Poland may have Europe’s most modern high-speed rail network in 20 years, says EU official

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Poland’s rail network may be better than those of western European countries within two decades and could be the most modern on the continent, says the EU’s top transport official. He also notes that Poland will play a key role in integrating Ukraine into the EU’s transport network.

Kristian Schmidt, head of the EU’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (known as DG-MOVE), spoke with business news website Money.pl about the Polish government’s plans to develop Poland’s rail network as part of its flagship Solidarity Transport Hub (CPK) ) projects.

The plans envision building a new “mega-airport” between Warsaw and Łódź as well as creating new road and rail connections, including nearly 2,000 km of high-speed railway lines. The firm behind it last year signed a €1.5 billion design agreement that it described as the largest of its type in Europe.

The Solidary Transport Hub (CPK) within the EU’s Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). Source: CPK press materials.

“In the perspective of 10-20 years, the Polish railway network may be better than in the countries of the ‘old’ European Union, where investments in this means of transport have been neglected for years,” said Schmidt.

“Poland is extremely ambitious…[but] I am sure that in the perspective of two decades it will succeed,” he added “Poland may have the most modern high-speed railway network and occupy a key place on the new political and transport route connecting Ukraine with the rest of Europe.”

Last month, CPK signed an agreement with Ukraine’s state rail firm to cooperate on constructing new transport infrastructure. That includes a planned high-speed line connecting Warsaw to Kyiv via Lviv.

The plans have likewise won praise from the US ambassador to Poland, Mark Brzezinski, who says that the development of transport infrastructure will be key to both “regional security” and “the reconstruction of Ukraine” after the war.

The government official overseeing the CPK project, Marcin Horała, also said that the project will help combat “transport exclusion” within Poland itself, by improving connections to previously underserved regions.

Poland’s main long-distance train operation, PKP Intercity, carried a record 59 million passengers last year, and CPK forecasts that this figure will double to 120 million annually after its development of rail infrastructure is completed.

The CPK project has, however, also faced criticism. Some experts warned that the idea of ​​a new mega-airport, conceived before the pandemic, is no longer so viable in the post-Covid travel environment. However, global passenger numbers have now begun to recover and are predicted to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

Poland’s government claims that the project still makes economic sense and notes that it will be a hub for air cargo as well as for passengers.

Earlier this month, Michal O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair, which is Poland’s biggest air carrier by passenger number, repeated his previous criticism of CPK, calling it an “incomprehensible” and “unnecessary” idea concocted by “very stupid politicians”.

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