Poland re-discovers the railways
The European Investment Bank is ensuring some funds flow into the the Polish railway sector, which is currently in a great state of flux. The state-owned railway firm PKP will use the money to procure rolling stock and improve infrastructure. In the freight segment. PKP Cargo is implementing technology developed in Poland to speed up gauge changes at the eastern borders.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) is supporting an investment programme which has been lined up by the Polish state-owned railway operator PKP with a loan of approximately EUR 233 million.
The overall aim of the programme is to shift traffic from the roads to the railways and to improve the general quality of the Polish rail network. The investments will be made in both the passenger as well as the freight transport sectors.
The roads as a model
PKP Intercity plans to purchase new rolling stock, for example, in order to help to improve services to and from the neighbouring countries of Slovakia, Czechia, Germany, Hungary as well as Austria.
For EIB vice-president Vazil Hudak the loan is the right measure to bring Poland’s rail network into line with those of Western European countries. “Poland already has a rather modern road network; now it wants to achieve similar results in the railway industry. The EIB supports this strategy, as it improves quality and simultaneously benefits the environment,” Hudak said.
In addition to new rolling stock, extensive investment in railway infrastructure is also in the pipeline. A major contract was awarded in this field to the Austrian construction company Porr in mid-September. Together with its Polish partner Trakcja System, Porr will modernise a 71 km stretch of tracks running between Kalina and Rusiec Łódzki.
The line is particularly important for freight traffic, as it connects the southwestern industrial region of Upper Silesia with the country’s Baltic Sea ports of Gdansk and Gdynia. The construction contract is worth approximately EUR 290 million and should be completed by May 2023.
Polish solution for gauge change
PKP Cargo, the freight division of the Polish Railways, is also working on the ongoing improvement of its services. The measures include reducing waiting times for freight trains at borders.
It’s necessary to change gauge from the European standard to the Russian standard gauge in cross-border traffic linking Poland to its neighbouring countries of Lithuania, Belarus as well as Ukraine. Such transfers are rather time-consuming, all in all, which is why PKP Cargo wants to improve the situation, also on account of growing Eurasian rail transport volumes.
One solution that has been proposed is called Polsuw. The system was developed by engineers from the Technical Universities of Warsaw and Poznan and from the Warsaw Railway Institute. This advanced technology enables the bogies of a freight train to be quickly modified for a change of gauge at the borders.
Polsuw – patented and purchased
PKP Cargo has now bought the patent for Polsuw. It is planning to implement it in its own fleet, and subsequently hopes to sell it under licence to other railway enterprises too. “Time is money in logistics too, and Polsuw helps forwarders gain time,” according to the country’s deputy infrastructure minister Andrzej Bittel, who is pleased with the move.