Archive for the ‘PKP InterCity’ Category

PKP boss sacked

Thursday, 30 December 2010

More heads should roll…

Andrzej Wach, former Chairman and CEO of PKP SA. Photo PKP.

Andrzej Wach has been sacked from the position of Chairman and Chief Executive of Polskie Koleje Panstwowe SA. While the sacking is being spun as the first decisive move by Andrzej Massel, the new Undersecretary of State responsible for railways at the Ministry of Infrastructure, our sources indicate that his sacking (and that of former Undersecretary of State, Juliusz Engelhardt) was decided at a meeting on 20 December between Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, and his good friend Cezary Grabarczyk, Minister of Infrastructure. For legal reasons PKP SA must have a chairman and so existing board member Maria Wasiak will be acting chairman while a search for a permanent appointment is made.

Many industry observers believe that Massel must cut deep into the PKP hierarchy is he is to make any impact upon the complacent and self-serving management of the PKP hierarchy, nicknamed beton (concrete) by Poles. The senior management of PKP form a series of interconnected networks which blur accountability and encourage corruption. The former Rail Minister, Juliusz Engelhardt, was a previous member of the PKP SA supervisory board with which he retained friendly relations. Maria Wasiak manages eke out her wretched salary as Director of Promotions and Social Affairs on the PKP SA main board by taking a second job as chairperson of the PKP Intercity supervisory board. Pawel Olczyk is so badly paid as the director responsible for real estate and property matters on the PKP main board, that he has had to take on a second job – chairing the supervisory board of PKP Informatyka, the PKP subsidiary responsible for information technology.

This miserly approach of rewarding its top management extends down to PKP regional directors and managers many of whom have had to take on second jobs running private companies which tender for PKP contracts. There are even tales of PKP staff being paid twice to do the same job – once by their PKP company and a second salary from the private company owned by their PKP boss.

Will Massel be able to cut out the dead wood and change the culture of the PKP Group? A lot depends on the extent he receives the backing of Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, for any reforms he may propose – his direct boss Infrastructure Minister, Cezary Grabarczyk, seems singularly uninterested in the state of Poland’s railways.

PKP Customer Care – the replacement ‘waiting room’ during the refurbishment of Warszawa Wschodnia. Photo Zbigniew Bartus, Dziennik Polski.

(Click on image to read the original article [in Polish] on Dziennik Polski where it originally appears.)

Tardy timetable

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Poland passenger rail services according to Przewozy Regionalne. Some of the lines shown have not seen a passenger train in years.

(Click on the map to download a pdf file with the full-size map.)

Podroznik has been keeping me up to date with this year’s progress on publishing the 2011 Polish railway timetable. The delays – due partly to poor customer care and also partly the fault of local authorities and central government who have not committed sufficiently early to fund rail services – do not bode well for the future of Poland’s passenger services. Here are his reports.

4 November

The Warsaw daily, Zycie Warszawy, publishes an article on the contrasting Polish and German approaches to publishing the new timetable. We’re doing everything we can to get the new timetable up two weeks before its implementation, says Tomasz Stachowicz of TK Telekom, the company responsible for publishing the Polish railway timetable on the WWW. In facts this is a great improvement, in previous years the timetable could only be accessed two or three days before its introduction.

The German approach could not be more different. According to Hans Werner Franz, Director of the Berlin and Brandenburg Passenger Transport Authority (VBB), The full timetable must be published at least 6 weeks before it is implemented. It’s an unbendable rule. Not only does the DB timetable show the new German services nearly two months before the timetable changeover on 12 December, but it also shows it many of the new Polish services at least a month earlier before they are due to be introduced. The Zycie Warszawy article ends with a quote by railway consultant Jakub Majewski.

The earliest possible publication of train timetables is essential if rail is to remain competitive with other carriers such as airlines. Since a passenger can buy a ticket 60 days before the start of his journey, he needs to know at the same time to where, and at what time, he can travel. The preparation of the new timetable should be organised in such a way that the new train times are available at the due time. The deadlines for preparing a timetable, considering submissions and makingimprovements are the same all over Europe. Deutsche Bahn has its timetable available on 15 October. Small wonder that people in Germany are much more disposed to travel by rail than in Poland.

18 November

Railway Operators are discussing the new timetable amongst themselves, screams a headline on the Railway Publishing House portal, KOW. Discussions with Przewozy Regionalne were still taking place at the beginning of the week. We have to take into account many views. That’s why we are still working on the new timetable, says Beata Czemerajda from the PKP Intercity press office. The latest date for the publication of the new timetable is 7 days before it is due to be implemented, that means 5 December. Probably we’ll get a chance to see it before the end of November.

