Archive for the ‘PKP SA’ Category

PKP InterCity – strategy masterstroke!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

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Where the new strategy was developed – PKP IC HQ in ul. Zelażna, Warsaw. Photo By Adrian Grycuk (CC BY-SA 3.0 pl), via Wikimedia Commons.

How to make PKP IC profitable? That was the question that new PKP IC boss, Jacek Leonkiewicz, set his best brains to solve. The challenge is formidable, at the top end of the market – served by the EIC and EICP (Pendolino) services – the carrier is facing stiff competition from the domestic airlines and the private motor car. In the lower end of the market – served by the TLK services – the train operating company is losing passengers as a result of the bargain basement tactics of PolskiBus and its me too imitators.

With the company stuck between a rock and a hard place, the solution dreamt up by the best brains in PKP IC is stunning. Not for them the complexities of BTWT’s own 10-point reform plan. No, the PKP IC solution stands out in its brilliance and simplicity: in the timetable changes, to be introduced towards the end of 2015, journey times for TLK trains will be extended!

But, dear reader, I can hear you protest, won’t even more TLK passengers desert as a result? Precisely! When it can shown that the TLK sector is a declining business, more trains can be withdrawn, or the sector can be closed down completely. With less expensive trains to run – PKP IC’s finances will improve dramatically!

A big hat tip to Rynek Kolejowy for today’s story.

Poland – worst international rail connections in Central Europe

Monday, 23 February 2015

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International rail connections between the capitals of Central Europe. Graphic courtesy Centre for Sustainable Transport (CZT).

(Click image to access source material – in Polish – on CTZ website.)

Notwithstanding various European Commission initiatives to create a ‘connected Europe’, and to encourage a modal shift to rail, Poland’s international rail connections are pretty dire. Now the ‘Man in Seat 61‘ reports how international connections from Wroclaw Glowny have been slashed.

 

Should Wroclaw be stripped of its 2016 European City of Culture status?

First the Berlin-Wroclaw-Krakow sleeper train got cut.  Then the Berlin-Wroclaw-Krakow daytime EuroCity train Wawel got cut back to Berlin-Wroclaw.  Then it disappeared completely in December 2014, a civilised train replaced by 5 hours strapped to a bus seat, as if Wroclaw was not a major city, but a remote village far distant from the European rail network.  In a month or two, all Dresden-Wroclaw regional trains will be cut, unbelievably (a) leaving a 2km gap across the border between rail services on either side and (b) leaving Wroclaw with no direct trains whatsoever to or from Germany & the West. Can such a remote and inaccessible village possibly be European City of Culture 2016?  Perhaps the title should be reallocated to a city people can actually get to…  Wroclaw needs to wake up and reassert its need for proper links to the rest of Europe.

A hat tip to Chris White and Podrożnik for today’s stories.

More:

BTWT rescue plan for PKP IC

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

An open letter to the new PKP InterCity chairman.

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Pendolino trainset prepares to reverse out of its platform at Krakow Glowny having formed the first ever Polish Pendolino public service train to Krakow: the 06:35 from Warszawa Centralna on 14.12.14. Photo BTWT.

Dear Jacek,

I hope that you don’t mind me addressing you as ‘Jacek’ rather than ‘Mr Leonkiewicz’. As you have worked in London for two years, I am sure that you are used to the English custom of business colleagues addressing each by their first names, and – although you have only worked in the railway industry for two years – I wanted to recognize you as a fellow railway professional. In fact I think that the brevity of your sojourn in PKP will work to your advantage – you will not yet have been infected by the cynicism that eventually saps the will of most senior PKP people.

Before I get started, I would like to congratulate you on your appointment to the position of CEO of PKP InterCity. By now you will have found out that the job is something of a poisoned chalice – you are the 9th PKP IC CEO in the space of the last ten years. You may be wondering why so few of your predecessors lasted any length of time. Were they really ALL so incompetent? Of course not, and my reason for writing to you is to offer you a few pointers so that you avoid the rapid career change that befell most of them.

Seriously, all joking aside, one of the things you should consider is talking to your predecessors – those who are prepared talk. Some have become bitter and are rusting in sidings like Poland’s historic steam locomotives, others have coped better and are developing their careers elsewhere. The latter will tell you that not all the key variables that affect PKP IC’s profitability can be managed the IC board or even the main PKP SA board. There are systemic factors which were outwith their control. Some of the strategies of your predecessors were actually quite good, but they were not given the time to make them work.

Here are thumbnail sketches of some of those you should talk to. Jacek Przesluga pointed out that the overall image of railways in Poland depended not just on the quality of the trains, but also on the standard of the stations. He wanted to set up a separate company to manage PKP’s main stations, but was dismissed before he could implement his plan. Janusz Malinowski was popular with staff and drew attention to the environmental benefits of travelling by train. He was sacked for making senior appointments without consulting his boss, a mistake that I am sure you will not want to repeat. Marcin Celejewski’s mission was to bring in airline style marketing and ticketing methods and to ensure the trouble free launch of the Pendolino. He succeeded – but only partially – in both, however a 5 million plus drop in passenger numbers made his position untenable.

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EIC buffet car and WiFi carriage at Warszawa Centralna. Photo BTWT.

Steering the flagship company of the PKP group is a bit like steering a giant oil tanker – there is a considerable delay before any course corrections instituted by the captain are seen to have any effect. The captain has the benefit of training on simulators before he finds himself on the bridge of a real tanker. There is no similar training package for PKP IC CEOs and, being realistic, your ‘on-the-job training’ will take a year. Forgive me for being so blunt, but with PKP IC haemorrhaging cash and Parliamentary elections due no later than November, I do not believe that you have got a year before you have to be seen to have turned your ship around.

