Monday, 19 May 2008

Also, it takes much longer to get up north, the slow way*

Zakopane to Kraków. By road or by rail? By road, traffic jams. The road between the two, the Zakopianka, where 100kms can take 10 hours on a Sunday evening, is one alternative. The other is the railway. The romantic in me quite fancies a picturesque railway journey. Surely the train must be the better bet?

As it happens - no. The train winds its way, without undue hurry, taking three hours and 45 minutes to cover 147 km. Average speed less than 25 mph. Three times along the way (at Chabówka, Sucha Beskidska and Kraków Płaszów), the engine uncouples from the front of the train, attaches to the rear of the train, and proceeds out of the station the opposite way.

The train leaves Zakopane at 12:00 and arrives, on schedule, at Kraków Główny, at 15:45. At least it was cheap - the ticket cost me 13 zlotys (three quid). Five zlotys less than the bus, which, on the way out on Friday lunchtime cost 18 zlotys (just over four quid) and took two and half hours.

State railway PKP is its own worse enemy. It does not know how to communicate with passengers and potential passengers. Everyone knows the bus is better, even though the Zakopianka is one of Poland's most notorious roads. The train was running nearly empty - I had an eight-seat carriage to myself all the way. Why isn't the service scheduled better? 10 minute wait at Chabówka to put the engine at the other end, a similar wait at Sucha Beskidska - then half an hour (!) at Kraków Płaszów to attach the train to another, coming from Przemyśl... and Kiev (!!). The journey would have been better had someone told me to jump off the train at Kraków Łagiewniki station, 10km/6miles from Kraków Główny, and taken a taxi or public transport. The last 10km took 50 minutes (!!!).

Much of PKP will disappear because of the uselessness of its management. Here's a transport problem (getting tens of thousands of people out of Zakopane, through Kraków and onto the outside world) waiting to be solved. And PKP management is asleep at the wheel.

Some bits of PKP give grounds for hope. The new train link from Kraków Balice airport (right) to the city centre was excellent - much faster than a jam-bound taxi and only six zlotys (a gated level crossing might be a good idea). The Papal Train from Kraków to Wadowice is modern and quick. So there are solutions. Why can't PKP apply some good brains to the Kraków-Zakopane question?

* The last line from Ian Dury's excellent ditty, 'Clever Trevor'

This time last year:
The year's most beautiful day

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Have had the same experience - it is maddening. I see all of the talk about 'high speed trains' here in Poland and how the train company is trumpeting it. It is hard to see how they will pull it off in our life time when they cannot even get the basic train service running in a 20th century manner. Can you imagine high speed trains roaring through Poland?

By the way - I bought that Nikon lens we spoke of - the one you have. It has become a great one to keep on the camera for everyday use. Prior I was lugging (literally) a 20-35, 40-70 and the big guy 70-200 - all 2,8 so you can imagine the weight of all that glass. Good if you are driving but not walking! Thanks for the tip.