24 November

PKP Intercity advised its clients today today that the ticket pre-travel booking period is being reduced from 60 days to 30 days. Whereas in western Europe the period is being extended, even to as long as 90 days! This is the only announcement that was made:

http://intercity.pl/index.php?page=regulamin_przewozu_osob_rzeczy_i_zwierzat

Tomorrow is 1 December. The new timetable remains complete chaos. Last year, I was already loading data to our system on 20 November! This year, there is no reliable information at all.

The PKP’s ‘Nowy Rozklad’ site, DB’s site, and the PKP IC ‘Zarys’ (dated September) are completely out of synch. For example, the Zarys and DB show several morning EIC trains from Krakow to Warsaw (06:05, 07:05…),whereas the PKP  internet timetable the first EIC at 12:05! And IC’s online booking system shows just two EIC trains that you can book from Krakow to Warszawa!

I am trying to book some international trains, but there is no timetable to refer to. I can get Krakow – Prague reservations, but Prague-Krakow reservations remain unavailable. And I ran into a weird problem with Warsaw-Moscow sleeper reservations… reservations opened on Monday, and many trains for the Russian Christmas period were already sold out on the first day!!!

3 December

8 days to the new timetable and counting. Still no final info, and complete chaos in the little information that has been published.

The ticket office here is now selling many international tickets, but they have been provided with no reference timetable at all. I have to tell them what I want (based on the DB system), and in many cases they can print an appropriate ticket.

3 December – 16:30

Finally, at 16:30 today, they let loose with something:

http://www.przewozyregionalne.pl/informacje-biezace,s,0,574.html

TLK portal reappears!

Friday, 15 October 2010

One of the pages of the new TLK portal page.

(Click image to go to the TLK portal home page.)

Several hours after our post reporting the demise of the Tanie Lnie Kolejowe portal, the website magically reappeared. The new website looks very much like a ‘work in progress’. Clicking on any of the coloured tickets on the carousel leads to a ‘Page not found‘ landing page. The item at the top of the latest news column announces that any passenger can send in comments regarding the latest PKP IC timetable with a deadline for submissions of 30 September. Perhaps someone on the bridge of the great ship PKP IC saw our last article and ordered the website reinstated ‘ready or not?

PKP IC dumps TLK website

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Internet archive of the PKP IC TLK website.

(Click to expand.)

It is the rats who first know when a ship is doomed, their desperate scurrying ashore a sure sign that it is time to leave the ship.

Oh, I thought I heard the Ol’ Man say,
Leave her, Johnny, Leave her!
Tomorrow ye will get your pay,
An it’s time for us to leave her.

From Leave her Johnny as collected by Stan Hughill

So it is with corporations, as the debts mount up faster than the cash rolls in, little signs appear that all is not well in the bilges – various operations are abandoned as outside suppliers loose patience with unpaid bills…

On 9 October, PKP IC’s Tanie Linie Kolejowe website, http://www.tlk.pl, vanished. There was no announcement, no page saying, You are being redirected to the main PKP IC website, nothing! The TLK website came on-line in Autumn 2005. It started off well –  kolorowe bilety promotions, a manager’s blog…  By 2007 there were 29 pages. But then the website started a decline and only 6 pages were maintained in 2010.

Of the kolorowe bilety (6 or 7 types were originally envisaged), we have only the purple and blue (and perhaps the grey?). There were some greens, at some point, I think, but the other colours never materialized. We never saw Orange, Red, or Fuks – travel on any TLK route you want for only 20 zl. The manager’s blog never had more than one entry…

With thanks to podroznik for today’s story.

PKP IC timetable consultation

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

– last day for comments

PKP IC is seeking comments with respect to its proposed new timetable for the period 2010 – 2011. A laudable exercise. Noteworthy in the draft timetable is the demise of the Warszawa Wsch to Lodz Fabryczna trains from 1 March because of the City of Lodz’s and the Ministry of Infrastructure’s white elephant project to replace the historic Lodz Fabryczna station with a hole in the ground.

Do drop PKP a line by 30 September, if like us you would like the Jan Kiepura extended to Hook of Holland or its through coach to Cologne reinstated, or indeed any other changes. You can draw down a summary of the main trains as well as the complete draft timetable by following the links below.

