Poland on course to top EU in rail

Poland could have a more modern rail network than its Western European counterparts in two decades, according to the European Union’s top transport official. Kristian Schmidt, who heads the EU’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DG-MOVE), spoke about the Polish government’s plans to create a flagship Solidarity Transport Hub (CPK) project that would develop the country’s rail network. Schmidt praised the initiative, which includes a new “mega-airport,” nearly 2,000 km of high-speed railway lines, and improved road and rail connections.

Schmidt noted that the CPK project would play a crucial role in integrating Ukraine into the EU’s transport network. The CPK recently signed a cooperation agreement with Ukraine’s state rail firm to construct new transport infrastructure, including a planned high-speed line connecting Warsaw to Kyiv via Lviv. The project also aims to combat transport exclusion within Poland by improving connections to previously underserved regions.

However, the CPK project has faced criticism from some experts who argue that the concept of a new mega-airport, conceived before the pandemic, is no longer viable in the post-Covid travel environment. Michal O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair, Poland’s biggest air carrier by passenger numbers, has also criticized the project. He called it an “incomprehensible” and “unnecessary” idea concocted by “very stupid politicians.”

Nevertheless, the Polish government claims that the CPK project still makes economic sense and will be a hub for air cargo and passengers. Poland’s main long-distance train operation, PKP Intercity, carried a record 59 million passengers last year. The CPK predicts that this figure will double to 120 million annually after the development of rail infrastructure is completed.

In summary, the CPK project aims to create a modern and extensive rail network in Poland, which could surpass that of Western Europe in two decades. The project also intends to improve connections to underserved regions within the country and integrate Ukraine into the EU’s transport network. Although the project has faced criticism, the Polish government maintains that it will be an economic hub for air cargo and passengers.

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