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What's up with the trains in Poland (the whole system in complete chaos?)


mafketis 17 | 6,756    
18 Dec 2010  #1
Polish people love complaining about PKP but most of the time they don't have that much to complain about relatively speaking (more than one Brit has told me that train service in Poland is superior to that of Britain).

But this winter between the change of schedules (why do that in winter anyway?) and snow (apparently it's never snowed in Poland before this year) the whole system has been thrown into complete chaos.

True to Polish cultural norms, the government response has been to try to find people to blame and punish (instead of improving the situation).

My own ideas:

1. For years successive Polish governments have been trying to get rid of PKP and privatize train service.

2. National train service doesn't lend itself well to privatization for lots of reasons (not least: private companies run on lean margins and won't have the resources to deal with emergencies and disasters).

Any thoughts?
delphiandomine 85 | 17,657    
18 Dec 2010  #2
Polish people love complaining about PKP but most of the time they don't have that much to complain about relatively speaking (more than one Brit has told me that train service in Poland is superior to that of Britain).

Add me to that list. It astonishes me that I can go 700km on the highest standard train for about 40 pounds - with the ticket bought 10 minutes before departure. Impossible in the UK, and the train standard is above UK standard.

But this winter between the change of schedules (why do that in winter anyway?) and snow (apparently it's never snowed in Poland before this year) the whole system has been thrown into complete chaos.

It's the logical consequence of what successive governments have attempted to do. I'm not surprised there was chaos - PKP Intercity and Przewozy Regionalne aren't working well together, for a start.

Any thoughts?

Yes. It's all due to inept management from the transportation ministry, combined with a workforce that doesn't want to modernise and a huge section of society that demands very cheap tickets.
Englishpoznan 4 | 102    
18 Dec 2010  #3
and the train standard is above UK standard

Now I know you are still drunk from last night!!
Seanus 15 | 19,716    
18 Dec 2010  #4
Scotrail is different from its English counterpart so to speak of a 'British' rail service isn't accurate. The Poles tend to overstate the problems with their trains but I've only once had a problem here and that was due to an unforeseeable technical defect.

Many Poles have told me that their fellow citizens expect too much from life and trains appears to be a part of that.
zetigrek    
18 Dec 2010  #5
The trains are always late... No wonder that everyone complains.
Seanus 15 | 19,716    
18 Dec 2010  #6
They are not always late, Zeti. It can be considered somewhat as a problem in terms of certainty not being guaranteed but it isn't entirely chaotic. I think part of the problem is that some Poles feel they can do as they please and then not apologise to anybody for it. It's part of their hard-done-by attitude. The self piteous type so others have to suffer too.
cms 9 | 1,287    
18 Dec 2010  #7
They have deteriorated steadily over the last 3-4 years while the cost has gone up steeply. When I arrived in the in 1997 I think Poznan-Warsaw was 35 PLN - now its about 110 PLN on InterCity, far higher than inflation and the time of the journey has gone up 15 mins. They have never been more comfortable than British trains but they were generally punctual.

This winter has been particularly bad - 9 of my last 10 trains have been late.

Its going to get worse rather than better - the govt does not have the money to fix it and the prices can not go much far higher without a demand drop off or a switch to buses. Shame because I'm a big fan of train travel.
Seanus 15 | 19,716    
18 Dec 2010  #8
The government doesn't have the money to fix what? Trains coming on time has nothing to do with money.
Wroclaw 44 | 5,389    
18 Dec 2010  #9
London - Newcastle: 2.5 hours

Wroclaw - Warsaw: 5+ hours

distance in both cases: the same.

Wroclaw - Berlin: 6 hours: this will be halved when we eventually get the new line and trains.

Value for money on Polish trains is very good, but it's worth looking for deals when going international.

At least one can stretch out in the old style compartment trains sometimes.

there are delays. the same occurs, almost anywhere, with coaches and planes.
jwojcie 2 | 763    
18 Dec 2010  #10
I usually don't complain about my beloved country much but most of the time when I use PKP trains I'm really sorry that they didn't break up in 90'... To put long story short after 89' they were the biggest state company (something like 200000 employes if I recall corectly) and as such they were untouchable due to capacity of organizing big protests. So they are one of the last dinosuars of the communism.

the govt does not have the money to fix it

This is not problem of money. There was a lot money for rail infrastructure in recent EU budget. But those f...rs in PKP did not know how to use it so they used something like 10% of it. Actually there is a plan to switch those money on road program which went surprisingly well and used most money for that. Besides PKP is one of the greatest land owner in PL.

I'm aware that trains are almost nowhere profitable and are more like public service. But again those #$## don't know what to do with land in the centre of city where train station suppose to be a gold mine for them...

ech... so I will not risk much if I tell it is a view of many Poles about PKP. They are crap.
Wroclaw 44 | 5,389    
18 Dec 2010  #11
Actually there is a plan to switch those money on road program which went surprisingly well and used most money for that.

i thought it was the other way around.

they couldn't build the roads, so they were concentrating on the railways.
welshguyinpola 23 | 463    
18 Dec 2010  #12
train standard is above UK standard.

