The EU Funds Forum – Development of rail transport in Poland was the second in a series of meetings organized during the European Year of Rail by the Office of Rail Transport. The presentations were online, while the debate was in a mixed form - at the Office of Rail Transport headquarters or remotely.
- During our previous meeting we talked about how to encourage people to use rail transport. Today we will talk about similar issues, but from a different perspective: how railway investments are related to European funds - said Ignacy Góra, President of the Office of Rail Transport. Ignacy Góra spoke about projects implemented by the Office with the EU funding - the ABC Railway Campaign, the Testing and Monitoring Centre for Train Drivers and the Railway Safety Academy. He also mentioned other projects which could be financed from the EU funds and which are important for railway safety - the ETCS Limited Supervision and modern level crossing monitoring systems.
- The priority of the new perspective is to further increase the attractiveness of rail transport. Both for rail freight and passenger transport we can do it by providing adequate infrastructure. The common denominator of these activities, and it must be said during the conference organized by the Office of Rail Transport, is the improvement of rail safety, said Andrzej Bittel, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Infrastructure. Andrzej Bittel presented the priorities in the national rail transport policy in the EU financial perspective for 2021-2027.
Katarzyna Zielińska-Heitkötter, Deputy Director of the Department of Infrastructural Programmes at the Ministry of Development Funds and Regional Policy spoke about the EU priorities for rail transport in 2021-2027 financial perspective. The main priorities of the Ministry are those arising from the European Green Deal and the Digital Agenda, those related to economic consequences of the Covid-19 epidemic and those indicated in strategic documents prepared by the Ministry of Infrastructure. The development of rail transport will have a positive impact on reducing air pollution and increasing the role and share of rail in land transport. The tasks implemented under the priorities will include ensuring the accessibility of rail transport, integration of various modes of transport, development of the TEN-T network and increasing the share of rail transport.
The main risks in the implementation of EU projects were presented by Joanna Lech, Director of the Centre for EU Transport Projects. The most important of them is the need to transfer funds from 2014-2020 perspective to the current one. However, the transferred funds are budgeted for 2021-2027 perspective. Other risks include changes in environmental and construction regulations, technical standards or delays in issuing administrative decisions. An important factor is price increase, especially of building materials. The changes in the scope of projects affect overall costs. Institutional threats are tendering procedures, tight schedules and accumulation of investments. A shortage in labour resources is also a frequent risk.
Maciej Gładyga, Director of the Land Transport Chamber of Commerce, stated that a systemic change in investment pre-financing model is needed in construction sector. The current one is based on the concentration of tendering procedures. This is followed by a long period with almost no new tenders. This model devastates the market. Moreover, rail carriers expect changes in EU programmes for rolling stock investments. Many changes affecting rail market are not dependent on market, for instance important changes are the result of the new EU regulations now being introduced.
During the first part of the conference an outline of EU programmes in the rail sector was presented. Karol Kłosowski, Director of the Passenger Transport Department, Office of Rail Transport, presented the ABC Railway Campaign. Konrad Wojnarowski, Deputy Director of the Strategy and Development Office, Koleje Mazowieckie sp. z o.o., talked about the EU programme which allowed to purchase 12 new electric multiple units. Romuald Mądry, Deputy Director of the Investment Realization Centre, PKP PLK S.A., described the implementation of two programmes during modernization of the E65/C-E 65 railway line on Warsaw - Gdynia section: LCS, ERTMS/ETCS /GSM-R, DSAT and works on railway lines No. 68 and 565 on Lublin - Stalowa Wola Rozwadów section. Piotr Obrycki, Director of the Research and Development Office, and Damian Artyszak, Senior Specialist at PKP Energetyka S.A., presented batteries used during electricity storage which operate as a system for dynamic load reduction of a traction substation which were created with the EU funding.
The Polish Railway Forum ended with the debate on “bottlenecks” in implementation of railway investments. Joanna Lech, Director of the Centre for EU Transport Projects, Ewa Karasińska, Director of the Department of Railway Projects at CEUTP, Marita Szustak, President of the Land Transport Chamber of Commerce, Jakub Kapturzak, Deputy Director of the Railway Department at the Ministry of Infrastructure, Romuald Mądry, Deputy Director of the Investment Realization Centre of PKP PLK S.A. and Kamil Wilde, Vice President of the Office of Rail Transport took part in the debate.
Kamil Wilde, Vice-president of the Office of Rail Transport, reminded that rail transport the safest mode of land transport, but investments in modern safety systems are needed to replace old automatic train braking devices. The participants of the debate also indicated new possibilities of directing the EU funds so that they could effectively encourage the use of rail transport. A tool which could facilitate the decision making process is the Integrated Traffic Model created by the Centre for EU Transport Projects. - We are at the stage when the model will be a tool used to support the decision-making process – commented Joanna Lech. - It is a tool that will help you make decisions, but will never make any decisions for anyone - she added.
- I would like to point out that there has never been so much money invested in railways in Poland, that the Polish infrastructure has never changed so much and we never had such funds for the modernization and purchase of new rolling stock - summed up the discussion on EU funds Ignacy Góra, President of the Office of Rail Transport.