CZ/SK verze

"Railways Must Compete with Planes. High-Speed Rail Is Crucial," Says BUDIMEX Board Member

&quote;Railways Must Compete with Planes. High-Speed Rail Is Crucial,&quote; Says BUDIMEX Board Member
photo: RAILTARGET/Maciej Olek
11 / 06 / 2024

In an exclusive interview with RAILTARGET, Maciej Olek, a member of the board of Budimex SA, shares his views on the future of European railways. The discussion also covers the preparation of high-speed rail in the Czech Republic, a project Budimex is striving to undertake.

As a significant company in the European railway market, what are your expectations from the upcoming European Parliament elections, which will result in a new European Commission?

We leave politics to the politicians and focus on our daily projects. However, we expect the new European Commission to support Poland's energy and transport transformation and to specifically focus on greening transport and railways. We believe that the next term will continue to support railway modernization and further investments in rail and energy projects.

Railway companies play a key role in the bottleneck of the so-called modal shift, moving transport from roads to railways. What do you expect to be accomplished at the European level to make this part of the green deal achievable? Do we need more investments, or do we need to choose a different approach?

There is no universal answer to this. I advocate for an individualized approach to each country and sector of the economy. What is good for railway development in Spain may not be necessary in the Czech Republic, the Baltics, or Poland. Local conditions and situations must be considered. All European countries aim to green their transport, but for that to be possible, railways must be competitive. The conditions must be equal. We need to increase investments in railways both short-term and long-term, as mass passenger transport and industrial transport are inherently more energy-efficient and greener. I believe this is the right direction, and it includes continuing to address the energy dimension, namely the production and supply of energy from renewable sources for transport systems.

Our countries, the Czech Republic and Poland, are preparing for major international projects, especially high-speed rail. How are you preparing?

The delay in EU funds allocated to Poland and the geopolitical context, with the ongoing war in Ukraine for the third year, are defining priorities for everyone in politics. We remain hopeful that there will be a good resolution to this conflict for Ukraine, and priorities will again focus more on transport infrastructure. We are all waiting to return to dynamic investments in railways. The entire railway sector in Poland is based on the realization of the CPK project (high-speed rail and airport). We need effective connections within the Central European region. It is not good that we cannot travel very quickly at high-speed rail standards, for example, two hours from Prague to Warsaw, from Warsaw to Berlin, or from Prague to Berlin. These are routes where future railway connections must replace air travel. While a flight from Prague to Warsaw takes about an hour, traveling by train from Warsaw to Prague requires strong determination.

Railways must become competitive with flying, considering the time spent at airports and during airport procedures. To achieve positive economic efficiency and contribute to environmental improvement, we need a travel time of 2.5 hours. The trend is to eliminate air travel over short distances of 200-300 km. For this to be possible and to maintain travel comfort, we must at least build high-speed connections on the main routes connecting European states.

From your statement, it is clear that Budimex is ready for these projects.

Yes, we ensure we stay active and alert. We also follow the preparation of high-speed rail projects in the Czech Republic, including their PPP form. These are complex solutions that are not implemented every day. We are preparing in a way that will allow us to participate in these Czech projects.


The interview was conducted at the Rail Congress, Poznań, on June 5, 2024.


Maciej Olek

Maciej Olek graduated from the Faculty of Civil Engineering at Wrocław University and George Washington University, where he obtained a project management certificate. He has over 20 years of experience in construction. He has participated in significant construction projects in Poland and abroad. From 2001 to 2007, he worked for the Polish company NCC on the construction of the A2 motorway and the Citytunnel project in Malmö (Sweden), where he served as deputy project manager. From 2008 to 2009, he worked on the construction of the S3 expressway. He has been associated with Budimex S.A. since 2010, progressing through positions such as construction manager, project manager, and project director. Since autumn 2014, he has been responsible for building the railway capabilities of Budimex S.A., first as regional director, then as branch director, and since May 2020, as the company's director for all railway construction in the group.