So to help you get your tenure off to a flying start I have prepared the following 10-point crib sheet. If you manage to implement all these recommendations you should – given a fair wind – outlast your predecessors.

  1. Listen to your customers

    Set up a focus group. Run customer satisfaction surveys. Ride your trains and talk to passengers. If you need inspiration talk to Anthony Smith at Passenger Focus. By the way, did you know that the seats in the 2nd class section of your expensive new Pendolino trains do not fit the standard Polish male derrière?

  2. Listen to your employees

    Another excellent way of discovering what your customers think of PKP is to talk to customer-facing employees like train managers and ticketing staff. They hear an enormous amount of complaints at first hand. Actually it is quite a good idea to set up a way of getting feedback from all your employees. Most of the PKP group’s internal culture is still firmly rooted in ‘Command and Control’ mode, a left over from the days when Poland’s railways were an integral part of the Warsaw Pact’s military machine. Instigating a ‘reverse channel’ so information can flow upwards from staff to their managers, regional directors and main board members should be one of your main priorities.

  3. Improve ticketing

    In spite of Celejewski’s attempt to introduce low-cost airline discount pricing, the PKP IC ticketing system is still a shambles. Passengers travelling, say from Lodz to Zakopany and changing at Krakow Plaszow from one TLK train to another, should NOT have to buy two separate tickets (thus loosing the through journey discount) when purchasing their tickets through the Internet. Trying to find a bargain discount fare by ‘hunting’ between different days (a painless process on the discount airline portals) involves having to re-key in all the journey data for each day ‘tested’. It is only possible to buy tickets four weeks in advance. Why? This is something you should be able to sort out quite quickly. Setting up a ‘fair’ single fare for journeys involving more than one train operating company will take longer, but this is also a goal worth pursuing.

  4. Improve the customer experience at stations

    In the last few years major stations have undergone complete rebuilds or makeovers – a process partly accelerated by Euro 2012 championship (though relatively few football fans actually travelled around Poland by rail). But there are still major deficiencies in the quality of the station experience: lack of decent waiting rooms with comfortable seats, incomplete information on destination boards, poor integration between commercial retail and station facilities. I could go on and on about my pet gripes, but rather than pay attention to me, why don’t you… ?

  5. Make your managers and directors travel by train!

    I have always been amazed how much – bearing in mind that they work for a national public transport network – senior railway people in Poland travel about on duty by plane, or are chauffeured around in luxury cars. What a missed opportunity for senior people to see what is really happening on the railway! You should ban this practice immediately in PKP IC, and – should a suitable occasion arise – suggest gently to your boss, PKP SA CEO Jakub Karnowski, that he consider implementing such a ban throughout the whole PKP group.

  6. Introduce a staff suggestion scheme

    Have you read Deming’s Quality Productivity and Competitive Position, Out of the Crisis and The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education ? If not, please order these two seminal books for yourself and for all your fellow board members. Deming proved that it is possible to increase quality and reduce costs simultaneously. His work had a profound effect on the competitiveness of Japanese industry post WW II. It takes time to change a company’s culture based on the ideas taught by Deming, but as a small step in the right direction, you should encourage staff (individuals or teams of co-workers) to submit ideas for improving processes and reducing costs by offering appropriate rewards.

  7. Improve access for less-abled passengers

    To give PKP credit where credit is due, major stations around the PKP network are being fitted out with escalators and/or lifts. But due to a blind spot (no pun intended) PKP’s architects are failing to provide integrated solutions – complete routes that can easily be navigated without encountering a flight of steps. In the recently modernised station at Katowice, one of two pedestrian tunnels has been fitted with escalators leading to the platforms. Access to this subway is via a flight of steps. Further along the concourse an escalator and wheelchair ramp leads to another subway, but this tunnel has only stairs leading to the platforms. Similar barriers exist at the brand new station at Krakow Glowny. One can – for a time at least – excuse such problems at legacy buildings like Warszawa Centralna, but for brand new facilities this is inexcusable!

  8. Empower staff to deal with certain problems on the spot

    When things go wrong (such as a broken down train) one of the most infuriating things that can happen to a passenger is to be told by the train manager that one has to buy a brand new ticket, and that a refund for the old ticket can only be obtained via a Kafkaesque complaints system. Please, please, empower train staff to deal with such minor problems on the spot, by granting them powers to revalidate old tickets, or issue new replacement tickets, without charging the customer a second time. You would not believe how much anger will be saved, and goodwill generated, by such a simple step.

  9. Appoint an ombudsman

    Appoint a customer champion and show customers that InterCity is really on their side!

  10. Re-enthuse staff and passengers with the ideal of safe, ecologically sound, rail transport

    Rail travel was once seen as the premium travel mode; in many parts of Europe it is being viewed as such again. PKP should be involving its passengers and staff in a campaign to promote the benefits of safe, ecologically sound, rail transport!

My sincere best wishes for your success

Dyspozytor 1

Jacek Leonkiewicz

Sunday, 18 January 2015

New broom at the helm of PKP IC

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Jacek Leonkiewicz. Photo PKP SA.

PKP IC’s new chairman, Jacek Leonkiewicz, graduated with a Masters degree in Banking and Finance from the Warsaw School of Economics (SGH) in 2007. While at the SGH he captained the football team and was an exchange student at the University of Madrid and the Copenhagen Business School.

