gottlieb Henri Lapierre. It was opened in 1871.

During WW II the station was severely damaged. After the war, the building was patched up. However, the postwar division of Berlin spelled the end for the station’s mainline status. On 28 August 1951, the final train departed from Lehrter Bahnhof. On 22 April 1958 the main entrance was dynamited. Only the Lehrter Stadtbahn station remained, serving suburban services crossing over the north end of Lehrter Bahnhof on a bridge. Demolition work was completed in the summer of 1959.

The Stadtbahnh station survived the war intact, and in 1987 was restored at a cost of about DM 10 million and was listed as a historic building, However, despite its listed status, in 2002, Lehrter Stadtbahnhof was to meet with the same fate as Lehrter Bahnhof – it was demolished. Now a new grand central station has been built on the site of the both stations. The design of the new station – a powerful symbol of a reunited Germany – is by Hamburg architect, Meinhard von Gerkan.

Zurich Hauptbahnhof from the east. Photo by Ikiwaner.

(Click image to see the original photograph on Wikipedia and for details of licensing.)

Zurich Hauptbahnhof is the busiest railway station in Switzerland and is served by trains travelling to Spain, France, Italy, Austria, Germany and beyond. It is the most important hub in the city’s integrated transport system. There are 20 terminal tracks on the concourse level of which 16 are used by main line services and 4 for local suburban S-Bahn services. There is also a lower level containing 200 shops and further platforms. On its southern side are two tracks used by the Sihltal Zürich Uetliberg Bahn commuter railway, and on the northern side there are 4 tracks used by local suburban and S-Bahn services. Another 4 tracks are under construction between the two for the new cross-city ‘diameter. The station directly links to 4 tram and bus stations. On sundays, when most shops in Zurich are shut, it becomes the busiest place in the city. It is used by some 110 million passengers each year.

The first station on the site was built by Gustav Albert Wegmann for the Swiss Northern Railway and opened in 1847. By 1871 it was already to small and it was demolished. It was replaced by a stone and steel train shed spanning 6 tracks fronted by a magnificent neoclassical headquarters designed by Jakob Friedrich Wanner. By 1902, the station was again too small, the train tracks were pushed back. The last two segments of the train shed were cut back – the remainder became a baggage handling area. Freed from the constraints of the old train shed four more tracks were added; another 6 were to follow in due course. With no more space to grow at ground level, further expansion of the station is planned to take place underground.

The new St Pancras in August 2007. Photo

(Click image to see the photograph in its original context and read an informative history of the station on World Architecture News.)

St Pancras – the subject of the most dramatic and expensive railway station modernisation project in Great Britain – almost failed to make it to the 21st century. In the 1960s, a run down British Railways – desperately short of cash – planned to run services terminating at St Pancras and Kings Cross stations into a single new station, demolish the old buildings and use the land so released for property development.

Today, thanks to a £800 million refurbishment, St Pancras International, as the revamped station has been dubbed, is the most prestigious station in London. Eurostar trains run from St Pancras, over HS1 – Britain’s only high speed line, to Paris and Brussels. Deutsche Bahn wants to run ICE trains To St Pancras from Cologne and other locations in Germany.

St Pancras International Station is now one of London’s major landmarks, and an important gateway to the Continent. International services run from a new security compound within the historic train shed. Domestic services run from an extension built in the former station throat area. The new station includes 60 shops occupying 82,000 sq ft (7,600 sq m) of retail space and is used by 45 million passengers annually. King’s Cross St. Pancras is also the busiest station on the London Underground, serving over 70 million passengers a year..

Site clearance for the construction of St Pancras Station and the accompanying Somers Town Goods Depot started in 1864. Construction of the station foundations did not start until July 1866. A competition was held for the design of the station hotel and railway offices in May 1865. In January 1866, Sir George Scott’s Gothic revival design – costing £315,000 (£21.4 million at 2010 adjusted for inflation) – was chosen. The Midland Railway board was by no means unanimous, Scott’s design was by far the most expensive. In the end a British compromise was negotiated – Scott’s design was adopted, but two floor levels were lopped off the office block and one floor off the hotel!