Really?? The trains here are big rust buckets, especially the engine parts. Have u been on virgin trains in the Uk? or First Great Western?
delphiandomine 85 | 17,657    
18 Dec 2010  #13
They have deteriorated steadily over the last 3-4 years while the cost has gone up steeply. When I arrived in the in 1997 I think Poznan-Warsaw was 35 PLN - now its about 110 PLN on InterCity, far higher than inflation and the time of the journey has gone up 15 mins. They have never been more comfortable than British trains but they were generally punctual.

Nothing wrong with Poznan-Warsaw these days - the standard is high, they're comfortable and the high price discourages the riff-raff from taking them. Just compare the average clientele on EIC as opposed to TLK - there really is no comparison.

Really?? The trains here are big rust buckets, especially the engine parts. Have u been on virgin trains in the Uk? or First Great Western?

Virgin just doesn't compare to the EIC product - I'd rather have the big, roomy EIC trains than the cramped cattle wagons that are Pendolinos. I'd actually be inclined to say that EIC trains are equal to East Coast in their offering.

The whole problem with PKP Intercity and Przewozy Regionalne is that the people demand they run uneconomic trains. If the will was there to redraw the entire network and change things for the better - we would see a drastic change. Of course, it would mean Pawel and Magda wouldn't be able to travel from their village to Warsaw by train - but who cares?
jwojcie 2 | 763    
18 Dec 2010  #14
they couldn't build the roads, so they were concentrating on the railways.

Well, no. With roads currently the only problem are the money. With railways still the main problem is a bunch of state companies unable to use funds reserved for them.
Wroclaw 44 | 5,389    
18 Dec 2010  #15
ok. thanx for putting me right.
sobieski 107 | 2,129    
18 Dec 2010  #16
Of course, it would mean Pawel and Magda wouldn't be able to travel from their village to Warsaw by train - but who cares?

I have to disagree with you on this point. Rail transport is a basic service (and as such should not be privatized), not only IC trains matter.

Paweł and Magda have the same right to get to Warsaw on their "osobowy" as a business type has to travel on an EIC train.

I can understand that the EIC and EC trains should run on a profit. But the countless commuters who travel on SKM trains have their rights as well.
PlasticPole 7 | 2,662    
18 Dec 2010  #17
2. National train service doesn't lend itself well to privatization for lots of reasons (not least: private companies run on lean margins and won't have the resources to deal with emergencies and disasters).

It depends on what company they use. Trains tend to run in the black a lot, but maybe not in Poland? If something happens they will just run to the Polish govt for a bailout so there's nothing to worry about.
delphiandomine 85 | 17,657    
18 Dec 2010  #18
I have to disagree with you on this point. Rail transport is a basic service (and as such should not be privatized), not only IC trains matter.
Paweł and Magda have the same right to get to Warsaw on their "osobowy" as a business type has to travel on an EIC train.
I can understand that the EIC and EC trains should run on a profit. But the countless commuters who travel on SKM trains have their rights as well.

But this is exactly the problem - to allow Pawel and Magda to get to Warsaw, you have to inconvenience the people who generate the profits.

Poland cannot afford to subsidise the railways - and they aren't profitable in their current guise. Look at DB - they have a wonderful service in general, but how much did it cost? Likewise with SBB - again, wonderful service, but at a ridiculous cost. Even the UK is pouring billions upon billions into rail, yet it's still not perfect.

Poland needs to decide if they want the railways to be independent, or to be a public service. Right now, they're neither.
sobieski 107 | 2,129    
18 Dec 2010  #19
As I wrote before, public transportation is a human right. DB and SBB (and my native NMBS) have taken the decision just so. Independent (meaning privately run, owned by greedy shareholders who have a chauffeur-driven Jag and should be sent to Saint-Helena) railways are a disaster. In the UK they are a disaster. Dirty, overcrowded, expensive, hopeless.

Passengers are a liability.
Look across the Channel to SNCF. See the difference?
delphiandomine 85 | 17,657    
18 Dec 2010  #20
As I wrote before, public transportation is a human right. DB and SBB (and my native NMBS) have taken the decision just so.

But DB and SBB are also expensive compared to Poland. Look at the cost of a single ticket from Frankfurt (Oder) to Berlin - a 70km journey is about 10 euro. The same journey in Poland on the same class of train (Regio) is about 2.50 euro. Yet the costs aren't 4 times less - if anything, Przewozy Regionalne's costs are quite high.

If public transportation is a right, then you need to look at the amount of public money needed to bring them up to scratch. DB and SBB have spent a small fortune - and both of them have very, very high fares compared to Poland.