Leonkiewicz gained work experience in London as an intern at Grant Thornton and J P Morgan and took a summer job as an analyst at Merril Lynch. On graduating he joined J P Morgan Case as a debt analyst. In 2009, he returned to Poland to join investment fund manager PKO TFI SA where he stayed for four years.

He became a board member of PKP SA in 2013, and, in 2014, he briefly joined PKP subsidiary, T K Telekom Sp. z o.o. as chairman of its supervisory board. Also in 2014, he became a member of the supervisory board of PKP Cargo SA and later that same year the chairman of the supervisory board of PKP Energetyka SA.

He helped PKP Cargo get in shape for its debut on the Warsaw stock exchange and has been working to prepare both T K Telekom and PKP Energetyka for privatisation.

He was appointed to the position of chairman of PKP IC on 16.1.2015. Here he will have his work cut out in stemming the desertion of customers to other modes of travel, as well as preparing the company for privatisation.

passengers carried by PKP IC each year (millions)

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declining passenger numbers

Toxic 2014 results at PKP IC

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Chairman sacked. Privatisation to be rushed through?

BTWT EXCLUSIVE

Unofficial 2014 figures for passengers carried by Poland’s TOCs show passengers deserting PKP InterCity in droves. PKP IC carried 30.7 million passengers in 2013, but only some 25.4 million in 2014, a loss approx of 5.3 million passengers (-17.2%). Most of the passengers deserting Poland’s long-distance train operating company were those who used PKP IC for relatively shorter journeys as the decline in passenger kilometres (from 7,085 million in 2013 to 6,221 million in 2014) was a more modest -7.9%.

To say that the result is a disaster for PKP IC would be an understatement. In 2013, PKP IC declared an overall loss of 87.2 million PLN, on a difference between sales revenue and operating expenses of 91.3 million PLN. Adjusting sales revenue in accordance with the approx 8% reduction in passenger km in 2014, and assuming that any savings achieved in operating expenses was cancelled out by increased debt service charges, the gap between sales revenue and operating revenue opens out to a huge 282.6 million PLN. What the overall effect on PKP IC’s bottom line is, is anybody’s guess, PKP IC has additional deprecation charges associated with the purchase of new rolling stock in 2014.

What is known for certain is that, after 12 months in post, former PKP IC chairman, Marcin Celejewski, has been turfed out of his job (though he remains a board member) giving up his chair to PKP privatisation guru, Jacek Leonkiewicz – the clearest sign yet that PKP may wish to rapidly divest itself of its troublesome flagship company.

Selling some, or even all of PKP IC, will not be easy. Compared to the UK, Poland’s long-distance passenger market is a mess: there are no through ticketing arrangements between the different passenger operators, journey times are lengthy due to speed restrictions due to poor track or construction work, ticket prices (when compared to earnings) are high, Poland’s TOCs having to pay some of the highest track access charges in Europe.

Stagecoach investigated the possibility of setting up as a TOC in Poland and decided the market was too risky – with the insight so obtained into Poland’s public transport market Stagecoach founder, Brian Souter, decided to set up PKP IC’s nemesis, Polski Bus, instead!

Polish Pendolino – a cautious step forward, or too little too late?

Monday, 15 December 2014

Dyspozytor travels on the first public service Express InterCity Premium (EIP) ‘Pendolino’ train from Warsaw to Krakow on 14 December.

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Over half an hour to go before the first Warsaw to Krakow Pendolino departs – time for a coffee and a roll in my favourite coffee bar at Centralna. Photo BTWT.

(All the photos can be enlarged x 2 by clicking on the image.)

I am impressed, but not excessively so. The 2nd class seats are comfortable, though a tad narrow for the classical Polish male derrière. Acceleration out of Warszawa Zachodnia – gentle yet sustained – is comparable to the diesel-powered HST125s out of Paddington (after they were throttled back following the Ladbroke Grove crash) though to PKP’s credit there is no appreciable slowing down through the Zyradow modernisation area, where delays have been the rule for over a year.

I cannot find an Internet signal, but there is a double power socket in the space between the seats. I have to have it pointed out to me as my left thigh is obscuring the location. It seems that the same approach has been made as regards the inter-seat spacing as on the notorious PESA Bydgostia EMU’s – a narrow body shell has been fitted out with 2 + 2 seating and a gangway wide enough to run a wheelchair from one end of the train to another. I have difficulty in believing that such a wide gangway, and the consequent narrow seats and ultra close inter-seat positioning that results, is really required to comply with EU directives.

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On the platform at Centralna there is an impressive platform, but it is only for TV news crews – there will be no speeches. Photo BTWT.

We change tracks vis a facing point at approximately 60mph and I am impressed with our coach’s steadiness as its Alstom Pendolino bogies negotiate the pointwork. The ride is very good, though I am annoyed by the low-frequency rumble occasioned by the welded track joints. Polish rails lack the near perfect alignment achieved in the UK and, apart from a few high quality sections, each welded rail joint is felt in the coach as a slight bump.

I am frustrated by the quality of information provided to passengers. In Warsaw a female voice on a recorded loop announced some 30 times that passengers attempting to travel WITHOUT a ticket and seat reservation will be fined 600 złoty (approx. 120 GBP). This seems somewhat excessive both as regards frequency of the announcement and also the size of the fine, especially as 90% of the seats are empty and journalists and PKP staff seem to outnumber fare-paying passengers.

