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ANALYSIS: How Will the Polish Election Outcomes Reshape the Transport Sector?

ANALYSIS: How Will the Polish Election Outcomes Reshape the Transport Sector?
photo: / Public domain/ANALYSIS: How Will the Polish Election Outcomes Reshape the Transport Sector?
31 / 10 / 2023

The recent outcomes of the Polish elections could significantly alter the dynamics within the transport sector. What specific repercussions might we anticipate?

Infrastructure Minister Andrzej Adamczyk has set a precedent, potentially unmatched in Poland. He held ministerial office continuously for 8 years, overseeing a portfolio comparable to that in the Czech Republic. Furthermore, his responsibilities encompassed not just inland and maritime navigation but also water management. However, in the latter half of his term, he ceased direct involvement in bolstering the CPK project (a high-speed railway and new airport) and delegated responsibilities to his former deputy, government representative Marcin Horala.

In contrast, Adamczyk had to shift his focus to the LOT airline and underwent multiple management changes in state-owned railway corporations. Collaboratively with the Minister of State Property, he navigated challenges in state-owned railway sector enterprises. His successor will have large shoes to fill.

Moreover, Adamczyk's tenure remained untainted by major controversies. The swift pace of highway and road construction is universally lauded, earning mentions even in the Czech Republic. Consequently, criticism predominantly targeted the railway sector, highlighting issues like purportedly haphazard modernizations, deteriorating punctuality of PKP Intercity trains, stalled liberalization of railway infrastructure access for private carriers, and PKP Cargo's dwindling market capitalization and share. While PKP Cargo reported profits this year, detractors argue that it's losing its domestic foothold. In 2015, PKP Cargo was responsible for about 50% of Poland's railway transportation; now it's just one-third, with Deutsche Bahn outpacing it. Jacek Karnowski, CEO of PKP holding during the Civic Platform administration (PKP Cargo is publicly traded on the Warsaw Stock Exchange), remarked that the current market capitalization stands at PLN 0.5 billion, a plunge from PLN 4.5 billion in 2015.

PKP CARGO / Public domain

Paweł Olszewski, ex-chairman of the Sejm's Infrastructure Committee and former deputy in the Infrastructure Ministry representing the Civic Platform, believes the successor will inherit a complex scenario. Opinions regarding the high-speed railway and its central hub, the new airport project, are polarized. The Civic Platform sought an immediate review of the mega-airport initiative post-elections, while the Left proposed its termination. However, these demands may recede as the government recently announced a financial backer for the project, acquiring a 49% stake.

Inland waterway transport has encountered fierce criticism, predominantly from the Left. Spearheaded by MP Daria Gosek-Popiołek, the Left insists on relocating water transport and overall water management (under state enterprise Wody Polskie) from the Infrastructure Ministry to the Ministry of the Environment, concurrently advocating to halt Polish river navigation.

Due to the undeniable progress in Polish infrastructure, there's limited novelty in the parties' agendas. The Civic Coalition is keen on imposing a zero VAT on public transport. Meanwhile, the People's Party, under the Third Way banner, aims to champion hydrogen transport and energy. The Left has introduced a flat-rate ticket system, reminiscent of Germany, priced at PLN 59/month for all public transport and regional railways, promising a surge in electric traction.

Notably, the opposition Civic Platform's 100-point election manifesto barely touches upon the transport sector, except for a mention of the Gdańsk port's expansion. A similar trend is observed in the Third Way's program.