Friday, 3 May 2013

Much still left to do before S2-S79 opens

Bank holiday, and rain... a good opportunity to check progress along the S2/S79 (the 'Elka') which one day will link southern Warsaw to the outside world. But - from what I saw - not for some time yet. A few weeks ago, an article in Gazeta Stołeczna suggested that the S2 will connect ul. Puławska with the A2, the motorway to Berlin, in September. In other words, 15 months after the original date for completion, June 2012. And three months after the previous promised opening date (June 2013).

Looking at how much there's still to do, and how fast the work has progressed so far, I'd rather bet on a late-November ribbon-cutting ceremony. If this project had been a public-private partnership, it would have opened last June. UK experience on PPPs shows that nearly 90% of projects are completed on time - because the private sector operator doesn't earn dime one until the infrastructure is made available to the public. From the road user's point of view, a toll-road is a toll-road; whether one's money goes to a public-sector operator (behind schedule and over budget) or to a private sector one (UK experience is that they complete on time and within budget) is not an issue. What is an issue is the ability to deliver. Poland's infrastructure is delivered in an exceedingly slow way.

Remember that good infrastructure builds rich nations, and that new roads boost local GDP, creating new job opportunities (for example, unemployment in Stryków, north of Łódź, fell from 13% to just 5%, when the A1/A2 motorways finally met there last year).

So - how's the S79 looking? Below: looking north from Węzeł Lotnisko towards the city centre. That's Warsaw Trade Tower on the horizon. Crash barriers are in place, but the final layers of asphalt are still needed. Lighting stanchions are low over the road surface as this is right under the flightpath for the runway at Okęcie airport.

Below: the S2 - Warsaw's southern bypass, and part of the Berlin-Moscow motorway, crossing under the S79 and the Warsaw-Radom railway line. Still much to do here, to fill the so-called wanna ('bath') and lay the tarmac. Connecting this bit of road to ul. Puławska, 2km to the east, will take many months.

Below: "Can we get to Puławska from here?" asks the cyclist on the left. "Not on a bike" is my answer. The slip-roads aren't ready, there are too many muddy or water-filled sections. It's hard going for a man in wellies. I purposely came here on foot knowing that it's still impassable to bicycles.

Below: looking east towards Puławska. The first viaduct carries the slip road linking the S79 northbound (currently a slip road from nowhere - see beneath) with the S2 westbound. The second viaducts carry the Warsaw-Radom main railway line and the Okęcie-Siekierki coal line. The third viaduct, just about visible, carries the line connecting Warsaw's Metro to the outside rail network.

Below: the S79 crossing over the S2, looking west. Note how much water is on the ground. We've had a few wet days, but nothing cataclysmic. Pumps are working in the underpass to remove surplus water.

Below: steps for maintenance workers leading from the S2 up to the S79 crossing over it. Work here is nearly ready; just a few more barriers to erect.

Below: looking north along the S79, from the southern end of the contract. The road stops suddenly here. To the left, the slip-road from the S2, for traffic coming in from the west. A road to nowhere. To the right, the slip-road to join the S2 - a road from nowhere.

Below: I turn around 180 degrees from where I took the above photo. In the distance - ul. Baletowa. One day, the S79 will continue from where it left off; it will cross Baletowa and head south through Dawidy, Zamienie, Zgorzała, Lesznowola and eventually connect up with the S7, helping to relieve congestion around Janki. But I guess this will all happen sometime after the EU's 2014-2020 budget money has to be spent by -  2022? Until then, the above stump of expressway will stand as a monument to Bad Planning.

A similar situation exists east of Puławska. Warsaw's southern bypass will, for the time being, end there. No tunnel under Ursynów, no new bridge to carry the S2 across the Vistula, no connection to the A2 Minsk Mazowiecki bypass, no A2 onwards to the Belarusian frontier. Not until 2022.

Poland deserves better infrastructure. The blame can be laid at the feet of successive governments since 1990 who failed to understand the influence that good infrastructure has on a nation's economy.

Above: a rare moonlit shot from Google Earth - the latest image available, dated 20 November 2012, clearly showing Węzeł Lotnisko and the abrupt end of the S79 in a muddy field.

This time last year:
Looking at progress along the S79 (how little has been achieved!)

This time two years ago:
Snow on 3 May

This time three years ago:
Two Polands

This time four years ago:
A delightful weekend in the country

This time five years ago:
The dismantling of the Rampa

This time six years ago:
Flag day


White Horse Pilgrim said...

I wonder what sort of contract the road builder has? Cost-plus? Did he under-bid to win the job, and now he's trying to make money on claims? I bet there aren't bonus or penalty clauses in the contract. The right form of contract will encourage positive behaviours. One doesn't need a PPP to deliver on time - and certainly not if one wants value for money - just look at the UK's fearfully expensive PPP hospitals or the London Underground PPP fiasco. But you're right - that road could have been built on time.

Marcin said...

Hi Mike,

Some month ago Polish public television broadcasted the French film entitled "Europe lost millions" (original "Les Millions perdus de l'Europe", Polish "Gdzie się podziały unijne miliony"). So, a brief note on that describes, that:

"This film is a journey into a peculiar world: the EU. A world with its own customs and secrets. A world where the power of the annual 150 billions euros budget has seemingly created mysterious lands which defy normal laws and where money has no limits for those who know how to approach it correctly.

Take the Danish island of Bornholm. It never snows there but that hasn’t stopped one farmer from making money out of a man-made ski slope on his land. He was able to acquire a 200,000 euros grant from the EU to make his pipe dream a reality. And then there’s the motorway of Calabre. Half a million euros of European funding were put towards its renovation despite the fact that the Mafia were known to control building works in this area and have, predictably, made millions from the project.

Over a few months, Pierre-Emmanuel Luneau-Daurignac and Olivier Toscer ploughed through the European continent. They bring back four stories from their travels that illustrate – sometimes in shocking terms - the dysfunctional nature of the allocation of EU funds.

From Denmark to the South of Italy, stopping off in Normandy and Berlin, we hear from the people at the top of the European pyramid.
(Worthwhile to register, log and watch till the end. The end is extremely interested, as the former Deputy Commissioner Günter Verheugen is confronted with the findings, of the film's authors, touching some aspects of his potential conflicts of interest.)

So, as much as I may support a thesis about a progress of the Polish economy and Poland as a state in order to gather an European shape, then the only one I may say, that all of that seems to be Calabrean-like to the most extent. For the all of Eurorealists, there seems obvious, and no weird, that all of above shown by the French authors is just only a peak of an ice mountain, so a scale of the European funds "leakage" is much and much greater. Both on the Brussel's and local levels.

Michael Dembinski said...


Poland's highways and motorways agency GDDKiA leaves much to be desired when it comes to professionalism. The same goes to the ignoble parade of infrastructure ministers that were usually political placemen rather than professionals.

@ Marcin
We can complain all we like, but Poland's road-building progress before EU entry was excruciatingly slow. Now it has speeded up somewhat. But yes, you are right - there's too much 'leakage'.