Interview with Piotr Rachwalski,
President of Koleje Dolnośląskie
Koleje Dolnośląskie was founded by the Marshal’s Office in Wrocław. Is the local government of the region satisfied with the present system of railway connections?
I believe we can talk about a huge success, in particular considering the condition of public transport ten years ago, that is, at the time when the company Koleje Dolnośląskie was established. We succeeded in creating a modern and efficient railway transport system although the start was not easy. We built it from scratch because Koleje Dolnośląskie was the first regional railway carrier not originating from the Polish State Railways (PKP). On many lines passenger traffic was restored after several or – like the connection to Trzebnica – more than ten years. It is significant that our cooperation with the regional government has been very successful and looking at the process of reconstructing railway transport in Poland today we can proudly state that Lower Silesia is the most active region in that respect.
Carriers normally seek to launch new lines. What connections has your company offered to passengers recently?
At the beginning of April we launched the Wrocław Sołtysowice - Wrocław Wojnów connection - the first one dedicated to the Wrocław conurbation only. Perhaps the section is not too long but it is very significant to the inhabitants of the eastern part of Wrocław who for seventeen years could not reach the city centre by train. When launching this connection, we were very concerned about the possibility of closer cooperation with the city authorities. We are happy that our company was chosen to render such services. However, I am not surprised as we have been specialising in bringing inactive railway lines back to life as if we were paramedics (laughs). But in spite of putting new lines into operation, Koleje Dolnośląskie finds it very important to develop the existing ones. This is less spectacular than opening a new route but it requires a lot of effort and consistent activity. Thus, the increasing trust of passengers is very reassuring.
A service maintenance workshop for KD trains is planned to be built in 2017. How it will affect the operations of the company?
Adequate technical resources are essential especially for an intensely developing company such as Koleje Dolnośląskie. We own more and more modern vehicles that need proper service maintenance. Having our own repairs and maintenance workshop we will be able to improve the utilization of forces and resources we currently have at our disposal. This investment is a must if we want to be a modern carrier.
42 per cent of passengers using the services of Koleje Dolnośląskie buy monthly tickets. Is this number big or small?
The number of periodic tickets is a measure of confidence enjoyed by the carrier and an offer matching the needs of passengers. This is why we are very happy with the fact that nearly half of the passengers travelling by Koleje Dolnośląskie buy periodic tickets. This is a high ratio despite some routes are typically tourist ones and they are operated on weekends or in summer only. In addition, integrating railway tickets and other transport tickets has a positive effect on the number of regular passengers.
The company has also launched international connections with the Czech Republic and Germany. How popular are they?
They are extremely popular, and in particular the connection with Germany. It is used both by tourists and people working abroad. More and more of them discover that railway is a comfortable alternative to a car and it is also attractive in terms of price. The connection from Wrocław to Berlin – “Train to Culture” – that we have operated together with DB Regio has been a huge success. This route often needs as many as three trains instead of one. Connections with the Czech Republic are also very popular, in particular during holidays. In 2015, in collaboration with CD, we extended our connections from Szklarska Poręba to Liberec. From June to August we also operate a summer season line to Trutnov. In addition, we are going to increase the number of connections with the Czech Republic via Lubavka and reactivate the connections via Mieroszów. We should also remember about Euro-Nysa, making it possible to visit cross-border areas at attractive prices.
Koleje Dolnośląskie signed cooperation agreements with the Modrzejewska Theatre in Legnica and the Human Resources Lifelong Learning and Language Learning Centre. What are these agreements about?
From the beginning of our operation we have wanted to change the perception of railway transport. We want to look at it from a wider perspective, not only as passenger transport. Therefore, we cooperate with many institutions and organisations – from libraries to the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity. The partnership with the Modrzejewska Theatre in Legnica is a natural combination of this approach with our local affiliation. At all times we proudly emphasize our relationships with the region, its inhabitants and cultural heritage. Despite working for the good of the passengers, we pay a lot of attention to our workers and their development. This is why, among other purposes, we signed a training services agreement with the Human Resources Lifelong Learning and Language Learning Centre. It is connected with the increasing number of foreigners visiting Lower Silesia. Just like all other customers they also need to be provided with the highest quality service.
Can you tell us what new things the passengers of KD can expect in 2017?
The most important event will be putting eleven new trains into service. These will be electric multiple units 45WE Impuls. This is a very important step on the way to modernisation of the rolling stock thanks to which we will be able to meet the still increasing expectations of our passengers. The second one, that is the service maintenance workshop, has already been mentioned. Perhaps passengers will not perceive it as new as the new rolling stock but having modern and functional service, repairs and running maintenance facilities will indirectly contribute to improving the quality of services provided to passengers of Koleje Dolnośląskie.