Monika Stopa, head of the transport implementation section at the Ministry of Development, set out the government’s investment plans in the years to 2023, showing the amount of EU and national funds that will be spent on road, rail and waterways – as well as the assumptions behind the plans. A total of 67 billion zlotys has been earmarked for spending on railway infrastructure to 2023. It is clear that environmental and social issues are at the forefront of the government’s thinking, and that as a result, more freight – especially bulk cargo – should move by rail. Intermodal freight transport, moving containers from sea to rail and finally to road for the last part of the journey is being incentivised by a 25% discount. Yet despite this, high track-access fees form a significant disincentive to transfer cargo from road to rail.
In an A.T. Kearney presentation [download] it was made clear that Poland has among the highest track-access charges (in terms of € per tonne/kilometre) of any EU member state. The result is a chicken-and-egg situation in which less cargo travels by rail, leaving less revenue for maintenance etc. If Poland were to reduce track-access charges, one of the main beneficiaries would be its locomotive manufacturers, like PESA or Newag as rail-freight operators would see the financial sense in investing in new rolling stock.
Konstantin Skorik, chairman of the board of Freightliner PL, outlined the problems currently faced by operators in the Polish market. These include long detours while tracks are being modernised, the need for long, slow cargo trains to share tracks with increasingly fast passenger trains, and track-access fees that are higher than in Germany, the UK or France.
Ms Stopa and Mr Skorik were joined for a panel discussion by Wojciech Jurkiewicz, chairman of the board of ZNPK, the association of independent train operators, Andrzej Pawłowski, member of the board of infrastructure operator PKP PLK, Mariola Pyciarz, director of sales office at PKP PLK, and Radosław Poczynek, head of the rail policy section in the railways department of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Construction.
The discussion centred on the obstacles standing in the way of rail modernisation – the one-year delay in preparing projects for tender – which include a shortage of experienced project managers.
The meeting was a useful opportunity to further the dialogue between private-sector operators such as Freightliner PL and the Polish government and state-owned infrastructure operator PKP PLK. The outcome of the meeting will hopefully be a better appreciation of the need to lower track-access charges to levels nearer the EU average if more freight is to be carried by rail.