The LED travelling information ribbon panel at the end of the coach is stuck in an endless loop announcing alternatively: first, that the next station will be Krakow Glowny and then, that the remaining stations will be… Krakow Glowny. I had hoped for the usual more informative display with an occasional real-time indication of our speed.

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Our train draw into the platform, but where are the crowds of intending passengers? Photo BTWT.

There are some nice human touches, the driver switches on the PA and announces aeroplane captain style that we are travelling at 200 km/h (125 mph). The track is exceptionally smooth here and I would never have guessed. However, immediately after making the announcement he applies the brakes so I cannot savour the moment for long.

Our 200 km/h peak top speed took some time to build up and I conclude that Pendolino drivers have been trained to limit their acceleration and hence the current drawn from the electric supply. The Pendolino traction equipment was originally designed for high voltage (25kV or 15kV) AC electrified lines and the current drawn on Poland’s 3kV DC lines is very high. (Hint: POWER = VOLTS x AMPS.) Theoretically, two Pendolinos passing each other on the same electrical section and accelerating hard could blow the circuit breakers in the electricity sub station.

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The interior – very nice, but the passengers do not quite fit the seats (or is it the other way round?). Photo BTWT.

We slow down for the junction at Psary and turn south passing through the site of the Szczekociny head on collision of 2012. The line begins to twist and turn and on this section the tilting package (based on research carried out by the BR Research Division in the 1970s and left off the Polish Pendolino bogies to save money) would have allowed our driver to take the curves some 10 km/h faster. With only twenty-five minutes to our scheduled stop at Krakow Glowny, we grind to a halt at Niedzwiedz. So much for our 2hr 28min run, thinks the cynic in me. Our captain comes on the intercom again to say that the delay has been factored in the timetable, and, we are still scheduled to arrive in Krakow on time. Four minutes later, a train running in the opposite direction having passed, we are off again.

Resisting blandishments to sample the delights of the restaurant car, I remain in my seat throughout and tap away on my tablet writing this article. The ride is sufficiently smooth to make typing on a tablet or laptop a pleasure. Another announcement (surely too early?) informs us that we are approaching our destination and that we should check that we have collected all our luggage.

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On arrival in Krakow a few stragglers pause to admire the train. Photo BTWT.

We arrive in Krakow Glowny at 08:56, 2hr 21min after departing Warsaw – 7 minutes early! The (theoretically non-stop run) from Warszawa Zachodnia (Warsaw West) has taken just 2hr 15min to cover 290km – a very satisfactory average speed of approx. 129km/h (80mph). At Glowny, just as had been the case at Centralna, there is a scramble of TV cameras and journalists, but no brass band, nor ribbon cutting. VIPs, whether PKP senior executives or politicians are conspicuous by their absence.

Maria Wasiak – former PKP group chairman and now as minister of Infrastructure and Development ultimately responsible for Poland’s railways – said a few days ago, no need to make a fuss, the Pendolino is just a train. However, I am cautiously impressed, and with plenty cheap discount tickets available for advance purchase, I will certainly be using PKP’s Express InterCity Premium service again.

dyspozytor_sig

PKP Intercity ticketing system collapses – Heads roll

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

No PKP IC

Tomorrow’s morning trains from Lodz to Warsaw. Only the Przewozy Regionalne online booking service is working. Image TK Telecom train timetable portal.

(Click image to expand.)

The relaunch of PKP Intercity’s ticketing system, timed to coincide with the sale of tickets for the new Pendolino service starting in December,  has ended in farce.  Launched on Sunday 16 November, the service quickly collapsed, and whilst booking offices at stations have been resolved, the online service, which handles Intercity’s sales is still down.  Ticket machines are also affected.  Together, they handle 10% of sales.  No timetable is given for resolution. As of this evening, the online service remains unusable.

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PKP IC’s own ticket portal displays a dearth of information.

A crisis team has been set up, and the problem blamed on the lack of compatibility with the new system, and the existing archaic systems used throughout the PKP network.

Heads have rolled.  Paweł Hordyński, the board member with responsibility for IT and the new ticketing system has been removed from his post.  A further two directors have also gone.

As a means of apology, Intercity have increased the availability of the cheapest tickets (49zl) for the new Pendolino service threefold.  Assuming there is a means for buying them…

Intercity have stated that the launch date for the Pendolino is unaffected.

Wolsztyn – The Final Parade?

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

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Ty42-24 passing through the signals on the erstwhile line to Konotop. Photo Marek Ciesielski.

(Click images to expand.)

Wolsztyn’s annual May parade took place on 3 May.  A much smaller event than usual, which has cast doubts on whether or not the event will continue.

No German based locomotives were present. Poland’s fractured rail industry appears to have put paid to that. From what we understand, faced with swingeing track access charges and other fees, the German railtours could not break even for a sensible fare. Given that the fees levied on last year’s trains led to them making a loss, a decision was made by German railtour organisers not to risk making further losses this year.

Chabowka based Ty42-107 and TKt48-191 during the Parade, 3 May 2014..

Chabowka based Ty42-107 and TKt48-191 during the Parade. Photo John Savery.

Chabowka supplied 3 in ticket locos: Ty42-107, Ol12-7 and TKt48-191, all being moved from their southern Polish base. Wolsztyn could only muster 2 in ticket locos, Ol49-59 (making it’s last appearance before overhaul at Leszno), and Ol49-69. Quite why PKP allows Chabowka to keep 3 locos in working order (with the boiler for the OKz32 also standing by ready to fit) compared with Wolsztyn’s single remaining loco is beyond reason, given that the number of steamings and charters done by Chabowka is minimal, and is probably worth an article on its own.

