Archive for the ‘timetable’ Category

PKP PLK takes over train information

Monday, 16 December 2013


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.


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.


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?



Andrzej Massel, new Rail Minister

Monday, 27 December 2010

Andrzej Massel. Photo IK.

Andrezj Massel, the Deputy Director of Instytut Kolejnictwa, Poland’s Railway Research and Development Centre has been appointed Minister responsible for railways by Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk. Massel who takes over as Undersecretary of State responsible for railways in the Ministry of Infrastructure, will be taking over the seat vacated by Juliusz Engelhardt, fired on 21 December after 3 years in the job. Massel will be starting his new job on Tuesday 28 December and as an immediate priority has been tasked to decide what heads should roll within the PKP Group.

Andrzej Massel is well-liked by his colleagues in the railway industry, unlike Engelhardt who was regarded as arrogant and unapproachable. Massel has worked on a number of feasibility studies for EU-funded projects including: a joint CNTK (1) / W S Atkins study into upgrading the Siedlce – Terespol line; a study into new rolling stock for the Wielkopolska provincial government; a preliminary study for the Warsaw – Wroclaw / Poznan high speed line; a study into upgrading the Warsaw – Gdansk corridor; and a study for the construction of a new section of the Warsaw Metro. Massel is also one of the authors of the Ministry of Infrastructure’s Masterplan for Poland’s Railways until 2030.

So how did Massel, who is a competent technocrat, but relatively unknown outside the railway industry, pick up his this high profile (some might say poisoned chalice) job? It seems that his hobby of collecting old railway timetables as well as his work on the upgrading of the Warsaw – Gdansk corridor may have been to blame! After a week of chaos following the introduction of the new timetables Masel wrote a hard-hitting piece in his regular column for KOW (Railway Publishing House). Here is a brief extract.

The new timetable – fact or fiction?

The new timetable came into force on 12 December. The media are reporting that its introduction marked a greater crisis for the railways than the severest frost or the greatest snowstorm.

It provides information about trains that depart from platforms that don’t exist, about trains which do not have enough room for intending passengers and about trains that – because of defective rolling stock – have failed somewhere en route to their destination. The loudest complaints come from travellers who cannot get hold of up to date information. It is impossible to get through on telephone numbers to information centres, websites crash apparently because too many people are trying to access them.

Theoretically all is well. A week before it was due to be implemented, detailed timetables were published on the Przewozy Regionalne website. On 3 December PKP Intercity made its new timetable available as a pdf download. Both timetables have a significant fault – neither of them have much connection with reality.

I am personally interested in the timetable for trains operating between Warsaw and Gdansk. According to table 400 on the Przewozy Regionalne website, and the appropriate PKP Intercity webpage, the service on this line has undergone a radical improvement, both in terms of train timings and frequency.

Kazub, the fastest train between Warszawa Centralna and Gdansk Głowny should complete its journey in 3 hours 57 minutes, whereas upto now it has been taking 5 or even 6 hours to complete its journey. Of course, from the first day of its introduction, the new timetable published by both operators will not be applicable. The upgrading work being carried out on this line entails a great deal of single line working. The consequent delays mean that for a long time trains will continue to take around 5 hours to complete their journey. But you will only find out about this if you read the small print: Because of the modernization of the line between Warsaw and Gdansk and the modernisation of Gdansk Oliwa station journey times are subject to change.

This raises a moot point, Why make passengers angry by promising levels of service that cannot be achieved in practice? The systemic fault is the process practised by PKP Polskie Linie Kolejowe whereby two timetables are created in parallel: the timetable for the year and a timetable for a specific period.

Click here for the complete article (in Polish).

As the most senior railway professional who dared to say publically what was really going wrong, small wonder that he has found himself chosen by prime minister to clear up the mess!

Andrzej Massel was born in 1965. He graduated from, and was subsequently awarded a Ph D by, the Land Construction Department of Gdansk Polytechnic. Since the early 1990s he has worked for the Centrum Naukowo-Technicznym Kolejnictwa (Railway Research and Development Centre) now renamed Instytut Kolejnictwa.

