The 1990s in Poland were a very difficult time for the railway industry. A drastic reduction in the numer of passengers and the weight of transported cargo, abandoning the purchase of rolling stock and limiting the expenditure on the maintenance of infrastructure led to gradual degradation of the railway industry. In addition, the structure of the Polish State Railways proved to be insufficiently adapted to the rules applicable in the free market economy. Changes occurred along with the accession of Poland to the European Union in 2004.
According to the relative balance between investments in road and railway infrastructure,
as suggested by the EU (the proportions were 60 and 40 respectively) to which aid funds were allocated, starting from 2008 the condition of railway lines and stations began to improve slowly. An
impulse to hinder negative trends in the railway industry was the Euro 2012 European football championships, when the repairs on some railway lines started (modernisation, refurbishment, liquidation
of spot speed limits) accompanied by the renovation of major railway stations, including Warszawa Centralna railway station, Main Railway Station in Wrocław, and in numerous other cities such as
Iława, Gdynia, Przemyśl, Tarnów, Malbork, Leszno, Ełk, and Terespol (several dozen stations in total). A few cities decided to build new railway stations, e.g. Kraków, Katowice, Poznań, Bydgoszcz and
Łódź (the underground station in Łódź Fabryczna). This has been an ongoing process which involves renovations and commissioning of subsequent buildings, e.g. in Toruń, Kostrzyn, Siedlce, and Opole.
The railway stations' facilities situated by the side lines or closed lines are handed over to local governments or private investors, sometimes against symbolic payment.
Currently PKP group is the administrator of 18 510 km of railway lines, of which 11 795 km are electric lines. On the other hand, 394 km of tracks remain non-electrified (Linia Hutnicza Szerokotorowa – Broad Gauge Metallurgy Line).Warszawska Kolej Dojazdowa (Warsaw Commuter Railway) previously administered by the Polish State Railways, actually using voltage of 3 kV DC, was sold to the local government of Warsaw.
IIn parallel to purchasing new rolling stock the existing railway infrastructure is being repaired using both domestic funds and European grants. The most important programmes ensuring partial reimbursement of the expenditure on the repairs of railway lines and structures include: the Operational Programme Infrastructure and Environment, Cohesion Funds, TEN-T Fund, Operational Programme Innovative Economy and Regional Operational Programmes.
The most complicated task was to stop the degradation of railway infrastructure. Thus, the complete replacement of tracks, traction, and traffic control and safety systems was given up for the sake of modernisation or refurbishment of the lines. In the first case it means that the travelling speed will be increased up to approximately 160 km/h (replacement of track surface, traction network etc.), and in the second – up to 120 km/h (replacement of track surface without upgrading primary operating parameters). Modernisation was carried out on railway routes connecting the main cities of Poland, while refurbishment – on less busy lines where it was sufficient to increase the speed to 100–120 km/h. Funds for these investments are mainly provided by the EU under a few aid programmes available in the period 2007–2013 and 2014–2020.
Long-term plans for the development of the railway infrastructure also assume the implementation of a uniform European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) for Trans-European corridors (TEN-T network) passing through Poland. The project aims to ensure interoperability of railway transport in Europe.
In 2011 PKP PLK commenced the first stage of the investment, that is, implementation of the Global System for Mobile Communications–Railway (GSM-R) which will increase the safety and frequency of trains and make railway traffic smoother. Radio communications systems now in operation in Poland are obsolete and are not adapted to simultaneous communication in both directions. The GSM-R system is based on standard technologies for mobile phones, adapted to the needs of railways and is used both for voice and data transmission (for the needs of ERTMS) between train crews, train drivers, field workers and traffic dispatchers. It guarantees uninterrupted communication at speeds of up to 574 km/h. In March 2016 the Office of Rail Transport issued a permit for ETCS level 2 for the first time in the history of Polish railways.
