- Safety has been the leading activity of UTK. We have supported innovative solutions, promoted the culture of safety and conducted such campaigns as Railway ABC. The information on how to act safely in proximity of railway infrastructure has reached a few million recipients - sums up Mr. Ignacy Góra, Sc. D., the President of UTK, speaking of 2019. - Some other important issues have also included pro-market activities and enhancing access to railways for persons with reduced mobility - he adds.
Safety and education
One of the biggest dangers of railway safety are incidents on railway crossings. The railway system has no influence with regard to the number of accidents involving the participants of road traffic, but UTK has still acted on the improvement of railway safety so that the number of accidents get reduced.
In 2019, on UTK's initiative the preparations to hold tests of the category D crossing monitoring devices had begun. The systems will be mounted this year at selected crossings and should allow for reporting to the relevant government bodies of those drivers, who do not observe regulations. UTK had also coordinated the widening of the range of the "yellow stickers" presence, that have been introduced by PKP PLK, so that they encompass other infrastructure managers in Poland. The sticker allows for easy identification of the place where a crossing is located. In case of an incident it accelerates the reaction of the emergency services and allows for emergency suspension of railway traffic.
UTK has also taken care of drivers’ education. We have prepared a film on “Safe crossings” – a compendium of knowledge on how to act safely while crossing railway tracks. The film's content was consulted with the National Council on Road Traffic Safety, Police Headquarters, Main Inspectorate for Road Transport and PKP Polskie Linie Kolejowe (biggest Polish infrastructure manager). Only on Facebook the film received more than 220 thousand viewings. It is also shown during driving licence courses.
2019 also meant intensification of activities within the Campaign Railway ABC, which started in 2017. UTK’s education teams visited almost 400 schools and kindergartens, where they conducted lessons for more than 12 thousand children. In one of such lessons – organised in March in Duchnice (suburbs of Warsaw) – Polish First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda took part. Summer time saw also the organisation of family picnics in seaside resorts, as well as UTK’s presence at a Children’s Day event in Kraków. More than 21 thousand persons participated in these picnics.
There were also 3 competitions organised for children with help of a phone app, where the prizes included spring camps for whole classes. Until mid-December there was also a competition held, where interested persons could supply their ideas for a mural promoting the Campaign. More than 19 thousand people sent their projects. The winning idea will be placed in June of 2020 by professional mural artists on a wall in the centre of Warsaw.
– Last year the Campaign Railway ABC gained a significant momentum. The will to learn by the youngest ones on the railway safety is inspirational. For us it’s an impulse to continue expanding this project – says Mr. Góra.
Analysis of statistics gathered by UTK shows that main reasons for the rise of potential risks within the railway systems are incidents stemming from failures to stop a train before a stop-sign and accidents related to construction works carried out in proximity to railway lines. As a result of that most activities directed at the improvement of safety were focused on these two issues.
In July UTK - for the first time - organised the Safety Culture Forum – a meeting of 200 signatories of the “Declaration on the Safety Culture in Railway Transport”. The main topic of the meeting was the influence of human factor on railway safety. The participants received information on the results of research on the influence of train-driver’s attention span as a determining factor in the performance of his duties. One of the effects of the forum was the creation of an educational film for train-drivers, which premiered in December during the 4th Gala of the Safety Culture Competition.
Safety level during the modernisation of railway tracks was a topic of trainings for investment companies. Representatives of UTK, National Work Inspection, Main Office for Construction Oversight and PKP Polskie Linie Kolejowe described the main issues in the sphere of the process of planning, organisation and execution of construction works, requirements of construction law, at the same time placing emphasis on the safety rules.
2019 also brought significant change for the UTK Academy. During 3 years of its existence almost 4 thousand railway sector representatives, as well as UTK’s employees, received training on various railway transport issues. Since October of last year the format of trainings has been enhanced. Thanks to EU funds the new project “Railway Safety Academy” was created. During the next 3 years trainings for 7 thousand employees of railway undertakings are planned. The courses will take place at UTK’s HQ in Warsaw, as well as cities, where UTK’s Regional Offices are located.
For the market
Regulations of the 4th Railway Package will come into effect in Poland in six months. Starting on 16 June 2020 Polish carriers and producers will begin to compete on equal terms with their counterparts in other EU countries. UTK, already in 2019, had started to prepare itself for these regulations. One of significant changes is the enhancement of cooperation with the European Union Agency for Railways with regard to single safety certificates and authorisations for placing vehicles in use. The agreement on the subject and scope of cooperation was signed by Mr. Ignacy Góra and Mr. Josef Doppelbauer, the Executive Director of the Agency, during the 2019 TRAKO railway fair in Gdańsk.
As a positive result of the competition of railway market participants in Poland one should note other activities of UTK. In 2019 the President of UTK issued decisions, allowing for open access operations by Przewozy Regionalne and Leo Express. As a result these companies may begin commercial passenger transfers on chosen routes.
UTK has also kept in touch with the market’s representatives. In February an Open Day at UTK took place. During it anyone willing could meet with UTK’s management as well as directors of all departments. UTK’s experts have also been available for representatives of railway market participants during “Fridays at UTK” meetings, organised twice a month. During the Open Day almost 90 persons visited our Office and almost 40 persons decided to meet with UTK’s experts during twice-monthly meetings.
Ensuring the accessibility of railway services for all passengers is one of UTK’s priorities. For years our Office has acted to ensure the rights of passengers with reduced mobility.
The “UTK's Forum on accessible railways” was created in 2019 and it encompasses persons and institutions, that act to ensure the rights of persons with reduced mobility. These representatives help to identify barriers which prevent the development of railways’ accessibility.
UTK has also been one of the first government entities to sign the “Partnership on accessibility” declaration, and the President of UTK is an active participant of the Accessibility Council, functioning in the framework of the governmental programme “Accessibility Plus”.
UTK’s experts have also been engaged in trainings on the public transport, organised by the National Fund on the Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons. As one of the trainings of the Campaign Railway ABC a session was organised for deaf and hearing-impaired children.
Also last year, in cooperation with the Centre on Universal Design, a report on the “Accessibility Audit of the Railway Station in Nasielsk” was published. At the same time there’s work in progress in order to publish a comprehensive guide for railway personnel on handling persons with disabilities, what should lead to significant rise of the level of service of such persons.
We care for history
UTK does not forget about the historical aspects of Polish railways. In 2019 a presentation of a documentary “Ganz. A railway retiree still in motion” began the cyclical activities meant to save railway heritage. The protagonist of the film is Mr. Roman Szymański. His determination has helped to save a relic motor wagon SN61, casually named “Ganz”. The documentary premiered during the first meeting of the Railway Safety Forum, and its special viewing took place in the Gniezno engine house.
A modern office
UTK is a modern government entity and it strives for the development of e-administration. In 2019 we witnessed a substantial rise (76%) in the incoming correspondence by electronic means. We have also encouraged our stakeholders to use electronic forms of contact with our Office. Also outside of the Office we care for using modern technology. Thanks to the appeal by the President of UTK all passenger carriers in Poland have started to honour the “m-Identity” app as identity confirmation means with regard to electronic tickets.
UTK is a socially responsible institution as well. In the CSR framework we organise the “Railway Drop of Blood” campaign. During three editions of this campaign we have been able to collect enough blood to save 300 lives. Thanks to employee voluntary activities we have organised help for elderly persons associated with the Foundation on the Help for Transport Personnel, and also directed our help toward children in orphanages.
Our activities have been designed to support the undertakings operating in the railway market, so that they can safely and effectively realise their goals, aiming for the development of modern and sustainable railway transport.