 

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Chabowka’s Ty42-107 and Pyskowice’s Ty42-24 in the shed at Wolsztyn. The devil is in the detail! Photo Marek Ciesielski.

Pride of the show was Ty42-24, restored in Pyskowice by Zbyszek and Krzysiek Jakubina.  Making its debut at the Chabowka gala last year, the standard of restoration is exemplary, and the quality of the finish is far superior to that on Ty42-107, overhauled by full-time staff at Chabowka.

Also present were a Czech loco (2-8-2 Mikado 475- 179) and Club Albatross’ Slovakian 4-8-2 498-104.

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Slovakian 498-104 during the Parade, 3 May 2014. Photo John Savery.

So what does the future hold?

Despite optimistic reports in this month’s Railway Magazine, there are no firm guarantees that steam will actually return to the daily services.  As yet no deal has been reached, however it is clear that the lobbying by concerned supporters is hitting the mark. From what we have heard, at least one letter prompted by the appeal in BTWT has actually reached Jakub Karnowski, the boss of PKP, and he has charged the team looking at the Warsaw Railway Museum project to also look closely at the situation in Wolsztyn.

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With the sun glinting off the gleaming paintwork, Ty42-24 prepares to return south to Wroclaw. Photo John Savery.

A team in PKP Cargo’s strategy unit is now working on a business plan to set up a cultural institute to take over long-term responsibility for the shed and its locos. In the meantime, it is probably not a bad idea to keep up the pressure! If you were thinking of writing a letter, but have not already done so why not drop a line to one or both of the people below. Physical letters are best, but you could also send a pdf file version of a properly formatted letter as an e-mail enclosure.

We believe that the cultural institute idea deserves support, however it is important to point out that what made Wolsztyn absolutely unique was the daily timetabled regular passenger service, hauled by the steam engines stabled there, and that it was this that attracted visitors to Wolsztyn from all around the world.

1. Chief Executive of Wielkopolska Provincial Government

Pan Wojciech Jankowiak
Marszałek Województwa Wielkopolskiego
al. Niepodległości 18
61-713 Poznań
Poland

wojciech.jankowiak@umww.pl

2. PKP Cargo Chairman

Pan Adam Purwin
Prezes Zarządu
PKP CARGO S.A.
ul. Grójecka 17
02-021 Warszawa
Poland

a.purwin@pkp-cargo.eu

 

Wolsztyn plan gets EU chair support!

Thursday, 8 May 2014

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PT47-112 at Wolsztyn. Photo Hubert Smietanka. CC2.5 licence.

Brian Simpson, the chair of the European Parliament’s Transport and Tourism Committee, has entered the battle to save the Wolsztyn engine shed, and its daily timetabled steam workings. Mr Simpson has sent a detailed letter to Adam Purwin, the new boss of PKP Cargo, strongly supporting the idea that a new entity be created to be the long-term custodian of Wolsztyn and that the new entity take the form of a cultural institute.

The idea of a cultural institute is the third iteration in the development of ideas for the long-term future of Wolsztyn in over three years. BTWT has had an opportunity to talk to the people who are working on the plan at PKP HQ in Warsaw, and the plan seems the best solution yet.

Previous plans for the long-term future of Wolsztyn envisaged setting up a company for the specific purpose of operating the shed and maintaining the locomotives used for the daily steam trains. The main drawback of the plan was that the company would have operated with the legal status of a commercial entity – precluding certain kinds of donations and financial support.

A cultural institute, could be the beneficiary of all sorts of grants and donations – including EU support – that would be not be available to a commercial entity.

PKP plans York-style museum

Friday, 14 February 2014

A4s York-1608

Spotted at York, September 2013: 3717 City of Truro (the first steam engine to reach 100 mph) and A4 pacifics, 60008 Dwight D. Eisenhower, and 60010 Dominion of Canada (in LNER blue livery). A4 Mallard holds the world record for steam, 125.88 mph (202.58 km/h). Photo BTWT.

PKP S.A. is planning to build a York style museum at Szczesliwice to the west of the Odolany carriage sidings in order to provide a new home for the Warsaw Railway Museum. The plans received a recent boost when agreement was reached in principle at a meeting attended earlier this week by Elzbieta Bienkowska the Minister of Infrastructure and Development, Adam Struzik the Chief Executive of Mazowsze Province and PKP bosses.

It is hoped that the museum project will benefit from EU funds. The fact that Mrs Bienkowska is in charge of inter alia the allocation and disbursement of EU funds should greatly assist the project. The plans envisage creating a modern family-oriented facility with a focus of rail transport including trams. The museum is to be dubbed a ‘Centre of Communication and Technology’ which would allow it to provide a home for the historical relics currently in the care of the Museum of Technology inside Warsaw’s Palace of Culture.

The future of the Warsaw Railway Museum collection had been uncertain for over 10 years. For more than 10 years, PKP has wanted to redevelop the Warszawa Glowna station site, but the museum authorities had dug in their heels and refused to consider moving to any other location.

One of our editorial staff has been busy for the last four years campaigning behind the scenes that Poland deserves a world-class national railway museum constructed with the help of EU funds. The campaign attracted the support of senior figures in the European railway heritage movement, business leaders in Poland and at least one Polish government minister. For a time, he worked hand-in-glove with the museum authorities, but when they discovered that his objective was a proper national museum – but not necessarily on the current Glowna site – cooperation ceased overnight!

