Thursday, 10 June 2010

Lost and lamented link

I missed blogging about this. One 1 June, the new Koleje Mazowieckie train timetables came into force. Koleje Mazowieckie is the bit of PKP (Polish State Railways) that was split off, and along with other bits of Przewozy Regionalne, passed onto the provincial governments to run.

In the case of Mazowsze, Koleje Mazowieckie was evidently the Warsaw agglomeration commuter railway network, running out to the borders of Poland's largest province (Mazowsze), with Warsaw its hub.

Mazowsze is a strange province. At its epicentre, glamorous, shining, modern, cosmopolitan, PO-voting, go-ahead, rich, Warsaw. Around it lie dormatory towns like Piaseczno (aka Sandbag City), Pruszków, Ożarów, Łomianki, Legionowo, Marki, Sulejówek, Otwock, Konstancin. These places and the villages in between are part of the Warsaw economy, and generally well-off. But go further out and you enter a twilight world of rural deprivation, poverty, one-horse towns, one-industry towns where that industry has gone bust - and the Four Big Towns of Mazowsze Other Than Warsaw. Radom to the south. Płock to the north-west. Ciechanów to the north-east. And Siedlce to the east. These places stand in stark contrast to that shining beacon of wealth and modernity that is our fair capital. Compare the unemployment in the sub-regions: Warsaw: 3.5%. Ciechanów-Płock: 15.7%. Siedlce-Ostrołęka: 14.3%. Radom: 22.3%.

And yet Mazowsze is the richest province of Poland by far. And as such, the Rich must give to the Poor, so the hypothecated tax revenues for local spending that Mazowieckie gets has to be shared with the really poor provinces of Poland - the so-called 'Janosikowe' (Janosik being a kind of Polish highland Robin Hood who stole from the rich to give to the poor). Now Mazowsze (Warsaw, handicapped by outlying districts like Szydłowieckie - 33.8% unemployment) has to give around a third of the money it gets from central government to other provinces. Upshot is, Mazowsze has not enough money for itself. Result - budget cuts - and because Koleje Mazowieckie is run by Mazowieckie province - cut cut cut those less-than-profitable lines.

One such service cut as of 1 June was the passenger line between Góra Kalwaria (to the south of Warsaw) to Pilawa (across the Vistula). This service was opened on 1 June 2009, and I went on it to check it out, and very nice tourism it was too. But after a mere 12 months, the service is gone. Use it or lose it. Sadly, Warszówka, Osieck and Jaźwiny, the three settlements served by the line, have lost their rail connections to Warsaw after getting them back briefly.

I have a modest proposal for the Polish government to solve Mazowsze's debt and deficit problem. Chop it up. Create a new province (voivodship) - Warsaw Agglomeration (like Greater London, which is an English region). Warsaw plus its nine adjoining districts (poviats). The per capita wealth of this province would be much closer to that of western Europe than to that of Ciechanów or Radom. The poorer Mazowsze region (without Warsaw) would then be elligible for Warsaw Province's handouts. You know it makes sense.


Steve said...

My involvement with the Voivodeships goes back some way: I was a guest speaker at the celebratory event given by the Professor to his team of Polish 'legal experts' - students from Warsaw University and one 'urzędnik' - when the new Voivodeship law had been approved. Most of the outlying areas of Mazowieckie have themselves to blame. (Mazowsza isn't the Voivodeship.) The original proposal was for roughly equal population size regions, but there was strong political opposition from the outer areas. Radom, for instance, completely refused to be joined with Kielce. The result is the very strange Mazowieckie region that exists today.

Michael Dembinski said...

According to my brother, the Parliamentary commission determining how many provinces Poland should have deemed that It Could Not Be A Prime Number. And so 16 was settled upon.

Radom (and indeed the miserable Szydłowiec)would have been much better served in Swietokrzyskie province. Or as Wikipedians insist, the "Holy Cross Voivodeship" (now is that pronounced Voy-vod-EH-ship or Voy-VODE-ship?)

Steve said...

I've only heard it pronounced Voy-vod-ship.

Michael Dembinski said...

Therefore, it should be spelt 'voivodship'. The superfluous 'e' in the middle, insisted on by those guardians of the English language that edit Wikipedia's pages about Poland, is mystifying. Once upon a time, you'd Google 'voivodship' and 'voivodeship' and get four times as many results for the former. Now - chiefly as a result of obsessive editing on Wikipedia, it's the other way round.

I've stopped using the word in English. 'Province' is what it is. All good EN->PL translators will agree.