Thursday, 11 December 2014

Pluses and minuses of PKP InterCity

Another day trip, this time to Kraks. On the 08:35 from W-wa Zachodnia to Kraków Gł. And Ekspres InterCity (EIC), 120zł (£21.40) ticket, twice the price of a TLK train between the two cities. Tickets booked online; PKP has got over its great Spendolino ticket reservation debacle. Train arrives on time, not a great achievement, seeing as it started at W-wa Wschodnia, with only W-wa Centralna in between. I board, carriage 9, seat 16. Newish carriages, airliner-style, no compartments - windows plastered over with huge adverts for T-mobile's free on-board wi-fi service.

So far so good. Now for my my litany of woe...

My seat is in the second row from the front of the carriage - the automatic sliding glass door is stuck in the open position. As the train picks up speed, the wind begins to howl mercilessly through the gaping aperture and into the open carriage. Passengers have allocated seating - and anyway, the train is full so you can't just get up and wander off in search of a warmer seat. Fortunately I'm wearing my M-65 parka, which I use to protect myself from the elements. When the guard finally arrives to check our tickets, he admits that not even he can shut this door.

The much-touted wi-fi. There's a T-mobile ad in front of every seat in the train. It's a pity, then, that on both of my devices, laptop and smartofon, the bloody wi-fi doesn't work at all. Neither on my laptop nor my smartphone. And the new airliner-style carriages, which have electrical sockets between each seat - well, the one by my seat didn't work. The passenger sat next to me set off down the train in search of a free seat with no howling gale and a working socket. I slept comfortably for an hour and half snuggled into my parka.

Because I'm sleeping, I'm not too fussed that what is shown on my ticket as a 'window seat' is actually next to a windowless wall; and even if I were sat next to a piece of translucent glass, the view would be somewhat limited thanks to those huge adverts for non-working wi-fi applied to the entire outside of the carriages.

Each EIC carriage has a digital indicator telling passengers how fast the train is going, what the temperature is outside, when the train is due to reach its destination, date, time, whose imieniny it is today etc. Fine, except the indicator is not working in our carriage.

On the plus side - this being an EIC train, passengers are entitled to complimentary tea and biscuit. And - to my great surprise - our train arrives in Kraków on time. And - to my great surprise - the toilet was clean and worked. Soap, hot water, paper towels. A small miracle. At Kraków I pop into Companeros for three crispy-shelled tacos filled with beef, salad and jalapeno peppers.

Right then - train home. Leaving Kraks Gł at 18:18, I find my seat. Carriage 9, seat 25. This time, the carriage is not plastered with an ad for wi-fi (all the other second-class carriages making up this train are). Again, the door is broken. Not so badly broken as on the trip down, as it will, with a bit of puffing and pulling, close and open. (Now I think back, on my last trip up from Kraks to W-wa, the door of my EIC carriage was spontaneously opening and closing all the time of its own accord.) Something very wrong with these automatic sliding doors. The wi-fi is still not working. Below: Your Application's Failed. 'Network disabled because Internet connection is slow'

The socket (now that I do need it, with my smartofon on 5% charge) is working. Hurrah! I get my tea and biscuit and all is well with the world. Now I have a proper window seat, I can't see squat through it, but that's because it's dark outside.

I look at the train timetable on my phone via the excellent Bilkom app. It says our train is due in at W-wa Zachodnia at 21:19. My train from W-wa Zachodnia to W-wa Jeziorki is due at 21:24. Just five minutes margin. If the InterCity from Kraks is more than five minutes late, it's an hour's wait for the next train home. Worry worry worry. Especially when the train is crawling through Grodzisk Mazowiecki at walking pace (again the indicator in the carriage with speed, expected arrival time etc is not working). But then after Grodzisk we speed up. Indeed, the train is doing great. We arrive at W-wa Zachodnia ten minutes ahead of schedule - so I have a full quarter of an hour to make the leisurely stroll across the platforms to catch the train to Jeziorki.

So, Mr Dembinski - what's your point? My point is that rather than spending squillions on the Spendolino trains, PKP should focus on getting right the existing services. Not sending out broken carriages, not advertising wi-fi before they get it working.

Just under three hours to cover the 300km between Kraków and Warsaw is not good enough. I'd be happy with two and half in a train that worked properly. Beats driving, taking a bus or flying.

Polish railways will be getting a lot of EU money - this means the public eye and political scrutiny will glaring at them intensely between now and 2020. Will they be greatly improved by then? Or same old story as before? I'm slightly more optimistic - but only slightly. I really hope that this time, they get it right.

This time last year:
When transportation breaks down

This time This time three years ago:
Take me back to Tulsa

This time five years ago:
Another book launch

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

This time seven years ago:
Rotten weather, literally


artnowo said...

Fortunately, you can always ask a ticket inspector to try to delay the train on which you are going to change. It is often possible even when both trains are operated by different operators. Some trains wait for other by default.

Anonymous said...

Why do you refer to Krakow as 'Kraks'? Nobody else does. a bit irritating, I'm afraid. Apart from that, I enjoy the blog no end. More photos please - they have dried up a bit of late.

student SGH said...

Travelled by PKP Intercity to Poznan last week. I have no reservations regarding punctuality, nor the service or comfort, but T-mobile Wi-fi is overrated and leaves a lot to be desired - the worst hot spot I've ever used. Webpages loaded so slowly that after a few minutes and switched to regular 3G connection from Orżnąć and it worked fine.

The display showed the speed and since the train covers 302 kilometres in somewhat more than two and half hours, on same sections of the route the train did faster than 160 kmph. I didn't feel entirely comfortable at such speed, the train was too 'wobbly'.

Trains should be the major means of transport for moving between centres of cities in Poland. In many other instances (door-to-door journeys) cars beat them.

I've never heard of such practices... Actually what saves the day for some passengers might be a nuisance for others...

In turn, I've read 'Kraks' several times before. No need to pick on I'm afraid :)

Anonymous said...

I live in Krakow and I have never heard anyone refer to it as 'Kraks'. Do we call Warsawa 'Wars'? Or'Waws'? I know it is petty but it is the little things...Mr Debinski...take note and no more 'Kraks'! Please.

Dyspozytor said...

Since yesterday's introduction of Pendolino services it's now possible to do the Warsaw - Krakow trip in under 2hrs 30min, and the inter-carriage gangway doors actually work.

But the seats are too narrow!

Pendolino – a cautious step forward