Some diehard preservationists are already campaigning against the move of the museum fearing that it will lead to the demolition of the Glowna station building. Unfortunately, PKP has no choice but to redevelop the Glowna site – under strict conditions set last year by Poland’s Ministry of Finance if PKP wants to benefit from EU cash during the new funding period, it has to generate its ‘own funds’ contribution itself from the sale of surplus assets. The Glowna site is the most valuable plum in the whole PKP property portfolio.

More:

PKP PLK takes over train information

Monday, 16 December 2013

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Timetable change at Lodz Kaliska on 19.09.2013. Photo BTWT.

(All images can be clicked to enlarge.)

At midnight on Saturday 14 December, a new railway timetable was introduced. PKP IC are to run fewer trains than last year. Inter City will run 326 trains on the national railway network (355 – 2012/3) and 40 international trains running across the Polish border (52 – 2012/3).

PKP PLK, the company responsible for Poland’s railway infrastructure, will take overall responsibility for the quality of information provided to passengers at all of Poland’s railway stations with the exception of the Warsaw main line stations: Warszawa Zachodnia, Warszawa Centralna and Warszawa Wschodnia.

There will be standards for the way train services are announced as well as the information that is shown on the various display systems. There will quality inspectors to ensure that the standards are met, service level agreements and fines for those responsible for not achieving them.

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Information is inconsistent and incomplete. Photo BTWT.

It is difficult to avoid the impression that PKP bosses are creating yet another management team to solve a problem that would just melt away after the application of a little customer feedback, analysis and common sense. The problem is not that one station announcer says, The train at platform 3, track 5, is for Lodz Kaliska, calling at Zyradow, Skierniewice and Koluszki, and another says, The train for Lodz Kaliska, calling at Zyradow, Skierniewice and Koluszki, is at platform 3, track 5; the problem is that in both cases the information is incomplete.

First of all, it would be helpful – as I hurtle through the station wondering if I have time to reach the platform or would my time be better invested by buying a ticket for the next train – to have the departure time confirmed. In the UK the station announcer informs us, The train at platform 3 is the 16:16hrs for Lodz Kaliska… . Why not also announce the departure time in Poland?

Secondly, the list of calling stations has stations missing. The train also calls at the Lodz main stations: Lodz Widzew and Lodz Chojny, but you will not obtain this information from the printed timetables displayed at Centralna or any of the electronic train departure indicators.

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Heath warning on the PKP PLK passenger information portal.

The printed timetable displayed at stations is a plakat relacyjny which shows the train times and departure details, but not all the calling stations. So if you do not have access to the on-line timetable, or are not Internet-savvy it would seem that PKP wants you to go by bus.

Assuming that you have found the right destination, train and platform – all is well until things go wrong. There is then a dearth of information, and station staff and train crew seem to melt into thin air. A pertinent tale about the 18:46 from Warszawa Srodmiescie to Piaseczno was recently published on the W-wa Jeziorki blog. I wonder just how many people in PKP Informatyka are working on smart travel information systems?

Source:

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Pyskowice – some good news at last!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

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The pride of the fleet, restored Ty42-24 steam test, 18.6.2013.
Photo Marek Ciesielski

On Monday 9 December the District Court in Katowice threw out the case brought by PKP SA against TOZKiOS, the railway society that is responsible for the Pyskowice railway museum. PKP SA were claiming that the society owed several tens of thousands of zloty in unpaid rent and were seeking a court order requiring the society to pay the back rent – or have its assets seized – and forcing TOZKiOS to quit the site.

The court found that the society had a perfectly valid agreement with infrastructure company PKP PLK and that it had kept its rental payments up to date. Of course, the court order does not provide TOZKiOS what the society most needs – security of tenure and access to the old roundhouse area of the  site, but it does buy time.

It is to be hoped that it may be possible to persuade both parties that the way forward is the path of conciliation and not litigation and that through constructive dialogue a solution can be found that represents a ‘win-win’ for both sides.

Waiting for some TLC, the Pyskowice engine shed. Photo BTWT.

For many years TOZKiOS has been prevented from accessing the old roundhouse site. Without an effective guardian, the engine shed has been deteriorating fast. Several years ago accumulated snow led to a roof collapse.

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Smashed down and stolen door. Photo TOZKiOS.

TOZKiOS have tried to keep the old shed area secure, but a week ago scrap thieves smashed down an old door and are now helping themselves to the metal contents inside the shed.

PKP boss launches clean up campaign

Friday, 13 December 2013

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Former PKP Cargo Chairman, Lukasz Boron. Photo PKP Cargo.

Shortly after sacking PKP Cargo boss, Lukasz Boron, PKP SA Chairman, Jakob Karnowski, launched a drive to introduce a code of ethics across the whole of the PKP Group.

Each PKP subsidiary is to have its own code of practice and a person responsible for making sure that it is implemented. A senior project manager, reporting direct to Karnowski, will oversee the whole process.

‘Spanish customs’ were once common in PKP. It was not unknown for regional heads in the infrastructure company, PKP PLK, to run their own track maintenance companies employing PKP PLK staff and bidding for PKP PLK contracts.

Conflicts of interest were rife. Some PKP Cargo bosses had shares in Cargosped, a logistics company that bid for freight haulage contracts in competition with PKP Cargo.

Industry sources claim that the wagon standing time scam is still common. PKP Cargo customers are charged for the amount of time wagons are left in sidings waiting to be unloaded, certain Cargo officials are happy – in return for a small consideration – to book a lower amount of standing time.

More:

Krzysztof Opawski has died

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

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Krzysztof Opawski, the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of PKP SA, died today.

