CZ/SK verze

Poland vs. Czech Republic: Divergent Paths in High-Speed Rail Development

Poland vs. Czech Republic: Divergent Paths in High-Speed Rail Development
photo: Kgbo / Wikimedia commons / CC BY-SA 4.0/PKP Intercity ED250 Pendolino
22 / 03 / 2024

PKP Polskie Linie Kolejowe S.A., the Polish railway infrastructure manager, is tasked with maintaining 18,513 km of railway lines and 36,218 km of tracks. With an impressive workforce of approximately 39,000 employees, the network sees around 7,500 trains operating daily.

For almost ten years, since 14th December 2014, four designated HSR lines have radiated out from Warsaw, featuring 200km/h sections on the Central Rail Line (Warsaw-Kraków/Katowice) and operated under the Express Intercity Premium (EIP) brand name.

The Polish vision for HSR development is intertwined with the construction of Centralny Port Komunikacyjny, a new large international airport located about 40 km southwest of Warsaw, set to replace the current Warsaw Chopin Airport. The ambitious project discusses an initial capacity of 40 million passengers a year, with aspirations to reach 100 million passengers upon the completion of the entire system. This will create the largest national transport hub, integrating road and railway infrastructure capacities.

CPK / Public domain

1,600 km of new High-Speed Rails are planned to link this central hub with major Polish cities and regions, leveraging the foundational advantages provided by HSR. Centralny Port Komunikacyjny aims to become the international airport for not only central Poland but, through reduced travel times with speeds over 200 km/h, it will also serve more distant regions. Two of the new lines will link Poland with the Czech Republic: from Katowice to Ostrava and from Wrocław to Liberec/Trutnov, continuing further to Prague. The Katowice direction is part of the existing HSR line, still under completion, yet allowing for an average speed between Katowice and Warsaw of 115 km/h.

Following a Czech Government resolution in May 2017, the HSR Development Program in the Czech Republic targets international connections across several axes: Dresden-Prague-Brno-Vienna (Bratislava/Budapest), (Warsaw-)Katowice-Ostrava-Brno-Vienna (Bratislava/Budapest), and (Gdańsk/Warsaw-)Wrocław-Prague-Munich. Such a network would enhance Prague's accessibility to other Czech cities and major agglomerations in Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland, potentially extending to the Baltic states.

Map of planned HSR in the Czech Republic and neighboring countries / NeuP / Wikimedia commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Poland holds two significant advantages over the Czech Railway Infrastructure Administration in HSR development. Its team working on the Central Communication Port project is threefold stronger, despite the Czech Republic initiating its HSR projects earlier. Moreover, Poland faces fewer administrative hurdles for linear constructions, as Polish legislation facilitates a smoother preparation phase. In contrast, Czech railways must be included in respective zoning plans, a complicated mix of rules and plans that are challenging to modify and vary by region. Although the pace of Czech HSR project preparation has accelerated in recent years, changes to the legal framework will be essential.