Posts Tagged ‘Warsaw’

The 12:50 to Moscow

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

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Journey’s end – Moskwa Biloruski

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Our story about the lady waiting at the tram stop brought us a follow up from an ex-pat Brit living in Poland. He had some important guests to look after who had flown into Warsaw from London and had asked for his help to catch the 12:50 Moscow train the next day.

He came to their hotel early on Saturday morning and joined them for breakfast. They booked out in good time and a couple of tram rides took them to Warszawa Centralna station. (They preferred tram to taxi.) At this point there was some 90 minutes to go before the departure of their train.

He guided his VIPs to the Whittard coffee house underneath the Marriot hotel and then took one of them to the foreign exchange bureau to change some money. They drank their coffee and made their way through the underground passages to the railway station. Leaving his guests temporarily he took the escalator to the booking hall to check the platform number. Some 30 minutes still to go.

No 12:50 on the departure board. Of course, being an important international train it will be shown on the special InterCity board. But the InterCity departure board was showing non-stop advertisements. He found an old fashioned paper timetable – no 12:50. Hold on, it was there, but shown as departing from Warszawa Zachodnia (Warsaw West).

He rushed downstairs with the dreadful news. We can get to Zachodnia in 5 minutes, he told his guests, but the next train is in 15 minutes. Let’s grab a taxi, said the leading VIP. Precious time ebbed as they rushed to the taxi rank, agreed a price and bundled in their luggage.

They rushed off, going up Aleje Jerozlimskie – all was well they would just make Zachodnia in good time. At this point my friend did what he should have done at the start he asked to see the railway ticket. There it was the 12:50 – departing from Wschodnia (Warsaw East). He had misread the time table – left to right is East to West not vice versa.

He turned the taxi round and the driver performed a miracle in getting them to Wschodnia – 3 minutes after their train has left! A large some of money was paid to the taxi driver and my friend – at this point on the verge of having a stroke – went off with his friends’ ticket to the information office.

Here he learnt three interesting things. First another group of Brits had had a similar experience a few moments earlier. Second, his friends could still make their destination in good time if they took the 15:40 train. Third the rebooking fee would be less than their taxi fare across Warsaw!

They made their way to the international ticket window. There was only one person ahead of them, but it took the booking attendant 40 minutes to service the customer. Finally they were at the window. Ten minutes later they were clutching their new tickets. With plenty of time to spare they went for a beer and a meal at the restaurant across the road from the station.

All’s well that ends well, although there was a moments panic when my friend misheard the platform announcement and nearly put his guests on the train from Moscow which arrives a couple of minutes earlier.

(Intending passengers please note, all Warsaw – Moscow trains call at Warszawa Centralna with the exception of the 12:50.)

Koluszki inspection

Monday, 25 May 2009

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Warsaw – Lodz railway modernisation
Stage 1 – Skierniewice Lodz

The railway line between Warsaw and Lodz is being modernized in stages. Stage 1, the rebuilding of the line between Skierniewice and Lodz Widzew, was started in July 2006 and completed on 16 June 2008. The cost of the project was 905,151,233 PLN, of which 678,863,425 PLN was funded by the European Regional Development Fund and 226,287,508 PLN by the Polish Government. At the time, the project was billed by PKP as the biggest infrastructure in Poland.

We took our Chief Engineer to Koluszki1 station, the site of a major junction on the line, and recorded his comments.

All photographs were taken on Sunday 24 May, 2009. Click twice on the pictures for a magnified view.

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The new platform for the Warsaw – Lodz services is on the left. Other trains use the older platform on the right.

The Lodz platform on the left seems OK, but read on. The platform on the right – rebuilt in the 1970s – has been resurfaced but not raised. The new platform awnings constructed on both platforms stop about a metre short of the platform edge and don’t reach as far as the subway or the ticket office.

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The view to Warsaw

The main line for Warsaw trains appears to be well laid out for 160 km/h running. But what is the lady with the shopping trolley doing on the staff crossing? And why is there no warning device which is activated when a train is about to cross.

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The view to Lodz

Once again, the lines for the Lodz services seems well laid out. The tracks to Tomaszow Mazowiecki and Piotrkow Trybunalski less well so.

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Wroclaw-bound train arrives at Koluszki

Let’s hope that the lady with the trolley is clear of the crossing. Clicking the picture for an enlarged view shows that one of the ‘main lines’ is in fact a badly aligned dead end and that Warsaw bound trains leaving the Lodz platform road have to negotiate a couple of crossovers to reach the running line.

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Weeds sprouting up in the newly laid sidings.

It would appear that the reused ballast has not been properly cleaned and screened.

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The white line is disintegrating.

The home-made concoction of cement and paint has not lasted one winter! The appropriate material for the job is thermoplastic paint.