The rest of the station was designed by William Henry Barlow, chief engineer of the Midland Railway Company, with help from Roland Ordish. Their slightly pointed train shed complements the Gothic arches of Scott’s hotel building. It has a span of 232 ft (74 m), rises 100 ft (30 m) high and is 700 ft (213 m) long. At the time, their train shed was heralded as an engineering marvel – enclosing the largest unsupported indoor space in the world. The station opened on October 1st, 1868. The eastern wing of Scott’s hotel building opened in May 1873, the rest followed in Spring 1876.

The passing years were not kind to St Pancras. In 1923, the Midland Railway became part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. The LMS decided to focus on Euston as it major London terminus. The magnificent hotel was closed in 1935; its closure hastened by the Great Depression. The once great rooms were partitioned turned into offices. The station experienced a brief revival in the 1960s when electrification work on the West Coast Main Line saw trains to Manchester and Glasgow running from St Pancras. These services were switched back to Euston in 1966 when the works were complete and British Railways announced its intention to demolish the station.

But it was not to be. A group of preservationists, who had fought long and hard the lost the battle to save Euston’s Doric Arch, were determined not to be defeated again. Their campaign under the flag of the Victorian Society persuaded Lord Kennet, Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, to grant the station and its former hotel building Grade 1 listed status.

In the 1980s the hotel building failed a fire inspection, British Railways closed the offices contained therein and the building lay empty save for occasional film makers who relished the gloomy and neglected atmosphere. In 1990s the tide turned – a £10 million project financed jointly by British Rail and English Heritage made the building weatherproof and commenced the restoration of the station exterior. The work was interrupted by the privatisation of British Rail, but soon plans were put forward to make St Pancras the London terminus of the much-delayed Channel Tunnel link (later dubbed HS1). In 2001, work commenced on the complete transformation of the station according to designs by Norman Foster, later modified by Alistair Lansley.

The rebuilt station was opened by the Queen in November 2007. It has 15 platforms. Domestic services use 4 tracks that finish at the southern edge of the western side of the Norman Foster extension and 3 tracks that finish at the same point on its eastern side. The 6 tracks in the middle extend back into the Barlow – Ordish train shed and are used exclusively by international services. Two tracks on a lower level are used by Thameslink services.

The former Midland Hotel is undergoing a thorough rebuilding. It is expected to open in late 2011 as a 244 bedroom 5 star hotel with 67 private apartments.

More St Pancras links:

Station modernisation best practice

Forgive me dwelling so long on St Pancras, but its story has many unusual twists and the new building does encompass many aspects of major station modernisation best practice. A number of good design principles emerge from distilling the examples listed above:

  • A station should be a major destination landmark in its own right, not just a soulless utility.
  • Important historical elements should be preserved, unless there are overwhelming reasons to the contrary as in Beijing and Berlin.
  • The principle passenger circulating area and platforms should be above ground.
  • There should be good integration with other transport nodes.
  • There should be adequate facilities for stabling and servicing trains near the station to minimise empty stock movements
  • There should be adequate capacity for the envisaged loadings and future growth.
  • The project should be cost effective.

So how do PKP’s plans for the new ‘Lodz Centralna’ station match up against these criteria? Do not miss our next post.

The original Lodz Fabryczna station, built in 1865.

(Click image to see more old photos of Lodz Fabryczna and Lodz Kaliska on the Made in Lodz blog.)


Lutomiersk on a Sunday evening

Monday, 7 June 2010

Tramwaje Podmiejskie articulated car waits in pl. Zwyciestwa, Lutomiersk on a quiet Sunday evening, 6.6.2010. Photo BTWT.

The 43 tram service from Lodz to the sleepy town of Lutomersk is not Lodz’s longest tram route, but is undoubtedly the most attractive. It starts from a loop in Lodz’s western suburb, Stocki; runs along a  pleasant single line section on its own right of way along a park; plunges through the centre of Lodz, running mostly in the street, then on its own right of way again; plunges under the Lodz – Kutno railway line and passes Lodz Zoo. Up to this point, service 43 – run by Tramwaje Podmieskie, literally ‘Suburban Tramways’ – shares the tracks of Lodz’s municipal tram company, MPK. But once past Zdrowie, the tram runs along 14 km of rickety Tramwaje Podmieskie own tracks.

