Sunday, 21 September 2014

By train from Warsaw to Konstancin and Siekierki

Local elections must be just around the corner, as this public transport suggestion is being raised once more, as it has done every four years. Yet - could it be different this time? pociąg

The idea is to use part of the coal train line from W-wa Okęcie to Siekierki power station to provide a passenger service between Konstancin and the city centre, calling at Piaseczno on the way. To promote the concept, SSKS, an association of friends of the railway, have put on two special trains from W-wa Zachodnia to Siekierki.

Once on board, passengers had the chance to lend their support for the idea, which had fallen flat after past local government elections. Why could this idea happen this time after having failed previously? Several reasons.

Firstly, the coal line has been re-nationalised; four years ago Swedish utility operator Vattenfall owned Siekierki and its railway line. Today it's owned by PGNiG Termika. It is undoubtedly easier to make the case for the public good when the railway operator Koleje Mazowieckie (owned by the voivodship) talks to state-owned PGNiG under the auspices of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Regional Development. Secondly, over the past four years there's been a large increase in the number of people living in Piaseczno and (to a lesser extent) in Konstancin, while places such as Julianów and Józefosław have burgeoned into veritable suburban dormitories. Most of the residents have jobs in Warsaw - which leads to Point Three - the growth of the office district around Służewiec in recent years. The new line, passing W-wa Służewiec, would be an ideal way to get people from Warsaw's southern exurbs into work. Fourthly - the opening of the spur from W-wa Służewiec to W-wa Lotnisko Chopina station makes it convenient for those wanting to fly from the airport to use a railway connection.

Below: the light green line shows the route of the coal train once it branches away from the main Warsaw-Radom line at Nowa Iwiczna. The proposition is that the line terminates at Mirków, a little to the east of Konstancin. New stations would serve Konstancin-Jeziorna, Kierszek, Julianów, Piaseczno Puławska and Piaseczno Mleczarska; 29 services each way would run daily between Mirków and W-wa Służewiec (in the top-left corner of this map, courtesy of Google Earth. Click to enlarge).

So - on to the photos of today's journey. Below: an opportunity for a press conference to discuss the potential of running passenger trains over the coal line from Nowa Iwiczna to Mirków.

Below: here's the train between W-wa Jeziorki (it is unlikely Jeziorki will be served by these trains as the station has no platform on the coal train line) and Nowa Iwiczna. The train has to be diesel, as there's no electrical traction on this line - in the foreground is the electrified Warsaw-Radom line.

Below: the two-car diesel multiple unit, which usually serves the eastern fringes of the Koleje Mazowieckie network, seen today between Julianów and Kierszek.

Below: looking down towards the sidings at Konstancin-Jeziorna. Two rakes of coal trucks await collection in the two left-hand sidings; the diesel railcar takes a break on the right hand track.

Below: photo opportunity by the bridge at Bielawa. Passenger trains pass this way once every four years, so it's worth recording this event. The plan does not foresee passenger trains going beyond here onwards to Siekierki.

Below: view from the cab, approaching Okrzeszyn (city każdy obcy będzi bity). Out here, between Konstancin and Siekierki, development is sparse, with the occasional new housing estate and scattered farmsteads. Quiet, surprisingly close to the centre of Warsaw, yet the threat of flooding is ever-present.

Below: 500km from the sea, snapped from the train. The railway line runs parallel to the Wał Zawadowski, the flood protection wall that lines the Vistula's west bank between Siekierki and Konstancin. Ideal for gentle off-road cycling.

Below: not far from Siekierki. We are just a few kilometres from the centre of Warsaw, yet the landscape is quite rural. Passenger trains out here will always be a total rarity.

Below: approaching the power station - chimneys and coal heaps. Passing under the rail bridge a 163 bus heading for Sadyba. The surrounding area has the klimat of the Zone in Tarkovsky's Stalker.

Below:  end of the line, Siekierki, and time for another photo opportunity. Here we are, 29km from W-wa Okęcie, having completed a 'U'-shaped journey.

Below: time to re-board the train at Siekierki and head back towards town. I get off the train on its return journey at Konstancin and walk back alongside the track to W-wa Jeziorki - exactly 10km.

I hope this time the plan prevails. Having this rail infrastructure and keeping it for just a few coal trains a day, while ul. Puławska is choked with traffic, is nonsensical. These rails should be serving commuters as well as the power station. If you live in Konstancin or Piaseczno, or anywhere in between, and wish to get into town quickly and without jams - here's the solution.

This time last year:
Summer's end, Jeziorki

This time three years ago:
Ząbowska, Praga's newly-hip thoroughfare

This time five years ago:
Catching the klimat

This time seven years ago:
Road to Łuków - a road trip into the sublime


AndrzejK said...

I believe that before the war there was a railway line which ran from the city centre through Wilanów and Konstancin linking with the narrow guage line. The post office at Wilanów and a building on the corner of Mirkowska in Konstancin were in fact station buildings.

A fast tram service from Konstancin via Lemingrad (Miasteczko Wilanów) and then up Sobieskiego would do an awful lot to cut down car use. And little disruption as both the road to Konstancin and Sobieskiego are more than wide enough to accomodate rail tracks.

Michael Dembinski said...

@ AndrzejK
Indeed there was - lovely old station buildings survive (Klarysew). And there was also a line running south from the site of the present Wilanowska bus terminal along ul. Puławska to Piaseczno then down to Góra Kalwaria.

Fast trams to Lemmingrad - right on! The more rail, the less cars, the better for all.

And I'm waiting for someone to resurrect the idea of running passenger trains along the Metro link line from Kabaty to W-wa Slużewiec...