You could even look at NS - they aren't doing too well in general. I'd actually only rate SBB in Europe as being a quality operator - and this is all because the Swiss have absolutely poured money into their network. Yet - their trains aren't particularly fast either, but that's because the Swiss were pragmatic enough to choose reliability over speed.

Independent (meaning privately run, owned by greedy shareholders who have a chauffeur-driven Jag and should be sent to Saint-Helena) railways are a disaster.

I don't think they work at all - and this is part of the problem in Poland.

Look across the Channel to SNCF. See the difference?

But SNCF isn't perfect either - the TGV network is incredible, yes - but how much did this cost France? SNCF Proximités isn't exactly great either - the local train network in France is rather poor on the whole.

The problem in Poland is that the railways need massive, massive investment to bring them up to scratch. Look at the state of some lines - for example, Sanok-Kroscienko-Chyrow(UA) or Leszno-Glogow. In fact, on the first line - the line is actually in better condition between the PL/UA border and Chyrow than it is on the Polish side.

There really is no quick answer in Poland. Still, EIC is nice in general, and the night trains are of a generally decent standard (no complaints with Poznan-Przemysl or Wroclaw-L'viv). The TLK trains are also improving quite quickly - though they are hit or miss. I'm also told that the new "RegioEkpress" trains are quite good.
Plato - | 10    
18 Dec 2010  #21
Privatization wouldn't make the tracks safer on the contrary it only puts on some paint on the demaged stuff while prices rise. So I say, rather pump in some tax money, will come cheaper at the end of the year I'm sure.

And trains are still great in Poland. Didn't use them lately, but even as a student I used it while in UK I prefered rideshare stuff and not only for financial reasons! It can be a pain to go by train in some areas, especially when I traveled cheap and had to change a lot I allways worried if I did everything right not to be fined.
delphiandomine 85 | 17,657    
18 Dec 2010  #22
So I say, rather pump in some tax money, will come cheaper at the end of the year I'm sure.

The problem is that pumping in tax money isn't going to make things better. There's examples where newly-renovated PKP Intercity carriages were left to rot - and if the "good" company can do this, what hope does Przewozy Regionalne have?

The railway problems in Poland are just way too complex to solve without total political agreement - and that won't happen, because PiS are the party of lazy moustaches.
cms 9 | 1,287    
19 Dec 2010  #23
Why does it need PIS agreement ? PO are the govt and have the presidency. For 3 years they told us once they have the presidency they will sort everything out.

In any case the problems on the railways accelerated after PIS have left power - PO have achieved next to nothing in terms of modernization of the lines and though they may have been full of "moustaches" PiS did have some people who had actually worked on railways before. And it is a question of money - the investment needed is huge. The new timetables saw many lines add 10-20 minutes because of new speed restrictions.

PO will no longer have the money to do it even if it got PIS agreement - the deficit is too large and the timescales too long and EU funds likely to be frozen. The only way out is price increases or cutting services.

I don't think it should be run for a profit - in my view a decent train service adds a lot to growth and it should get similar investment levels to roads.
Harry    
19 Dec 2010  #24
But DB and SBB are also expensive compared to Poland. Look at the cost of a single ticket from Frankfurt (Oder) to Berlin - a 70km journey is about 10 euro. The same journey in Poland on the same class of train (Regio) is about 2.50 euro.

The week before last my girlfriend and I went to England to visit my mother. Two return train tickets for the 150km journey from the airport and back would have cost £188/910zl (assuming that I bought the tickets 14 days in advance). Instead I hired a car for £80/388zl and spend another £25 on fuel. The really amusing part is that that £188 wouldn't even have included seats: my uncle apparently quite often takes the train to London which we would have been on and he said that unless he pays for a seat reservation, he always has to stand up all the way to London.
delphiandomine 85 | 17,657    
19 Dec 2010  #25
Why does it need PIS agreement ? PO are the govt and have the presidency. For 3 years they told us once they have the presidency they will sort everything out.

Because otherwise, PiS will antagonise the various railway companies to go on strike. Likewise with the SLD - all for political points. It's such a big job (vast redundancies needed, a vast amount of money needed to pay for it all) that it can't be done without political agreement. Of course, in the very unlikely event of PO winning a clear majority in the Sejm and Senat next year, they can go ahead without worrying about anyone else.

PO will no longer have the money to do it even if it got PIS agreement - the deficit is too large and the timescales too long and EU funds likely to be frozen. The only way out is price increases or cutting services.

Exactly. But the problem is that the people demand their uneconomic services at a price that allows them to travel. For instance, look at the amount of students who would whine if they couldn't afford to travel home every weekend - and this is the real problem. Having a public service is fine and well, but who can afford to pay for this?

For instance - take the (now closed to passenger transit) line from Jaslo to Chyrow(UA). Is there really any sense in subsidising this line, when there is frequent bus transport along the line? The speed is now limited to 20km/h - how much money is it going to cost to repair this entire line, and for what?

Trains make sense in busy corridors - but they don't make much sense in rural backwaters.


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