This section of line, which like the rest of Lodz’s tramlines is metre gauge, reminds me of the narrow gauge gauge railway which once ran next to a road  from Warsaw’s Wilanów to Piaseczno. The narrow gauge atmosphere is briefly suspended as the single line veers into the centre of a street in order to pass through Konstantynow. However, after a kilometre or so it reverts to its customary place next to the road.

The girder bridge at Lutomiersk before WW II.
Photo Tramwaje Podmiejskie.

The arrival at Lutomiersk is a worthy climax – on the outskirts of the town, the main road turns sharp left, but the tram follows a minor road sharp right. Then the line does a 90 degree turn to the left, leaves the road altogether and takes off across a field. A fine bow girder bridge takes the line across a sizeable river. A short road is reached. About here Google maps satellite view shows what appears to be a former dedicated route and the site of a former station just to the east of town square. Regardless of the truth of this hypothesis, these days the tram finishes its journey by looping the town square.

If you like exploring obscure rural tram lines, then a ride on tram 43 is highly recommended!

Lutomiersk. Satellite view Google Maps.

(The map can be zoomed and panned to follow the tram line.)


A Poland lost forever

Thursday, 9 April 2009


Old Lodz Kaliska Railway  Station in the 1920s

One of our friends has sent us link to the website – a web catalogue of demolished Polish architecture. There are manor houses and palaces, factories and power stations, tram depots and railway stations. Well worth exploring!

Two sides of Lodz Kaliska

Wednesday, 4 March 2009


The West side from the North.


The Eastern Viaduct, gantries, but no tracks


The East side from the North


From the air looking South
From a photo by Hodowca

(Click to see original and details of licensing.)


The Eastern viaduct looking South

The Eastern and Western viaducts. Google Maps

(The picture can be enlarged, zoomed, scrolled or switched to map view.)

Lodz Kaliska Station is a puzzle wrapped in an enigma. A 20 year long rebuilding project was suddenly terminated just before its completion. The old station, an attractive building in the art noveau style, was built in 1902 for the broad (Russian) gauge Warsaw – Kalisz Railway.

The construction of a new station commenced in 1985. The project was jointly financed by Lodz City, Lodz Province and PKP, and managed by PKP’s construction office in Warsaw, by-passing PKP’s Estate Office in Lodz. Predictably, like all major PKP construction projects, the work missed successive completion deadlines and ran massively over budget. Then, in 1994, after all the new infrastructure work was complete, the project was suddenly terminated leaving the virtually complete facilities on the East side abandoned.

A massive viaduct across Al. Bandurskiego was left uncommissioned without even sealing the concrete deck against penetration by water. A tunnel providing direct access from the station hall to the bus station was simply abandoned. Now trees and vegetation cover the former building site which looks like more like a bunker from WW II than a building site abandoned in 1995.

Perhaps, if the planned high speed line across Poland ever gets built, Lodz Kaliska will one day be completed.

Warsaw to Lodz faster in 1934!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008


The PESA ‘Lodz tram’ at Warszawa Centralna.
Photo Monsieur Josviaque

(Click to see picture in original context.)

I’m not known for being excessively emotional, but the new PESA trains sets, that work between Lodz Fabryczna and Warszawa Centralna, have seriously ‘stroked my fur the wrong way’. I hate them with a cold fury that I’m sure is bad for my blood pressure and leave my friends shaking their heads in disbelief. I hate them because, in spite of their streamlined looks, they crawl along on the brand new, trillion PLN, railway between Skierniewice and Lodz Widzew at an average speed which is less than that achieved by the Great Western Railway’s Bristolian in 1935. I hate them because of the design of their reverse curved back-breaking seats, which no one in PKP has had the courage to rip out and replace with seating that is properly ergonomically engineered.

I get by by trying to ignore the existence of the ‘PESA trams’, preferring to travel between Lodz and Warsaw in one of the three real trains that travel between Lodz Kaliska and Centralna. My journey takes a little longer because the Kaliska trains take half an hour to wind round the broken track between Lodz Kaliska to Lodz Widzew, but the slightly faded ancient compartment stock, which goes to such distant places as Bydgoszcz or Szczecin, is infinitely more comfortable to the ‘trams’ with their cursed seats.