Draft PKP IC timetable:

Comments should be sent:

PKP EC IC disgrace

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Passengers in the PKP IC EuroCity train from Villach to Warsaw.
Photo Alert24.pl

(Click on the thumbnail to read the original article (in Polsh) on Alert24.pl.)

Nothing illustrates better the disease that has gripped Poland’s railways than the story published yesterday on Alert24.pl about the experiences of travellers from Austria to Poland on board the Polonia EuroCity express. The train was packed full of returning Poles as well as visitors to Poland. Just before the Czech Republic – Poland border, two carriages were detached and passengers continued their nightmare journey packed tight like sardines, many standing in the corridor or sitting on the floor. Faces with complaints from angry passengers, the guard told them that they should have travelled by car!

Vandalised PKP IC coach compartment. Photo Pawcio.

(Click image to see more pictures of the devastated carriages on the infokolej.pl discussion forum.)

Meanwhile a contributor to the infokolej.pl discussion forum reports that many PKP IC carriages – including those that shows signs of recent repairs – have been dumped in a siding in Cracow where they are being stripped by vandals and scrap thieves.

Why are these carriages rotting in sidings rather than running in trains? PKP IC like Przewozy Regionalne is in financial difficulties. Track access charges are calculated on the basis of distance travelled and the number of axles in a train. Shorter trains mean lower charges…

A hat tip to Podroznik for both stories.

National Audit Office slams PKP

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Translation of the management summary of the NIK report

The cover page of the NIK report about the PKP group.

(Click image to download the report (in Polish) from the NIK website.

Poland’s Najwyzsza Izba Kontroli (NIK, the National Audit Office) has published a damning report about the management of the PKP group. Following a suggestion from the Parliamentary Infrastructure Committee, NIK decided to examine the way PKP SA, its eight largest subsidiary companies, and the Ministry of Infrastructure, have managed the assets of PKP. The period investigated was 2007 to the 1st quarter 2009.

According to the summary section of the NIK report –

  1. The financial performance of the PKP SA and the subsidiary companies worsened during the audited period.
  2. In addition to the world financial crisis, the reasons for this poor performance were inter alia:
    • delays in pursuing the privatisation of the group;
    • delays in PKP SA’s transferring the real estate necessary for its subsidiary companies to carry out their statutory duties;
    • delays in the disposal of redundant real estate;
    • irrational staffing policies.
  3. The financial reporting and internal auditing processes meet their targets and are reliable. and PKP and the subsidiary companies have maintained an honest approach with respect to their borrowings. The long-term debt of PKP S.A. fell from 10,034.3m PLN (2001) to 3,318.1 PLN (2008). During the same period the long-term debt of the subsidiaries rose fourfold. Short-term debt at the end of the Q.1 2008 stood at 2.833m PLN, of which 1,185m PLN was due to the infrastructure company PKP PLK SA – 567m PLN of this being overdue.
  4. PKP SA performs well in servicing its current debt obligations and the emission of new securities. It has been unnecessary to ask the State Treasury to repay these. (The Treasury guarantees PKP’s debts to the tune of approximately 5,000,000 m PLN.) However, NIK has felt it necessary to warn that the payments of some 2,695 m PLN due in 2010 – 2011 may be at risk if forecast income levels are not met, including income from the sale of PKP Intercity or the disposal of real estate.
  5. PKP SA has not performed well, or diligently, with respect to: the disposal of surplus land; privatising its subsidiary companies; and transferring the real estate necessary for its subsidiaries. In particular –
    • 233 properties (estimated value 62m PLN) which were surplus to requirements, and where the land registry formalities were complete were not offered for sale in 2007, as well as 180 similar properties (value 164m PLN) were not offered for sale in 2008.
    • Of the 129.3m PLN of targeted income from the sale of shares, or privatisation of its companies, only 11.8% was actually achieved. The public issue of shares has been repeatedly postponed.
    • The transfer of land and assets due to its subsidiary companies has not been carried out. In spite of the fact that, as of 31 March 2009, the land registry formalities had been completed for 71.3% of of real estate, comprising railway lines, none of this land had been transferred to PKP PLK . Only 0.02% of the land due to PKP Cargo had been transferred and only 0.25% to PKP Intercity. The remaining land was the subject of leasing agreements.
  6. PKP SA and its subsidiaries have not performed well, or diligently, with respect to utilising all the  funds available. The reasons for this state of affairs include: delays in preparing tender documentation, delays in seeking and obtaining the necessary administrative decisions and delays due to the need to carry out more work than originally specified. For example:
    • In 2007, PKP PLK had 2,279m PLN available for modernisation and refurbishment projects, 2,090m PLN (91.7%) was actually spent. In 2008, 3,341 was available, only 2,502m PLN (74%) was spent. 35 projects had been prioritised in the EU-funded Infrastructure and Environment Operating Programme, but by the end of the control period PKP PLK had submitted the paperwork for just one project.
    • In 2007, PKP SA had 124,6m PLN available for such projects, but only 78% was spent. This figure falls to 63% if Schengen projects are disregarded. In 2008, only 33% was spent of the 77.3m PLN that was available.
  7. Successive ministers responsible for transport have failed to perform well, or diligently,  with respect to –
    • Overseeing and ensuring the transfer of real estate from PKP SA necessary for the PKP subsidiaries to carry out their statutory duties. The additional leasing costs incurred by the subsidiaries are estimated to be not less than 660m PLN. In addition, notwithstanding that 9 years have passed since the passage of the relevant legislation through the Sejm, Ministers have failed to create the conditions which would enable PKP SA to carry out this transfer.
    • Guaranteeing a stable basis for calculating track access charges. Yearly changes to the formula used to charge train operating companies destroys the possibility of any rational planning of train services or developing a long-term strategy with respect to customers. The lack of regulation, necessary to establish track access charges for the long-term, such that the competitive position of rail transport could be maintained, could be a serious barrier to privatisation. Currently track access charges comprise some 25% of the train operating companies costs.
    • Preparing a framework for the way in which the infrastructure management body would operate. This framework has not been prepared notwithstanding that two years have passed since  A strategy for railway transport until 2013 was adopted (envisaging the removal of PKP PLK from the PKP group) and 9 years have passed since the passage of the commercialisation Act. Up to the present time PKP PLK does not enjoy the legal rights of ownership of  railway track. Moreover, as a result of having the status of a user (on the basis of charged usage) it cannot fully carry out its duties as infrastructure manager as laid down in the Railway Transport Act of 28 March 2003.
  8. The negative effect of financial irregularities uncovered during the audit process amounts to 1,140.8m PLN, and the the positive effect amounted to 3.5 thousand PLN.

