Wednesday, 11 December 2013

When transportation breaks down

Yesterday, travelling back from Olsztyn to Warsaw by coach, I arrived some 80 minutes late due to a road accident on the S7 south of Mława. The road was unlit, and single carriageway (despite this being the main artery from Gdańsk and Olsztyn to Warsaw). According to the local media report, the accident happened before our bus had even left Olsztyn, yet it carried on, unwarned, into a jam that stayed entirely stationary for at least 90 minutes. During that time, fire engines, police cars and ambulances whizzed by, this way and that, giving the impression of a multiple vehicle pile-up.

To make matters worse, there was no information given to the passengers as to why we were completely stationary (the hostess who had hitherto been busy serving hot drinks disappeared). And the video screens on the coach were playing some dire American disaster movie - just the thing to raise the spirits. Worse - the toilet door came off its hinges. And of course this particular spot happened to be one of many along the route where the bus's wi-fi coverage was zero. So all I could do was to watch this dreadful film, in which people were freezing to death as vital supplies of fuel and food ran out...

Finally, there was movement ahead. We passed the spot where three or four emergency service vehicles were parked up on the field by the side of the road. My colleague Konrad, sat on the other side of the bus, said he could see a large patch of blood on the roadway... The media report said that a 40 year-old man had been hit by a Ford Focus. The 36 year-old driver was on his way back to Lublin, and had not been drinking alcohol, according to the police.

Accidents like this would not happen if there had been a dual carriageway or motorway linking Warsaw and the Baltic coast, nor had the road been lit. Once again, the idea that Poland is a country where anywhere is five hours by road or rail from anywhere else proved to be the case.

Today was little better. Before leaving the office, I checked to see if my train home was running to time. Ten minutes before it was due at W-wa Śródmieście, there was a row of green ticks suggesting that all was well.

But as I got to the platform, the station announcer said that the 18:46 service to Piaseczno was running ten minutes late... How could that be? It had left W-wa Wschodnia, just three stops east, at 18:37... Soon the delay was 15 minutes, then 20, then 30, then 40... Earlier westbound trains were advertised as running 60, even 70 minutes late...

Had the announcer said "The trains aren't running, go away," I would have taken the Metro. But having waited ten minutes, an extra five, then ten, then another ten would somehow be acceptable... My patience ran out after 43 minutes; just as I was heading for the Metro station the next train heading my way, a mere 12 minutes late, turned up. No reasons given, no proper communication - and yet Gazeta Stołeczna online says that ONE HOUR EARLIER an eastbound train had broken down at W-wa Stadion...
17:32... W związku z awarią pociągu spółki Koleje Mazowieckie na stacji W-wa Stadion występują utrudnienia w kursowaniu pociągów linii S1, S2 oraz KM w kierunku WSCHODNIM. Część pociągów została skierowana torami dalekobieżnymi przez stację W-wa Centralna z pominięciem stacji W-wa Ochota, W-wa Śródmieście, W-wa Powiśle, W-wa Stadion.
17:48... Pociągi już kursują normalnie, ale przez moment było niebezpiecznie. Ludzie wysiadali ze składów uwięzionych w tunelu linii średnicowej i pieszo szli wzdłuż torów.
Obviously the knock-on effect was still making itself felt on the westbound services hours later.

The 17:54 for the airport arrives 72 minutes late. How many missed flights?
In compiling this post, I take my hat off to local online news reporters who ensure that, though the authorities see fit to keep travellers in the dark, if something serious happens, at least it does get noted.

This time two years ago:
Take me back to Tulsa

This time four years ago:
Another book launch

This time five years ago:
Jeziorki in the 16th Century

This time six years ago:
Rotten weather, literally


Alexander said...

The Berlin-Warszawa express was stopped for more then an hour between Frankfurt and Berlin. No explaining, no staff. And yes I missed my connection in Berlin. Just an other 2 hour wait until the next train.
3 Years ago I was in Holland. 2 inches of snow and the whole system went down. Trains were cancelled over and over again 1 minute before the scheduled departure. Staff showed me their mobile information systems : down.
And the follwing days station staff on the platforms were informing each other about the trains arriving in the central station of the major city of Rotterdam.
Half of the trains were cancelled, and intercity connections split up with transfers at major stations.

In Poland my only problems have been the closure of the Warsaw West station at 23.00 hrs when the Berlin Warszawa express from Berlin still had to arrive.
I think it could be worse.

Best regards, Alexander

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Alexander...

" the closure of the Warsaw West station at 23.00 hrs when the Berlin Warszawa express from Berlin still had to arrive..."

Shameful. Did this happen recently? I thought the current policy was to close the main Warsaw stations between 01:30 and 03:00 for a "technical break" - really to ensure that the homeless community doesn't have an unbroken night's kip in the waiting rooms. ..

Alexander said...

The answer is a yes and no. The tunnels between the platforms and Aleje Jerozolimskie were open. But the tunnel to the waiting room inside of the station building was closed. So was the entrance to the station building.

The last time I went to Warsaw by train was the 22nd of December last year. The train leaving Warsaw left at about 6.30 in the morning but I can not remember if I went through the station, or through the tunnel to the platform.

Best regards, Alexander