Krzysztof Opawski was born in 1950 in Lodz. He studied at the University of Lodz where he was awarded a PhD and then taught at the university from 1974 to 1982. He was awarded a research and teaching fellowship by the Polish Academy of Sciences where he worked from 1983 to 1993.

During the period 1990 to 1992, he lead projects to promote the development of private enterprise in Poland on behalf of the Krajowa Izba Gospodarcza (National Chamber of Commerce) and the Krajowa Rada Towarzystw Gospodarczych (National Council of Chambers of Commerce).

In 1994, he joined Schroders, and in 1996, he became chairman of Schroder Polska (trading as ‘Schroder Salomon Smith Barney Polska’ from 2000, and as ‘Citigroup Global Markets Polska’ from 2003. From 2000 – 2005 he was a member of the supervisory board of Bank Handlowy.

On 2 May 2004, he joined the Government of Marek Belka as Minister of Infrastructure and served in that capacity until 31 October 2005 and afterwards returned to Citigroup. In 2007, he founded Saski Partners, a consultancy company specialising in mergers and acquisitions and on 17 December the same year, he became the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of PKP SA.

During his long and distinguished career Opawski lead the teams advising the government regarding some of Poland’s largest privatisations such as TPSA and served on the supervisory boards of some of the most important companies in Poland.

Opawski was a supporter of the reforms being instituted by PKP SA Chairman, Jakub Karnowski. The appointment of his successor by Minister of Infrastructure and Regional Development, Elzbieta Bienkowska, will be thoroughly analysed by PKP SA’s friends and foes alike.

Łódź Fabryczna – white elephant?

Saturday, 2 November 2013

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Lodz Fabryczna construction site, summer 2013. Photo by Zorro2212.

(Click picture to see original photo on Wikipedia Commons.)

Behind The Water Tower has been ‘down’ for much longer than usual. I have not been well – nothing terribly alarming, rather a combination of ‘wear and tear’ and an old back problem has taken its toll, and much of my ‘get up and go’ seems to have got up and gone. I have decided on a few simple steps which should at least improve the frequency of postings, if not their quality.

BTWT readers may remember my dislike of the new Lodz Fabryczna project. Currently, the centre of Lodz is cut off for visitors by train and there is no firm date in sight for when the rail link will be restored. Lodzians commuting to Warsaw or further afield are better off – they simply park at one of the many stations on Lodz’s periphery: Zabienec, Kaliska, Chojny or Widzew and enjoy reasonably comfortable(1) – if not very fast train journeys.

There is currently no money nor end date for the completion of the 2,000 million PLN project, 1,500 million of which is being put up by PKP and 500 million by the City of Lodz. The project will not add a single new train path between Lodz and Warsaw.  Just think what 2,000 million PLN could have done in removing speed restriction and bottlenecks in key places around the Polish railway network.

For those readers admiring the progress on the new station in the photo above, perhaps I should explain that the concrete deck in the picture is not intended to be the track bed level of the new station, merely its ceiling. The actual station level remains to be excavated, under the newly cast concrete deck in the picture.

(1) Apart from certain Lodz-Krakow services worked by the PESA ED74 EMUs with their back-breaking seats.

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More: Wikipedia – Łódź Fabryczna railway station

Pending Pendolino

Monday, 12 August 2013

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’.

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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.

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Sources:

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PKP overcharged by 26.5 million PLN

Friday, 10 May 2013

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It seems that ISO certification is not foolproof. Photo BTWT.

Today’s edition of Puls Biznesu breaks the story that PKP SA Chairman, Jakub Karnowski, has ordered the PKP main board to request Poland’s Anti Corruption Bureau (CBA) to investigate the manner in which 27 million PLN worth of contracts for ISO certification were awarded by 10 different PKP companies to Qwantum.

The certification was part of the safety drive ordered by Minister Nowak following the Szczekociny rail crash in March 2012 in which 16 people died and 58 were admitted to hospital. An internal audit revealed that the work should have only cost 550,000 PLN. Qwantum, like the Minister, hails from the Gdansk-Gdynia-Sopot Trójmiasto on the Baltic coast.

Meanwhile, in an apparently unrelated story, Wprost carries the story that opposition politicians are demanding that the Minister appears before the Sejm Infrastructure Committee to explain recent press articles about how he accepted expensive entertainment from Cam Media without making the appropriate declaration. The Minister has also acquired a collection of expensive VIP watches we he claims were only ‘swapped’ with businessmen.

Cam Media is the company that came up with the ‘Feel Like At Home’ campaign for Euro 2012. It has received ‘tens of millions’ PLN worth of government contracts and also has worked on campaigns for the ruling Civic Platform party (PO).

Sources:

Boroń – new boss at Cargo

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

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Łukasz Boron. From a photo by PKP Cargo.

On Monday 25 January, the PKP group announced that Łukasz Boron, the former Finance Director of PKP Cargo, has been appointed the Company’s new chairman, filling the vacancy caused by the resignation of Wojciech Balczun.

Adam Purwin, previously tipped for the top job in Cargo, and currently heading the PKP SA department responsible for privatisation strategy, moves into the Finance Director job vacated by Boron. Acting Chairman, Marek Zaleśy, formerly Sales Director retains his membership of PKP Cargo’s board.

At Monday’s press conference, Boron announced that his intention would be to continue the good work started by his predecessor Wojciech Balczun in getting PKP Cargo ready for its début on Warsaw’s stock exchange. At the end of January, Transport Minister, Sławomir Nowak authorised the partial privatization of PKP Cargo by the sale of up to 50% of the shares of PKP Cargo. PKP SA is to retain a controlling interest in PKP Cargo.