Intercity fined 2.2 m PLN

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Watchdog slams ‘unfair’ promotions, but is UOKiK’s fine fair?

PKP Intercity core routes (excluding trains taken over from PKP PR)

PKP Intercity has been fined 2,282,390 million PLN (approx. 0.5 million GBP) by the Urzad Ochrony Konkurencji i Konsumentow (Office of Competition and Consumer Protection) for practices which the Commission claims breach Poland’s consumer protection laws. But is UPKiK’s fine itself fair?

In January 2009, Malgorzata Krasnodebska-Tomkiel, the chairperson of UOKiK commenced proceedings against PKP Intercity  to establish whether the regulations which governed the sale of certain PKP Intercity tickets infringe the rights of passengers. UOKiK checked the conditions attached to Intercity’s special offer tickets: Bilet weekendowy (Weekend), Bilet podróżnika (Traveller’s), Wcześniej i Taniej (Advanced). They were particularly interested in the ability of passenger’s to obtain a refund for an unused ticket as well as the conditions relating to purchases of tickets through the Internet.

The Weekend and Traveller’s tickets gave passengers the right to travel on an unlimited number of Intercity trains from 19.00 hours on Friday to 06.00 hours on Monday morning. PKP Intercity insisted – quite reasonably in our view – that if you purchased such a ticket and wanted your money back you had to hand it in before the period for which it was valid. The advanced ticket had to purchased 15 days in advance of when the journey was to be made and if you wanted a refund had to be handed in at least two hours before your journey was to commence.

Mrs Krasnodebska-Tomkiel has ruled that these restrictions are unlawful and has fined PKP Intercity the equivalent of 0.5 million GBP. Someone should point out to her that if you want a cheap ticket it is not unreasonable that extra restrictions are bundled in with its sale. In the days when I was sent around Europe by air my employers purchased Club class tickets and I changed my flights and carriers as if I was hopping on and off trains on the London Underground. Now that I buy my own tickets and travel on the low cost carriers at ridiculously cheap fares, I do not think it unreasonable for the carrier to keep my money if I decline to travel.

PKP has announced its intention to appeal against the UOKiK decision to the Competition and Consumer Protection Court. If the ruling is upheld it will be a victory for the road lobby – passengers will pay the fine in the form of higher fares and Intercity’s ability to attract new passengers through special promotions will be severely curtailed.

