CZ/SK verze

"We Aim to Transform PKP PLK into a Government Agency," Says Polish Activist and Politician Sterczewski

&quote;We Aim to Transform PKP PLK into a Government Agency,&quote; Says Polish Activist and Politician Sterczewski
photo: RAILTARGET/Franciszek Sterczewski
28 / 11 / 2023

RAILTARGET presents an exclusive interview with Polish activist and politician Franciszek Sterczewski, a member of the Sejm since 2019. In this interview, we discuss transport priorities, ETS emission allowances, and the proposed zero VAT rate for public transport.

Mr. Sterczewski, you focused on transport during your recent term in the Sejm's opposition. What would you say is your top transport priority?

Our primary aim is to overhaul the railway infrastructure's management structure. We're looking to transfer local railway lines from PKP PLK to voivodeship self-governments, emulating the efficient models of Lower Silesia and the Pomeranian Voivodeship. Our goal is to transform PKP PLK from a PKP holding company into a government agency. The current company structure isn’t meeting our expectations in terms of results.

Moreover, modernizing and building new lines is becoming far more expensive than necessary. The modernization of the corridor from Warsaw to Poznan, for instance, has been lengthier than the First World War itself. Many investments and modernizations in Polish railways haven't significantly improved passenger experience. We're witnessing only marginal decreases in travel times. This needs to change. If billions are being spent, we expect faster trains and more connections. Until now, there's been a lack of effective dialogue between the government, local authorities, and the EU.

With a new government forming, we see an opportunity to unlock funds for Poland from the EU's National Recovery Plan. Additionally, we can redirect funds from the ETS emissions trading mechanism, which annually contributes around PLN 25 billion to Poland. We could revolutionise public transport by channelling these funds into transport and simultaneously reducing emissions.

Other countries also face challenges with the ETS burdening transport and housing sectors with emission allowances, while lacking modernizing programs in these areas. Where do you specifically plan to invest the funds from emission allowances?

We're currently in the midst of forming a new government, and we're eager to see who will assume the role of Minister of Infrastructure. I'm hopeful that this ministry will encompass not only infrastructure but also transport, emphasizing its vital role. Transport should be recognized as a public good, as seen in the Czech Republic and other model countries.

Our goal is to maximize train connections, including routes from Prague to Wrocław, Warsaw, and Krakow, to encourage more passengers to shift from car travel to rail. This transition will be faster, more cost-effective, and environmentally beneficial. Public transport must be prioritized at all government levels – national, regional, and local – to enable better planning and investment.

A prime example is Vienna's main station, which is seamlessly integrated into the city's urban transport network and also serves as part of a housing development project. This kind of investment, achieved through dialogue and consensus among all stakeholders, could be replicated in cities like Poznań and others across Poland.

At the end of the day, the most crucial aspect is the passengers, as they are the ones purchasing tickets. Regarding the Civic Coalition's pre-election proposal to introduce a zero VAT rate for public transport, do you believe this will be implemented during the coalition negotiations?

I believe it's quite feasible that we'll be able to push through this proposal. It's not only about making public transport tickets as affordable as possible but also ensuring that the quality of service matches the cost. For instance, I hope that we won't see as many train delays as we did this past summer when nearly 50% of trains were late. Therefore, the focus should be not just on ticket pricing but also on the overall quality that passengers receive for their money. To achieve this, we need a comprehensive fare system reform. We aspire to implement a universally affordable ticketing system, similar to what has been introduced in Germany. We're not committing to a specific price, like EUR 9 or PLN 50, at this stage. Our approach must be systematic and transparent to truly encourage a mass shift towards public transport.

Thank you for this insightful conversation. We wish you success in the Sejm and potentially in the upcoming government.