From 2005 he has held the position of Deputy Director with responsibility for studies and research projects. During the period 2000 – 2001 he was the plenipotentiary for railways in the office of the Chief Executive of Pomerania Province. During the period 2001 – 2002 he was a member of the supervisory board of PKP SKM in Gdansk.

His hobbies include collecting old railway photographs and postcards and railway timetables.

We wish him well with his Herculean task.

Virtual reality

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The 07:38, or possibly the 07:54 or 07:58, Warsaw train at W-wa Jeziorki. From a photo by Michael Dembinski.

(Click on the image above to read the original post on the W-wa Jeziorki blog.)

Just as I thought I had flogged the new timetable story to death, Michael Dembinski on the W-wa Jeziorki blog drew attention to a unique Polish phenomenon that had so far been ignored by BTWT – the virtual timetable. Coming from Britain one expects the timetable to be the basic foundation of railway operations. Though on this world trains may run late, trains may run early, trains may be cancelled, there is nevertheless the timetable – a perfect entity, worthy of a place in Plato’s World of Forms – of which our earthly train services are but a mere shadow.

The Polish railway timetable plays no part in Plato’s world, in fact it seems to by the product of the world of Mephistopheles. The virtual timetable – one of its essential ingredients – is one of these peculiarly Polish things for which there is no adequate word, nor adequate explanation, in the English language. Nevertheless I will make an attempt to elucidate.  Let us start by looking at what the virtual timetable is not.

I was once making my way across Poland by rail when I had to change trains at Czestochowa. I checked on the on-line timetable and there was a good 25 minute gap before my connecting train to Krakow was due in. My train arrived 10 minutes late, so I re-checked my connection on the printed timetable displayed at the station. Bother! My train had left 30 minutes ago! Now it was very important for me to get to Krakow on time, so I rushed across the footbridge in something of a state and explained my predicament to the lady behind the information counter. She smiled sweetly and told me not to worry, I still had 10 minutes before my train was due! As the the on-line timetable carried the amended times and the station staff clearly knew at what times the trains were supposed to run, this is not a true virtual timetable.

Another time, I had to travel regularly between Warsaw and Lodz during the EU-funded refurbishment of the track between Lodz Widzew and Skierniewice. As the key milestone date for the introduction of the speeded up services approached, new timetables were displayed at the principal stations showing the new 90 minute train services. The refurbishment delivery slipped, trains were cancelled, journey times extended. The new timetables were officially introduced, the project milestone achieved, EU funding signed off. The actual train services still took 2½ hours, their actual schedules displayed on little scraps of paper at ticket offices and on the Internet. Here we have a case of two official timetables – showing different train times – both which have a formal status. One is for ordinary travellers the other exists in a parallel universe inhabited by EU officials and Ministers of Infrastructure. So a high degree of virtuality here, although reality breaks through as no seasoned commuter between Lodz and Warsaw would dream of planning their journey to work according to the train times in shown on the official timetables displayed at the stations.

However, a real virtual railway timetable should be not only completely different to the one advertised, but also should not appear in any official railway publication. Having unexpectedly found  himself at Warszawa Wschodnia rather than Warszawa Srodmiescie at the end of his commuting run, Michael writes with feeling about his train services to Warsaw.

The introduction of the new timetable is usually entirely virtual, since trains keep running (on my line anyway) to the old timetable for weeks regardless.

I checked PKP’s on-line timetable which showed trains running on Michael’s line according to the new timetable. Trains oblivious of anything published anywhere by PKP –  that really is railway operation according to a 100% virtual timetable.

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.


PKP says ‘Sorry’…

Saturday, 18 December 2010

but as MPs call for Minister’s resignation will it be enough?

The PKP ‘apology’, a whole page ad, appeared in Thursday’s national papers – Rzeczpospolita, Gazeta Wyborcza and Super Express.

(Click image to enlarge. For translation see below.)

[PKP logo]

The PKP Group Companies


for travel difficulties
and problems with the transmission of information

The unfortunate travel experiences which passengers have experienced in the last few days require our explanation. Discussions regarding the shape of the new timetable dragged on into early December. This was unprecedented. PKP Group companies also took part in these discussions. This created an information buzz and the accompanying winter aura as well as the rebuilding of lines and stations cumulatively impacted upon the late running of the trains.