Meanwhile genuine abuses by Intercity of its monopoly position go unpunished. A reader writes that for the last fortnight he has been trying to make an advance purchase some 50 tickets for a group journey right across Poland which is to take place at the beginning of March. (Tickets are supposed to be on sale from 60 days before the departure of a train.) He regularly purchases group tickets and has already received payment from his customers. You would have thought that such a customer would have his own account manager and receive VIP treatment. Not a bit of it. Intercity have blocked the sale until tomorrow when the company raises its prices!

No trains to Zamosc

Thursday, 10 September 2009

PKP IC cuts 10% of its trains

Zamosc

Town square Zamosc. Photo Maciej Ukleja.

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

Starting 1st September, PKP InterCity has cut 10% of its long-distance services. Most of the slashed trains are pospieszny (semi-fast) trains which PKP IC had taken over earlier this year from PKP Przewozy Regionalne.

Many trains have been cut back and no longer run the full distance forcing passengers to change trains or take a bus for part of their journey. Other trains only run on one or two days a week. Slupsk and Rybnik have lost their direct services to Poznan, Katowice and Gdansk. Lodz has lost its direct train from Szczecin as well as trains to Czestochowa and Cracow. While Zamosc, with 66,600 inhabitants and a UNESCO world heritage site has lost all its rail passenger services.

From Poznan to London – part 1

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

A virtual train journey.

picture-10

PKP’s InterCity e-ticketing system is a joke

As regular readers of BTWT will know, I hate plane travel.

My feeling of oppression starts at the airport. Stressed plane travellers – struggling vainly with luggage and kids, send out the same extra-sensory signals as wounded animals. Their vibrations mix with the hunting signals sent out by machine gun carrying policemen and testosterone charged security operatives. The conflicting waves hit my own receptors like radio interference. My body wants to fight or flee. My brain tells me that either course of action is likely to be suicidal. My heart pumps. My blood pressure crosses the red safety line. During the next three hours, as security and safety announcements follow one after another, I age another biological year.

Train travel is different. Nobody orders me to take off my shoes or confiscates my bottle of drinking water. Nobody straps me into my seats or implies that, if my neighbour forgets to switch his mobile off, the train will derail and plough into the next motorway bridge. Train staff are, by and large, genuinely friendly and helpful. Passengers travelling in the same compartment, or leaning against the same bar in the restaurant car, are usually happy to exchange a few words or even an entire life story.

So I thought that I would treat myself, practice what I preach and travel from Poznan to London by train. Live a little, and have a drink at the champagne bar at St Pancras. I set my myself a budget of 100 euro for a single journey. Now where to start?

I know that PKP’s InterCity operated Jan Kiepura train from Warsaw includes carriages that go as far West as Cologne. so the logical place to buy a ticket would be on-line via the InterCity website. Right? Wrong. The PKP InterCity web site is clunky and demanding. You must be registered on our site. Why? I just want to look up the ticket price. Oh well, Here goes! Password must have eight characters. Password must include numerical characters. Passport number? After 15 minutes of this sort of thing I’m informed that there is a computer error. I try again. I’m in!

Feeling like the David character in the 1983 children’s thriller War Games. I enter Poznan as my starting point. Poznan Gorcz or Poznan Gl? Where the heck is Poznan Gorcz? I choose GL. I enter Koln as my destination. The system whirrs round and round. Nothing! I try Kolonia and Cologne in quick sucession. Nothing! In desperation I try Berlin. Nothing. I navigate back to the start page and read the FAQs.

Is it possible to buy a ticket for an international train?

It would not be simple to implement this feature, because it would be necessary for the e-IC system to interwork with systems of other countries. International trains will be added at a later date.

I cursed whoever procured this useless e-ticket system. I cursed the idiot who implemented it. Time to go back to the begining. In the case of European rail travel there is no one better to go to than The Man in Seat Sixty One. What does his website seek to do?

First, it sets out to HELP people who already know they want to travel by train or ship, but who can’t find out about it through normal commercial websites or travel agencies. Many people prefer the experience of train travel, are afraid of flying, or simply want to avoid unnecessary flights for environmental reasons, but information can often be difficult if not impossible to find. Second, it aims to INSPIRE people to do something more rewarding with their lives and their travel opportunities than going to an airport, getting on a globalised airliner and missing all the world has to offer. There’s more to travel than the destination. It used to be called a j o u r n e y

At last someone who understands me!

Dear Man, where have you been all my life?

In seat 61.

More tomorrow.