Overall, this seems to have been a modernisation carried out on the cheap where a glossy appearance took precedence over functionality.

It would have been appropriate to conclude this article with a Google Maps view of Koluszki station, but unfortunately in the satellite photography purchased by Google, Koluszki station is under a cloud!

1 Pronounced “COLL-OO-SH-KI”.

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Warsaw to Lodz faster in 1934!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

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

(Click to see picture in original context.)

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

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

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

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

Dyspozytor

On yer bike!

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

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Groningen Railway Station just look at all that
space allocated to pedestrians and cyclists!

I’m grateful to Christian Wolmar, Britain’s rail pundit, for giving me the idea for tonight’s post. What with saving the planet on Saturday and trying to save the Krosniewice Railway on Monday, recent posts were going to be a hard act to follow, and I was really stumped. Then I read Christian’s blog about his trip to Holland.

I am in Holland for a ten day speaking tour to local groups of the Anglo-Dutch friendship society and I plan to post regular items on the blog on my thoughts. Whenever I go to Europe and spend a bit of time there, it amazes me just how different each society is from Britain, and indeed from each other. I hope that the growing dominance of the European Union does not change that.

I went for a run this morning in the suburbs of a small town called Hengelo… Just on this short run, it became so apparent the way that life is organised around the bicycle.

I ran along a Fitspad, a bike path, for a couple of miles, and when I ran outwards, there were just a few students and the odd youngster on their bikes, but on the way back, the cycle path was full of kids, parents with kids on bikes, parents with kids on the back, and groups of teenagers. It was cycle rush hour just before school was starting and it was so nice seeing all these children cycling to school… (more… )

11 days later Christian was in Groningen where 57% of the journeys in the city are made by bicycle.

Staying in a small town 10 km from Groningen, I borrowed my host’s bike and rode in to town to see how it managed to become the place with the greatest modal share of cycling in Holland. I had been there five years ago and discovered that it was not just happenstance, but a deliberate result of keeping cars out of the city.

Riding in, it was noticeable how car traffic thinned out as I got closer to the rather badly reconstructed main square, which had been badly damaged by heavy fighting in the war as the Canadians chased out the Germans in 1945. The inner ring road has virtually no cars and, of course, lots of space for cyclists. Inside that ring, there are virtually no cars. Indeed, the crucial decision to encourage cycling rather than cars had been made in the 1970s when that ring had become chock full of traffic.

The reason for the town’s success in achieving a modal share of over 50 per cent for cycling is nothing very complicated. The crucial point is not only being pro-bike but to some extent being anti car. That is the stumbling block for policymakers in this country. You need both the carrot and the stick. (more… )

Christian’s posts got me thinking, maybe we could reduce our CO2 emissions in a way that would actually make our towns more pleasant to live in and would be beneficial for our health? I started Googling ‘Groningen cycle paths’ and discovered another interesting post on the On the Level blog.

Groningen was amazing. I travelled of my own volition– something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, to experience the city with the highest percentage of cycling in Europe. 57% of all trips are made by bicycle in this student town in the North of the Netherlands. It surely did not disappoint. As soon as I arrived, I was a little overwhelmed at the numbers of people on bikes. It was like Critical Mass everyday. The way it should be. Paradise on wheels.

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Railway station, cycle park!

The City of Groningen’s 21st century solution to the problem of cycle overcrowding at their railway station – the brand new underground bike park. The station now has room for more than 4000 bicycles, all of them monitored 24 hours a day and many of them valet parked. There is bike repair, rental, and sales, and the facility is linked to other bike stations through a membership scheme. Cycling in Groningen, and indeed much of the Netherlands, is just the norm. By prioritizing cycle traffic over cars, the Dutch engineers have managed to balance the roadway’s playing field and allow a blossoming of bicycle transport as a practical network useable by just about everyone. (more… )

So what has Poland learnt from European mistakes and European best practise? Very little I’m afraid. The country as a whole is still hellbent on ‘catching up’ Western Europe, even if that means copying faithfully all of Western Europe’s stupid mistakes. Warsaw is a mess with motor car traffic snarled up for 12 hours. There are few decent cycle paths and – instead of converting the City’s tram system to a semi-metro, which could be done relatively cheaply and quickly – the city authorities are very slowly building a Russian style classic metro at the rate of one new station every couple of years. (A semi metro goes underground only where it has to, and runs as a fast tram elsewhere.)

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Wawel Castle and Vistula cycle path, Craców

Cracow, which has always been the intellectual capital of Poland is different. Here new cycle paths are an integral part of new road developments and several fast tram routes are being built across the City. But the Warsaw City authorities are too proud to learn from another Polish city. Perhaps someone should arrange a trip for them to go to Holland instead?