We are aware that even the loudest utterance of the word SORRY will be no compensation for the stress and difficulties currently affecting rail travel. The experiences of the last weeks demonstrated to us, railwaymen, how much remains to be done to satisfy our CLIENTS.

We hope that in spite of recent bad experiences, you will choose rail to travel to your nearest and dearest for the celebration of Christmas. We also wish that the time you spend travelling by rail will be a welcome respite before your family gathering.

With apologies
The Railway Workers of the PKP Group

[translation ©BTWT]

Poland being a Catholic country, one might expect that PKP’s ‘unprecedented’ whole page ‘confessions’ that appeared yesterday in the national press about the on-going nightmare on Poland’s railways might evoke a sympathetic response from PKP’s long-suffering passengers. I expect, however, that their appearance will only pour petrol upon the bonfire of whatever tattered remnants remained of PKP’s reputation. In spite of the flowery language – ‘information buzz’ and ‘winter aura’ – there is little sign of a ‘firm purpose of amendment’  – the condition that the Church requires to be fulfilled before it grants absolution to those who have confessed their sins.

For a start there is no promise that PKP will try harder next time. Secondly, there is no attempt to offer any kind of compensation to passengers. A much more convincing gesture would have been to offer passengers some kind of travel promotion (say, buy one ticket and get one free) which would have generated media attention AND made passengers feel a little better. Finally, the apology is not signed by Andrzej Wach, the chairman of the PKP Group. Instead it is signed off ‘the Railway Workers of the PKP Group’; while this is in keeping with communist era notions of ‘group responsibility’, ( i.e. no one is responsible).

It is hardly the fault of the railway workers that neither PKP InterCity, nor Przewozy Regionalne, knew how much money they would have to fund their 2011 operations. A situation which makes it difficult to make a rational decision as to how many trains to run. Nor is it the fault of the railway workers that PKP has been broken up into so many parts (a separate company is responsible for the on-line timetable) that no one knows whether they are coming or going, or that the electricity supply to the point heaters has been turned off.

Both the botched transfer of Przewozy Regionalne to the provincial governments, and the hopeless fragmentation of PKP, are the result of political decisions signed off – or at least allowed to rest unchallenged – by the Ministry of Infrastructure. In a civilised country the responsible Minister, Cezary Grabarczyc would resign; indeed there have already been calls in the Sejm (the Polish equivalent to the House of Commons) for him to do so. But Grabarczyc is a close allay of the prime minister, Donald Tusk, and Tusk has already announced that he and Grabarczyc will ensure that those responsible for the chaos will be punished.

Grabarczyk, who would appear to be safe for the time being, has responded by cancelling the end-of-year bonuses of PKP Group chairman, Andrzej Wach; Grzegorz Mędza, chairman of PKP InterCity; and Zbigniew Szafranski, chairman of infrastructure company, PKP Polskie Linie Kolejowe, and their deputies. However, it is understood that for a variety of reasons these bonuses were not going to be paid anyway, so cancelling them is an empty gesture. On Thursday, Julius Engelhardt, the Undersecretary of State responsible for rail, appeared before MPs to explain what had happened. He made a poor showing. It is widely expected that if the chaos and accompanying parliamentary row continues then Wach, and possibly even Engelhardt himself, will be dismissed. Already, PKP main board member, Jacek Przesluga, who has publicly called for a complete ‘re-engineering’ of PKP, seems to have his eye on the Group chairman’s job.


Railway chaos… who’s to blame?

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

InterRegio Wrocław – Swinoujscie entering Choszczno station, June 2009. Photo H. Ciszewska-Czyz, Wikipedia Commons.

(Click image for details of licensing.)

Pass the parcel is the name of the train blame game. Hot on the heels of Behind The Water Tower’s exposé about the chaotic introduction of the new timetable [well 8 days later] RMF 24 published an interview about the way the new time timetable was introduced with Polish railway pundit Jacob Majewski (1). It’s the Minister of Infrastructure and his subordinate Office of Railway Transport [UTK] that are responsible for the complete mess on the Polish railways, screams the first sentence. West of the River Oder the new timetable is published a month before it introduced, Majewski points out. Well actually, in Germany it has to be published 6 weeks before, and European best practice is 90 days. The Office of Railway Transport is the body responsible for ensuring that the market works effectively, adds Majewski. If the UTK don’t defend passenger rights, thunders Majewski, the EU will take action. If only!

