Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Ahead of the opening of the second line of Warsaw's Metro

I normally travel to work on the Koleje Mazowieckie service from W-wa Jeziorki to W-wa Śródmieście. A short walk at either end with a 30-minute train ride in between which is (and I hesitate to say this after my last wpadka) relatively reliable. Today, however, I took the 209 bus to Stokłosy ('Stokkers' or 'Hundred Sheaves') and thence by Metro to Centrum and a short walk to work. I was surprised to see new maps in the trains, showing not only the familiar one, north-south line, but also the new, soon-to-be-opened second east-west line. And a second, bigger, more detailed map of Warsaw's public transport network on rails - Metro and trams, and all suburban and mainline rail services - Koleje Mazowieckie, SKM, WKD and indeed InterCity (below). Click to enlarge.

We wait, we wait. At first, Warsaw was promised the Second Line in time for the 2012 UEFA football championships (remember them, dear readers?). This soon proved to be a mere chimera, a phantasm, a will o' the wisp, a fatamorgana (and this is before reaching for the Thesaurus). Ul. Świętokrzyska was dug up for so long I forgot that cars had once been allowed onto it. Last month, the roads above the new Metro line were re-opened, and earlier this month (just before the local elections) the new stations were opened to the public for a one-day-only site visit.

The Second Line (or line M2 as it will be called) was meant to have been opened on 11 November, Poland's national holiday, Independence Day. A good old communist-era tradition of lining up openings (Trasa W-Z, Palace of Culture, Trasa Łazienkowska, Dworzec Centralny) with public holidays of ideological significance (in those days 22 July). But the form-filling and box-ticking continues, with 37 (yes!) different agencies having to pop down to make sure that everything is hunky-dory. Better to make absolutely sure, cover one's backside, than to have a nasty incident later on. Good to see that the local elections did not play a part in the timing of the line's inauguration, with City Hall leaning on the relevant authorities to get it open by polling day or else.

So we wait. Type the seven letters letters "k i e d y  o t" into Polish Google, and it will helpfully autofill "kiedy otwarcie Metra" in the first instance. "When is the Metro opening". Latest answer to the much-asked question, from five hours ago, is... 14 December. So over a month after the last officially-quoted opening date then.

For all my non-Varsovian readers, the seven stations of the new line are as follows:  Rondo Daszyńskiego, Rondo ONZ, Świętokrzyska (the interchange station with line M1), Nowy Świat - Uniwersytet, Centrum Nauki Kopernik, Stadion Narodowy and Dworzec Wileński.

Below: some views of the unopened as yet station at Nowy Świat - Uniwersytet.

Looking west along ul. Świętokrzyska, Ministry of Finance to the right.

Newly reopened to traffic, ul. Świętokrzyska has cycle-lanes (not separated)

Stairs will take commuters down to platform level

Metro entrances on ul. Kubusia Puchatka. Yes, Winnie the Pooh Street.

The first line of the Warsaw Metro opened in April 1995. I visited it then with Moni when she was two years and three months old. Now she's doing postgraduate studies. Time flies, building metro systems is something that takes lifetimes - just look at the London Underground, 152 years old in January.

Let's take a look at how long it took from opening a first line to opening the second line of underground railway systems in the following cities:

  • London  - first line: 1863, second line 1868
  • Paris - first line: 1900, second line 1900
  • Berlin - first line: 1902, second line 1910
  • New York - first line: 1904, second line 1908
  • Buenos Aires - first line: 1913, second line 1930
  • Madrid - first line: 1919, second line 1924
  • Moscow - first line: 1935, second line 1938
  • Stockholm - first line: 1950, second line 1951
  • Beijing - first line: 1969, second line 1984
  • Prague - first line: 1974, second line 1978
  • Warsaw - first line: 1995, second line 2014

So Warsaw's wait of over 19 years for a second line is somewhat of an outlier. (Beijing's 15-year gap was due to the Cultural Revolution.) And I am assuming that line M2 will be opened before April... And a reminder for my Varsovian readers to turn out and vote in the second round of the mayoral elections on Sunday. The result is not an inevitable one, every vote counts.

UPDATE 7 December: The 14 December deadline will not be met. January now. A colleague mentions the continued problems with the opening of Berlin's new Brandenburg Airport - it seems that Warsaw is not alone in this...

This time last year:
Keep an eye on Ukraine...
(Portents of troubles to come)

This time two years ago:
Płock by day, Płock by night

This time three years ago:
Warning ahead of railway timetable change

This time seven years ago:
Some thoughts on recycling


Alexander said...

There is a story that Stalin gave the Warsaw people a choice between a metro and the Pałac Kultury i Nauki. The Warsaw people wanted a metro, so they got the Palace.

Now the roads in the city are open again I wonder if people will go back tot hair cars.
In the last couple of years I think it was not as busy as it used to be. I think it was because of the daily changing roadworks in the city. Even my car loving Warsaw inlaws turned to public transport.

Regards, Alexander

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Alexander

Your question about Varsovians returning to their cars once the east-west thoroughfares reopen is a pertinent one. I think Warsaw has indeed reached 'peak car' (Remember when the first line was finally completed and Al. Niepodległości was re-opened - more traffic than ever before clogged it up, even though a perfectly decent Metro ran beneath it. That was 19 years ago - things are changing!