Boron announced that he had identified three priority areas. The first of these was ‘consolidating’ Cargo’s existing markets: carrying steel, coal and aggregates.  This is a sector where Cargo has lost traffic thanks to the heavy engine / long train tactics of new competitors such as DB Schenker and Freightliner PL. The second was expansion into fast growing new markets such as biomass and intermodal, including expansion abroad, not only into the countries that are Poland’s immediate neighbours, but also further afield as far as Hungary and Holland. The third was to continue streamlining the company and cutting costs.

Łukasz Boron has worked in the railway industry for 8 months. He is a mergers and acquisition specialist having worked for four years in that role with KPMG Corporate Finance, then from 2011 he headed the M&A department of Erste Group Bank AG Investment Banking in Vienna.

The parable of Kudowa Zdroj

Friday, 15 June 2012

EU-assisted cobbles. From a photo on rezerwacjahotelu.pl

(Click on image to see the original photo in its original context.)

I have escaped to the UK to avoid the worst of Euro 2012, so please forgive the rather intermittent postings of late.

Nearly 8 years ago, I spent a week with some acquaintances in Kudowa Zdroj. While my friends went off for their daily hike across the magnificent hills that surround this old spa town, I set off to get some much needed therapy for my bad back and sciatica.

The treatment centre was located in the town park next to the historic spa buildings. All had recently been refurbished thanks to an EU-funded restoration project. Paths, which a year earlier had consisted of broken and cracked tarmac, had been beautifully relaid with cobble stones. They looked magnificent. Unfortunately they had been finished with a sharp unpolished surface. They were bad enough to walk on and would have been all but impossible to negotiate with a wheelchair.

The centre itself was bright with new white paint a fresh sky blue signage. How thoughtful! The most prominent of the brand new EU-funded signs was mounted above the lift door, Winda nieczynna (Lift out of order). So the facilities for disabled visitors were all on the ground floor, excellent!

I approached the reception desk, I’d like to book some therapy sessions. I feel like lying in a bath with lots of healing bubbles and possibly some massage with a beautiful nurse. The receptionist looked at me oddly and informed me that I would have to see a doctor who would prescribe the appropriate treatment. Just tell me where, I said. On the first floor, but he’s not there now. It’s a Saturday.

If  the doctor was not in duty at the centre on Saturdays, he was even less likely to work Sundays, so I turned up on Monday to be told, No doctor today, it’s a bank holiday. I went on Tuesday, No doctor, he only sees people between 9 and 10 am. I arrived at 9:45am on Wednesday, No doctor, he’s just left. I rush breakfast on Thursday, climb the stairs to the first floor, Ah Mr Doctor…

I manage to get bookings for two two bubble bath sessions. Both took place on the first floor! It gradually dawned on me that the raison d’être of the whole system is not to compete with other spas who treat private patients who are genuinely ill, but to provide a state-funded holiday to patients who are well, and know the ropes how to get favours from their GP.

I am never coming back to Kudow Zdroj. Until Poland’s spas learn the meaning of customer service, they will be never be competitive with those in other countries, nor attract the foreign business which their expensive EU-assisted projects were supposed to help them gain.

Wschodnia looking smarter than it has ever been. Photo BTWT.

And so on to Euro 2012.

On the plus side, Poland has gained an impressive list of infrastructure improvements which would have taken years to construct had it not been for Poland being co-host of the championships. Just look at these before and after photographs on Sfora.pl. In the last few days before the tournament, Transport Minister Slawomir Nowak was racing around the country opening, nearly complete, newly restored railways stations, including Warszawa Centralana, Warszawa Wschodnia, Warszawa Zachodnia, and amazingly, Wroclaw Glowny. Even Prime Minister Donald Tusk decided that it was safe to be photographed travelling by train.

Poland’s railway companies pulled out all the stops. Railway infrastructure company PKP PLK suspended track works for the duration; journey times were reduced; special trains were run. SKM in Gdansk/Gdynia/Sopot carried 40,000 fans to and from the Spain Italy match without any incident.

Clean subway, but the drain covers are not in place. Photo BTWT.

So why am I not jumping up and down in glee? Let’s look at the other side of the balance sheet.

Rushed work is botched work as anybody who has seen Warszawa Centralna on a rainy day will know. (The completion of this communist-era flagship project was rushed so that it would be ready for Leonid Brezhnev’s 1975 visit to Warsaw.) There have been many complaints of the new train indicator boards not working properly and only time will tell how the major investments at Wroclaw Glowny and Poznan Glowny will turn out in practice.

Publication of the temporarily improved timetables was delayed for far too long. For months before the championships, travel discussion forums were besieged by fans desperate for train travel information. The advice from Poland veterans was, Take a bus, take a plane, take anything, but don’t travel by train.

The train data was also not available to PKP ICs ticketing systems, so advance tickets were not available. I’m now receiving reports that many PKP IC long distance football specials ran three quarters empty! Mysteriously the same problem seems not to have affected Przewozy Regionalne which operates its own ticketing system.

Until the people responsible for Poland’s railways begin to understand the meaning of customer service, they will never stop the desertion of their customers to other carriers, nor carry the foreign tourists which their expensive EU-assisted projects were supposed to attract.

A more positive take on the Euro 2012 construction projects:

“Too many cooks spoil the broth”

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

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

(Click on the image to read the original article in Polish on Gazeta.pl 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 Gazeta.pl 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.