Sadly there is not always a real train alternative available and sometimes I do have to travel in the new train sets. Yesterday evening was one of those times when I found myself on board to the 19.20 ex Warszawa Centralna which was due into Lodz Fabryczna at 20:50, a journey time of 90 minutes. I made my way to one of folding seats near the high tech toilet. Undignified maybe, but at least the folding seats assume a normal back profile. As a result of customer complaints the rest of the seating had been ‘improved’ since my last journey. The seats, are not only the wrong shape to support a human back, they are also too small to fit the XXL standard Polish buttock. The ‘improvement’ consists of transplanting the old seats some 6 centimetres away from the sides of the train giving the passenger on the inside a little extra space. So now you can have your back broken while respecting your neighbour’s dignity.

The high tech train information boards – though more concerned with giving you information about whose namesday it is – occasionally flash up the train speed. Last time I travelled I noted a maximum speed of 137 km/hour (85 mph). This time the highest speed that we reached was 129 km/hour (80 mph). I challenged the guard about this and learned that Polish railway regulations prevent trains with a single driver in the cab from exceeding 130 km/hour. The PESA train sets are not designed for a ‘second man’ sitting next to the driver sharing his duties. I ruminated that after an expenditure of over a trillion zloty the train still did not complete the journey in the 80 minutes achieved by the in the Lux Torpeda in 1934, or even the 88 minutes achieved by the locomotive hauled Tellimena Express in the 1990s.


Looks nice, but…

Friday, 18 July 2008

Lodz Regional Tramway – two weeks to opening, BTWT

BTWT is an enthusiastic supporter of Light Rail and Semi-Metro solutions to the traffic problems of large cities. We thought that, once the inevitable teething troubles were over, we should try out the new Lodz Regional Tramway for ourselves. We took three rides, on a section of line between the centre of town and the northerly terminus of the service at Helenowek, in order to prepare this report.

These are the 10 criteria that we used to assess the new service. Each is scored on a range of 0-10. So the maximum possible score is 100.

  1. Description on the box
  2. Comfort and ergonomics
  3. Noise
  4. Staff
  5. Ride quality
  6. Stops
  7. Ticketing
  8. Aesthetics
  9. Disabled access
  10. Information

The LRT vision (Click for a bigger picture.)

2/10 Description on the box

It is branded as the ‘Lodz Regional Tramway’, but at present it runs only within the borders of Lodz between Helenowek and Chocianowice. There is no clear indication when stage 2, linking the outlying towns of Pabianice and Zgierz, will be implemented. Stage 3, upgrading the tramline to Ozorkow, has not reached the stage of a memorandum of understanding, while Alexandrow Lodzki, which generates a huge amount of commuter car traffic into Lodz and lost its tram service in 1995, is not even the subject of a feasibility study. The much heralded tram priority control of traffic lights has yet to be commissioned.

6/10 Comfort and ergonomics

The cars are air conditioned and more bearable in hot weather. The carpet covered plastic seats are less comfortable than those in the 805Na rebuilds, carried out in the municipal tramway ompany’s own workshops. When badly driven, the jerkiness of the ride makes the trams feel dangerous. The low floors do make it much easier to board and alight, particularly for the elderly and small children. (The very high communist-era floor is the main draw back of the modernised 805Na.)

7/10 Noise

External and internal noise is much reduced compared to standard Polish trams, but is still not at European best practice levels. In fact, the degree to which wheel on track noise can be heard inside the cars surprised us.

5/10 Staff

One of the drivers drove his tram like an extreme fairground ride – breathless acceleration and rapid stops. It was all we could do to stop falling off. The same driver, refused to let a passenger get on (even though the tram was stuck in a traffic jam) once he had closed the doors. Other drivers had no difficulty in using more gentle acceleration and deceleration techniques to a create a much more ‘family friendly’ experience.

7/10 Ride Quality

Much better than anything we have ever seen before in Lodz, but the track geometry in general, as well as the rail alignment at welded joints, leaves a lot to be desired.

6/10 Stops

The stops are too close together in the city centre for the trams to be able to operate at their design speed. But, given the added convenience, no marks were deducted for this. The raised platform levels assist boarding and alighting. New fencing prevents waiting passengers being pushed into busy traffic lanes. The stops only accommodate one tram at a time. With portions of the line also used by other Lodz services this results in the trams having to queue at tram stops! The miniature bus shelters are more a decoration than a serious attempt to protect passengers in bad weather. Alas, no thought has been given to bringing the trams closer to major traffic generators such as Manufactura or Custorama, leaving passengers to walk several hundred yards.