The first GSM-R launching project was carried out in March 2014 by the consortium Kapsch CarrierCom Sp. z o.o. and Kapsch CarrierCom AG co ering 86 km of the E30 line, on the Legnica–Węgliniec–Bielawa Dolna section. Because of the rollout two mobile switching centres (MSC) were built in Warsaw and in Poznań and the heart of the system – the Network Management Centre – was established in Warsaw. In addition, 16 radio communications structures were built and 25 base transceiver stations (BTS) were installed. In June 2015, Kapsch, to the order of PKP PLK, finished works on a GSM-R system on the railway line E-30 from Legnica via Wrocław to Opole. In addition, 16 radio communications structures were set up and 25 base transceiver stations (BTS) were installed. In January 2016 a third project related to the implementation of a GSM-Rsystem was completed on the E-20 line (Kunowice–Terespol), more than 855 km long. 107 radio communication towers were built along the line, of which 56 were built by Kapsch on the Kunowice-Łowicz section (length ca. 400 km), and Nokia set up 51 towers on the route from Łowicz to Terespol. In addition, the radio communications hubs in Warsaw and Poznań were expanded.
Operational Programme Infrastructure and Environment
This programme aims to improve the operation of the railway or road infrastructure by building new transport routes and expanding or modernising the existing connections. The objective is to increase the competitiveness of economy, shorten the time of travelling by train or via a new motorway, including improvement of professional mobility of the population. Under OP I&E in 2007–2013 a total of 14.7 billion euro was allocated to Polish transport in Poland including railway transport plus 2.9 billion euro designed for improving access to the European transport system.
Another infrastructure financing source is the EU Cohesion Fund. Aid under this programme must not exceed 4% of GDP. Grants under CF are used for the modernisation of, for instance, the Warsaw–Gdynia railway line; in 2020 works will be completed on the Wrocław–Poznań line.
TEN -T Fund
This is a special program under which funds will be allocated for preparing project documentation or obtaining permits regarding project performance. Financing for Poland in 2004–2010 amounted to 74.01 million euro and was granted for the needs of 27 projects with a total value of 157.31 million euro. This money was used to design and implement, among other projects, investments on the central railway trunk line (Grodzisk Mazowiecki–Zawiercie) and on the E20/CE (Kunowice–Warsaw) line. The fund also covers the costs of the feasibility studyies, all preparatory works and project documentation.
Operational Programme Innovative Economy
The programme aims, among other things, to develop an innovative methodology and an IT system for managing the codification of railway lines, e.g. for intermodal transport and carriage of oversized cargo. The codification should cover all railway freight transport routes. Ultimately it is planned to build an IT system to manage the codification of lines from various control locations (headquarters, regional office) via intranet.
Regional Operational Programmes
These projects are managed by the local governments of respective voivodeships. Money is supplied from sources such as the European Regional Development Fund under the EU's cohesion policy. ROPs facilitated, for instance, numerous modernisations and refurbishments of the railway infrastructure in:
National Railway Fund
This fund was created by the government of the Republic of Poland to implement the transport policy of the state understood as sustainable development of respective branches of the infrastructure. It is partly funded by the European Union and has been in operation since 2006. The NRF provides financing for construction, repairs and maintenance of railway lines, and for the liquidation of redundant connections. Among investments (>100 million PLN) financed under the NRF and goverment are worth noting:
Certain investments are mostly funded from the state budget. These include, for instance, modernisations of the Psary–Kozłów (2011–2012) line; Central Railway Trunk Line (2010–2013) and refurbishment of the following routes: Gliwice Łabędy–Pyskowice–Błotnica Strzelecka (2010–2014); Gliwice Łabędy–Katowice–Sosnowiec Jęzor (2012–2015); Chorzów Batory–Tczew (completed in 2011) and Fosowskie–Opole (2013–2014). The state budget also provided funds for the reconstruction and modernisation of the Legnica–Wrocław–Opole railway line (project duration 2000–2013); the replacement of tracks and accompanying works on the Kórnik–Poznań Główny section and the reconstruction of the steel bridge on the Warta (2013–2015).