This event was notable, as for the first time, members had the chance to listen to a representative of the new Ministry of Development, which was set up by the new government late last year. Under-secretary of state Witold Słowik was the keynote speaker, and he explained how Poland would be spending EU funds on road and rail projects.
He said that the government would be placing a greater emphasis on railways than in the previous EU financial perspective. The goal for the road projects would be to finish connecting the motorway and expressway network, so that Warsaw would be linked to all of Poland's major cities. Mr Słowik said that rail closures would stop, rail would be made more accessible, links would be reactivated. For long-distance travel, InterCity rail would continue to be made a more attractive alternative to driving. Inland waterways would not be neglected, especially where they could form part of an intermodal transport network. And urban transport would be integrated more closely, with 13 agglomerations being eligible for funding projects intended to improve public transport links. Mr Słowik accepted that Poland would have to move towards private funding of public infrastructure for when the EU funds ended, saying that Britain's experience in PPP projects could prove useful for Poland.
Michał Lubieniecki, a partner at Deloitte, gave a detailed overview of the current situation of the state of Poland's transport infrastructure today, also referring to the country's energy transmission backbone, and where the choke-points may occur in future.
The last presentation was from Mott MacDonald's Jacek Piliszek, who spoke frankly about the obstacles facing engineers and contractors in the delivery of infrastructure projects in Poland. Dr Piliszek said that an overly adversarial approach and 'blame culture' on the part of the tendering bodies led to too many court cases, which were long and costly and benefited no one. He said that a better alternative would be arbitration, where construction professionals, and not judges, would decide the outcome of the case. More often than not, said Dr Piliszek, the public sector would place all the risk on the private sector, leading to many bankruptcies.
Dr Piliszek's presentation was a good starting point for a panel discussion moderated by the BPCC's Michael Dembinski. Participants were Wojciech Hartung – legal adviser, DZP; Łukasz Rozdejczer – Profitia, representing the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply in Poland; Deloitte's Michał Lubieniecki, Robert Urbański – head of rail products, Mott MacDonald Polska; and Grzegorz Kotte, investment director, PKP PLK S.A. (the company that manages Poland's rail infrastructure). Issues discussed included the prospects for change in the public procurement law in Poland, the professionalisation of procurement in the public sector, and ways of improving cooperation between the public and private sectors.
The event ended with a networking session and an exchange of business cards.