Another version of the interview has appeared on the on-line pages of trade journal Rynek Kolejowy (Railway Market). Jakub  Majewski, primarily blames the train operating companies who were introducing changes up to the last minute. Meanwhile passengers continue to face difficulties. There are still significant differences between the times that the trains are running according to the printed timetables and the times that the trains actually run. In Warszawa Centralna station the problem is compounded by the tiny screens – only showing a few trains at a time with limited information about intermediary stops – that replaced the old electro-mechanical arrivals and departures board. Gazeta Wyborcza’s Warsaw supplement reports that the chaos at Centralna is compounded by the noise of the renovation work which drowns out the PA announcements.

Other problems include trains running at the wrong times to bring people to work or no information about which fares apply. Podroznik reports that he has been unable to find out on which of the trains running between Poznan and Frankfurt on Oder the Sasiedzi special offer applies to. So are the rain operating companies, or Cezary Garbarczyk, the Minister of Infrastructure, and Juliusz Engelhardt, his Undersecretary of State responsible for rail, to blame for this year’s chaos? Our view is that the train operating companies are too far down the feeding chain to have much say in the matter. Rzeczpospolita reports that of the 14 provincial governments responsible for funding Przewozy Regionalne operations only 2 have finalised their 2011 contribution. The funding of PKP IC, which suffered a massive loss in 2010 remains equally uncertain.

So who is really to blame? Of course, the Minister of Infrastructure and his Secretary of State should be prepared to stand up and admit that their laissez faire free-market policy is not working. But blame for Poland’s rail financial crisis, which is driving the timetable chaos, extends to other ministries as well. Jacek Rostowski, in charge of the Ministry of Finance, should look again at the financial implications of the Government’s transport spending and analyse whether the government’s absurdly pro-road financing policy is – in the long-term – really cost effective. He should also urgently review the penal rates of local taxes levied on PKP and other other infrastructure managers.

Other Ministries are also responsible for policies which have componded Poland’s rail inndustry woes. Andrzej Kraszewski, at the Ministry of the Environment, should remind his colleagues that Poland is in breach of its EU CO2 reduction obligations and that road transport is a major factor in Poland’s CO2 emissions. Elzbieta Bienkowska, the Minister of Regional Development, should review whether the rules her department have introduced for administering EU infrastructure funding are unnecessarily complicated. Meanwhile, Jerzy Miller, responsibe for the Ministry of the Interior and Administration, is ultimately responsible for the absurdly long legal processes which have hindered the development, or transfer, of PKP’s real estate. These in turn have destroyed the opportunity for any privatisation ‘windfall’ for the treasury which could have offset PKP debts.

Will the relevant Ministries, each of which jealously guard their patch, work together to solve Poland’s rail crisis? Does water run uphill? [The original phrase here which involved animals flying has been edited. Ed.]


(1) For a definition of railway pundit, Google Christian Wolmar.

If any BTWT readers have studied the new timetable and have discovered significant changes – train services cancelled, new services introduced, timing differences – we would like to hear from you.

While today’s post contains links to quite a few source article written in Polish, we trust that BTWT readers wishing to follow these up will have no difficulty in viewing a fairly good translation courtesy of Google Translate.

Tardy timetable, a postscript

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

e-mailed by Podroznik

For a week or two now, international reservations are supposedly available.

While I able to book reservations for places on the night sleeper train to Prague, I couldn’t get anything for the return journey. I would try each day at the IC ticket office (using the traditional train numbers, which I had also checked against the DB timetable), but an error message would show on the ticket office terminals. “Try later,” I’d be told.

Yesterday I made a phone call to I’s Customer Service Centre in Warsaw. Same result, “We tried, but can’t book a ticket either”.

So then, I decided to take the initiative, and called České Dráhy (Czech Railways) directly on their customer service line. I explained the problem and asked if reservations were on sale for these trains. The nice lady (in good English) explained they were. And she suggested, “Try using train number… “.

So, back to my local IC ticket office…surprise! There were the reservations I needed, using the number I was given by CD. A good result in the end, but should the customer really have to call another country in order to sort things out?