Archive for the ‘Warszawa Centralna’ Category

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.

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“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.

The vanishing skansen at Elk

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Alerted by a PKP estate department’s tender for the sale of items from the erstwhile ‘skansen’ at Elk, John Savery leaves his car at home and travels by Wizz Air and TLK to photograph the remains.

How do I get to Centralna without getting wet? Photo John Savery.

I have regularly driven to Poland in recent times, my hands-on involvement in the preservation scene here makes carrying tools and equipment easier and more practical. I had not used Wizz Air’s Warsaw flight for about 5 years, however a bit of research showed that this was the best way of getting there. A late evening departure from Luton meant a 23:00 arrival at Okecie and, despite knowing Warsaw well, I opted to pay the extra and use the Wizz Air bus connection to the centre of town.

Okecie is still being modernised, and seems huge compared to what it was like when I first used it back in 2000. Despite the Euro 2012 championships being less than a month away, like many other projects, the airport still needs some finishing touches, and parts of the arrivals hall are still fenced off.

Leaving the terminal building and following the contradictory directions for the connecting bus, I decided discretion was the better part of valour, and took the liberty of phoning the helpline number for the driver. After a reassuring person told me that there would be someone with me in 8 minutes, there followed a 30 minute wait, and several more phone calls before I finally found myself in a Wizz Air taxi on the way to the centre. Next time, if there is a next time before Wizz locate to Modlin airport, I will take the 175 bus!

Zlote Tarasy interior. Photo John Savery.

A central Warsaw hotel provided convenient accommodation, close to Centralny station, however breakfast was not provided in the price, and being unwilling to part with the extortionate fee of EUR 20 for the privilege of eating in the hotel, I decided to do breakfast on the hoof or on the train.

Walking around to the station, the area has changed considerably since I last visited, (although I have kept apace with developments through Michael Dembinski’s excellent Warszawa Jeziorki blog) and the partially completed Zlota 44 tower now rivals the other buildings around it.

Not wanting to risk a long wait at the ticket office, I opted to buy my ticket first, and joined the back of a fairly quick moving queue at the ticket windows. It is pleasing to see that there were common queues for multiple ticket windows, much improved on the previous system of choosing a window and finding yourself behind an awkward or complicated request, although for the life of me, I could not work out why there were two queues each leading to half the windows. With an internet printout of the train I wanted in my hand, the purchase of my ticket was swift. With that completed in less time than anticipated, I wandered back through the bus station to Zlote Tarasy, the Eden Project style shopping mall opposite, to find food for the journey.

Better information and signage. Photo John Savery.

Warszawa Centralna is greatly improved following the facelift. Lighting and ambience are better, and gone are the dark entrances to the platforms. Like the airport, I would be amazed if it is complete by the time the football starts, but at least it has taken a big step in the right direction. I have always been wary around Centralna, and despite living in more dangerous places, it is the only place where I have nearly been pickpocketed getting into a train. The improved lighting helps the atmosphere. Platform information is adequate, with departure listings on the digital screens at platform level, however the individual platform screens are not utilised well, with confirmation of the train only being put on the platform screen at the last minute. This results in a last minute rush of passengers to the platforms.

The TLK itself was comfortable. I opted for first class, more expensive but more roomy, and there was only one other person in my compartment. Striking up a conversation it transpired that he was from Lodz. The conversation turned to what I thought of Poland now as to compared to what it as like when I had lived here previously, and the state of manufacturing in the UK. With the bar car conveniently located in the next coach, I sat back with a coffee and watched the Polish countryside roll by.

SU45-168 takes over the train. Photo John Savery.

On arrival in Elk, I wandered down to the front of the train to see the loco being changed. EP07-456 giving way to SU45-168, which would take the train forward to Olsztyn. The narrow gauge railway is immediately opposite the station on the opposite side to the town, however with no obvious access, (and no signage) I wandered down the road immediately opposite the station to my hotel for the night.

The Rydzewski was reasonable, and importantly had a town map on reception, so after dropping my bag in the room, I retraced my steps under the leaden skies towards the station, followed the road under the under-bridge and into the narrow gauge area. Elk could make more of its narrow gauge railway. The signage was woeful, only a small sign near the entrance was visible. Walking unchallenged through the security gate I set about exploring the yard.

N.g. coaches recently touched up. Photo John Savery.