6/10 Ticketing

Ticketing is still stuck in the ‘buy a bit of paper in the kiosk’ era. You pay for time on board the tram, not for distance travelled. This is not good news when your tram is stuck in one of Lodz’s increasingly frequent traffic jams. Given the electronics employed elsewhere, this would have been a golden opportunity to automate and improve revenue collection.

10/10 Aesthetics

The PESA 122Ns look smashing, pity about the seats, but we have already dealt with the latter!

1/10 Disabled access

The height of the platforms at stops and the floor height of the trams have not been equalised. The service has not been designed for unaccompanied wheelchair users. Polish transport bosses really need to get their act together on this.

8/10 Information

The automatic voice recordings and LCD displays announcing the next stop are useful. But London Underground style individual route schematics in the cars and maps of the whole system at the stops would be very helpful.

58/100 Overall score

Not trying hard enough. Could do much better!

Well Played PLK!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Lodz Fabryczna Station (photo MarcinK on, click pic for more pictures of Lodz)

Unlike Mike, who publishes the W-wa Jeziorki blog, I used to like the old style trains which plied from Lodz to Warsaw. True the 100 km journey did take 2 hours 15 minutes, but the nicely refurbished compartment coaches were clean comfortable. Rush hours excluded, they offered a pleasant environment for working or reading for pleasure, and if bored one could always engage the guard or one’s fellow passengers in a conversation about the shortcomings of PKP’s management.

However, since PKP noticed that the Warsaw – Lodz service (one of their most profitable) was loosing passengers fast to the rival coach operators, things have not been the same. For the last two years, contractors have been rebuilding the railway. They have not just been relaying track, but also they’ve been draining the trackbed, rebuilding bridges, digging subways, putting up noise barriers and constructing proper platforms. While all this has been going on the train journey lengthened by another hour. To make passengers feel really miserable, brand new shining emus were introduced without compartments, but with back-breaking seats.

Today’s journey did not start well. My taxi driver asked me where I was going and, when I told him that I was going to Warsaw, he told me that I would be lucky to get there at all. A train crash had occured further up the line and all trains were being diverted. He then chose a route which allowed me ample time to study the worst traffic jams in Lodz and ensured that I would miss my train. Unbidden he offered me the information that his rate for going to Warsaw was 250 dollars. I wondered whether I look like the sort of person who if he has a spare 250 dollars in his pocket looks for a taxi driver who can relieve him of the burden?

At the station, the lady behind the ticket desk positively beamed. “There’s been a big train crash and all Warsaw trains are being diverted.” “So how long do you think the journey may take.” “We can’t be sure, apparently one Lodz train left Warsaw this morning and nobody has seen it since.” She cheered me up by telling me that the train that I had just mised hadn’t in fact run. She asked me for 32 zloty for my fare. I told her that yesterday the fare from Warsaw had been 26 zloty and she told me that today was the first day of the new timetable which shortened the journey time to just over 90 minutes.

After making some enquiries I discovered that the next train would leave in an hour. Arming myself with a toasted sandwich and a 1.5 lire bottle of mineral water, I was please to discover that the train would consist of some old fashioned compartment stock which already waiting on platform 2 track 3. (Confusingly for Brits the Poles number both their platforms and tracks.) A TV were waiting like vultures to pounce on the passengers who were travelling on the train from Warsaw. As the hour passed and the train never arrived they moved on to doing short vox pop interviews with passengers boarding the Warsaw train. I grabed the producer and she recorded me doing a little rant about the seating in the new emus.

The guard was not a happy bunny, when I asked him when he thought that we will be in Warsaw, he answered by grumbling that he should have been home over an hour ago. The new tracks are smoother than before but the welding of the rail had not been done to such close tolerancres as in the UK. I slept. When I awoke, we were on the outskirts Warsaw. The blockage had been cleared, we had only lost 20 minutes. Now, when was the last time that you heard of a case in the UK where after a major train crash the line is back in service after barely 12 hours? Well played, PLK – the Polish rail way infrastructure company.

I reached Warsaw in time for a key meeting to brief an important member of the business community about the crisis facing Wolsztyn. He offered to support our lobbying campaign. Tomorrow we will review the Wolsztyn situation and discuss what action BTWT readers can take.