The conference on “Prospects of high-speed rail in Poland” was organised at the Polish Chamber of Commerce in Warsaw by the Association of Experts and Managers of Railway and Railway Institute (IK), in cooperation with the International Union of Railways (UIC), and under the patronage of the European Commission, Ministry of Infrastructure and Development, Polish Parliamentary Committee on Infrastructure and the National Chamber of Commerce. The conference was an opportunity for participants to become familiar with the state of work and project plans on high-speed rail (HSR) in Poland and the Czech Republic as well as for a discussion on the possibility of creating high-speed rail in Central Europe.
The conference was attended by: HE Pierre Buhler, Ambassador of France to Warsaw, Mrs Catherine Trautmann, EU Coordinator of the TEN-T Corridor North Sea – Baltic, Mr Stanislaw Żmijan, Chairman of the Polish Parliamentary Committee on Infrastructure, Mr Maciej Gładyga, Deputy Director, Department of Railway Transport at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Development, Mr Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director General.
Members of Polish Parliament were represented by Mr Cezary Grabarczyk (former Minister of Infrastructure) and Mr Jozef Racki. Mr Andrzej Massel, former Vice Minister for Infrastructure – responsible for railways, also attended the event.
Attendees also included Mr Witold Stepien, Marshal of Lodz city and Mr Krzysztof Kwiatkowski, President of the Supreme Audit Office (NIK), and more than 100 people from government bodies, academia, industry and the media. A representative of the Embassy of the Czech Republic also took part in the conference. The meeting was chaired by Mr Adam Wielądek, Honorary Chairman of UIC.
Mrs Catherine TRAUTMANN, EU Coordinator of the TEN-T Corridor North Sea – Baltic Sea, noted in her speech that “the Polish project of high-speed rail between Warsaw – Lodz – Wroclaw and Poznan extended to Germany has been identified in the regulations of the EU; this is one of the projects supported by the European Commission, which can benefit from both EU funds and EIB loans and private funding, including the Connecting Europe Facilities Fund (CEF), which is specifically dedicated to improving cross-border rail connections.”
She added that “high-speed rail is part of the restructuring of the entire transport system. It is a means of transportation for everyone: for business, local communities and tourists. It is necessary to seeing the future in a broader perspective than the current needs.”
Mr Stanislaw ŻMIJAN said that HSR in Poland is an expensive investment and one should ask whether there are sufficient resources. He pointed out that the current financial perspective (2014-2020) on railway investments will be available in the “Juncker fund”, the CEF and Cohesions Funds. He noted that the European Commission shifts the allocation of funding in favour of rail transport. He also expressed hope that the conference will find answers on how to combine and efficiently use all available means to implement the programme for a rail high speed project.
Among the invited guests there was the Ambassador of France to Warsaw Mr Pierre Buhler saying that high-speed trains in France are a popular means of transport and contributed to the significant dynamics of development of regions. In each of the cities where the TGV has been launched, they noticed a positive impact on regional planning and economic development. He stressed the benefits of being able to travel quickly between cities in France.
In his presentation, Mr Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director General, discussed the dynamic growth of high-speed systems in the world, indicating how high speed passenger rail has revolutionised, making it profitable and competitive. He said that high-speed rail projects have been the largest transport projects in recent years. High-speed lines are either being built or being planned in dozens of countries around the world.
As of April this year, the world HSR network comprises: 29 792 km high-speed lines, 18 356 km under construction, and 34 664 km of lines planned in the next few years. According to the OECD, half of capital expenditure for rail transport in the world in the coming years will be spent on the development of HSR.
In a dedicated part of his speech to Polish partners, he underlined the UIC studies results and UIC members reporting that development of HS systems are inevitable in the future to obtain modal shift and gain market share. Interconnectivity, technological step changes and innovations have assisted these developments. HSR are also regional solutions (e.g. HS Poland to connect with EU network: i.e. Berlin, Prague), these kinds of investments are strongly supported by EU policy.
Five years ago, UIC was involved in a prefeasibility study for PKP and it was useful for this case. Polish Railways (PKP) has been an active UIC member from its founding in 1922 and obliges us to assist the ambitious project further. Due to innovative solutions such as HS systems, the railways will be more attractive to younger generations – almost every recent study confirms that the generation gap in railways industry is growing. We have to respond to negative trends, so transfer of knowledge, education, training are areas in which UIC can greatly contribute, e.g. the recent EMBA project.
At the end of the conference, Mr Loubinoux invited all interested conference participants to the 9th World Congress on High Speed Rail, which will be held from 7 – 10 July in Tokyo, where UIC will hold its General Assembly the day before.