The event was opened by HM Ambassador, Robin Barnett, who spoke enthusiastically about the need for Poland to develop its rail network, and urged Poles not to repeat the mistakes made in the UK 50 years ago, following the Beeching Report. It led to the closure of a quarter of the rail network and 2,500 stations. It is something that Britain regrets today, as rail use hits record levels and commuters take to trains to cut through congested suburban roads. Mr Barnett said that thanks to EU funds, Polish railways can become a modern and competitive means of transport.
The two main presentations were by Justyna Wilde, from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development’s railway department, and Maria Perkuszewska, deputy head of the office of strategic development at PKP PLK.
Ms Wilde talked about the size and scope of the EU funding for Polish railways to 2023,which will total €9.3 billion plus Polish government match-funding. She pointed out, however, that the money had to be spent on infrastructure roll-out, and could not be spent on routine maintenance. This committed the Polish government to increased maintenance spend in future years.
Ms Perkuszewska outlined PKP PLK’s three main objectives for the new financial perspective: to improve the attractiveness and the flow of traffic in Poland’s agglomerations (Warsaw, Silesia, Tri-City, Krakow, Poznan), improving the attractiveness of passenger traffic between metropolitan areas and improving the attractiveness of freight traffic.
Maps presented by both speakers showed the lines that would be prioritised for improvement. These include the E65 corridor (Silesia - Bydgoszcz – Tri-City) and E59 (Wrocław - Zielona Gora - Szczecin); further upgrades on the E20 line on the Warsaw - Poznan (Sochaczew - Swarzędz section) and suburban lines around Warsaw and in the Silesian agglomeration. According to Ms Perkuszewskiej, the first tenders from the new perspective will be published within weeks.
Ms Wilde and Ms Perkuszewska took part in a discussion, answering questions from BPCC members interested in investment projects on the Polish railway network; many centred around the issue of public procurement processes.