The narrow gauge coaches were parked neatly in the station, and the area itself was kept tidy. Grass was kept in check, and the line’s Px48-1752, which although cold, looked as though it had been recently steamed, with fresh ash in the pit.

Elsewhere in the yard, SM42-002, one of the items on PKP’s tender list stands forlorn; next to it lie the remains of what appear to be a set of wheels which have been crudely cut from the axles – it wasn’t possible to tell what they were from, however they looked suspiciously like pony truck wheels from an Ol49.

Nice grass, pity about the locos. Photo John Savery.

There are two standard gauge locos on the adjoining tracks, Ol49-11 and Ty2-1285. Both have been heavily stripped, with hardly a single item inside the cab. The connecting rods of the Ol49, along with some of the axle box covers on the tender were also missing. Both are in dire need of a coat of paint to protect them from the elements, however, this is the very least of the concerns from them. Theft of further components appears to be a real risk despite the narrow gauge area being fenced off and having steel shutters at the entrance.

I took a wander over to the ticket office, as up to now, I had not seen hide nor hair of anyone else, and found it locked. How many other potential customers have wandered in and out without paying?  However, this also meant that I could not view the small museum inside either. Wanting to see more of the standard gauge locos that were stationed around the former roundhouse, I set off towards the standard gauge tracks.

What a railway museum this could have made if only PKP and the local council could have reached agreement. Photo John Savery.

The first two locos that I came across were Ol49-80 and 102. Both were plinthed on a separate section of track next to what appeared to be living accommodation in coaches. Ol49-80 holds the dubious distinction of probably being the only Ol49 to be fitted with a satellite dish! That, and its appearance on PKP’s auction list may not bode well for the loco’s future. Whilst most of the motion on the side closest to the station appeared intact, metal magpies had again been at the bearings, and the crank and con-rod bearings had been stripped from the fireman’s side of the loco. The cab had been stripped bare, with even the firebox doors missing.

Ol49-102 was in a similar state. Being on a separate section of isolated track, coupled with the removal of key components may make it extremely difficult to move either of these locos. The fact that the tender and loco are listed separately on the auction page would seem to suggest that they are trying to generate as much money as possible from the sale, and it doesn’t take a genius to work out that the scrap man may be interested.

Blacksmith forge awaiting scrapping. Photo John Savery.

Elsewhere on the site, demolition is in full swing. Spying through a chink in the modern section of the roundhouse, industrial sized skips are present, as stripping continues. This is clearly a place in its death throes, with contractors moving in with the axe. In the older part of the roundhouse, which again, is secured to deter intruders, a tiny chink in a door reveals Ty2-1279. Alas, this too has been the victim of theft, and despite not being able to get close to it, it is possible to see that the crank and con-rod bearing have been taken from the side that is visible.

With the shed all but abandoned, it is probably as easy for a thief to work under the cover of the shed, as it is for them to work outside. The roof of the shed looks anything but secure. Daylight spews in through blatant cracks in the planking and felt roof, its sieve like properties must do little to protect the interior.

How much longer before these locos are quietly scrapped? Photo John Savery.

Despite probing, I am unable to access the shed, and turn my attention to the remaining engines in the yard. Aside from a small diesel shunter, the yard contains two Ok1’s and three Ol49’s. All are in abysmal condition, stripped to ex-Barry hulk status. All have motion missing to some degree or other, and one, Ol49-61, has trees growing in its tender. Exploring some of the others is risky business, and I tentatively worked my way around the cabs, probing gently at the wafer thin metal of the cab floors, ensuring it was load bearing before taking each step.

Ok1 waiting for rescue. Photo John Savery.

Walking back to the hotel, I pondered on the question raised by Gary Boyd-Hope in this month’s Steam Railway magazine. Is the breaking up of steam locomotives acceptable in the 21st Century? The question appears to be rhetorical. To some people it is. Locomotives that were once complete are being taken apart piece by piece, by thieves and others until they no longer have a future or purpose. At that point, it is easy to call the scrap man in to take away an eyesore, or to cash in on the value of the scrap metal asset that exists.

Take a piece of precision machinery and leave it out in the open for Polish weather and metal thieves to do their worst. Photo John Savery.

One thing is for certain. The remaining locos at Elk face a very difficult future, and I would be amazed if the majority are not lost in the coming years.

My train? When and where will it arrive?

Friday, 19 November 2010

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

(Click to enlarge.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Click to enlarge.)

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