Thursday, 21 April 2016

Wi-fi internet works on Polish train shock

I just got to do this - for the novelty! I've blogged from a bus in the UK, I've blogged from a bus in Poland, I've blogged from a train in the UK - but - for the first time ever - I'm blogging from a moving train in Poland!

PKP Intercity announced a while ago that it is introducing free wi-fi on its services. Train window would be made opaque so that carriage-length advertising could boast of this innovation. Unfortunately, neither my laptop nor my smartphone could connect to the wi-fi - both would be rejected with a message saying the signal's too weak or there are too many other users connected to the network.

The launch of the Pendolino service was a disappointment for those who consider free wi-fi to be their birthright - the public procurement process took so long that when the original tech specs (SIWZ in Polish) were published, wireless internet connection was science fiction. So the gleaming space-age high-speed trains appeared on Polish tracks without wi-fi - any attempt to drill holes in the new rolling stock would of course invalidate the maker's warranty.

But today, travelling from Warsaw to Opole and back I managed to log on. Not the most user-friendly of systems (you log on, give your mobile phone number, operator T-Mobile sends you an SMS with a four-digit password, and entering this, you're connected). A bit like the old system at Okęcie Airport before the recent remont.

Today's train to Opole and back was not the Pendolino, but an engine-hauled service called Viadrina, with a mixture of open carriages and traditional compartments. The young train staff were unfailingly polite and well-trained, the Wars buffet car which I visited on the way home had smoked salmon salad and a choice of three Żywiec beers (I had the Piwo Białe weissbier) plus a 'regional' beer which turned out to be Amber (not one I'd wish to try). Could try a bit harder in the beer department but otherwise no complaints.

For some reason this service does not go down the CMK fast trunk line from Warsaw towards Katowice, then swinging west towards Częstochowa as the Warsaw-Opole-Wrocław Pendolino service does - it takes the slower route through Skierniewice stopping at Częstochowa Główna rather than Częstochowa Stradom as the Pendolino does. As a result the journey time is nine minutes longer (going out) and 18 minutes longer (on the return leg). Which is not bad (also bearing in mind that this service stops at Lubliniec - my candidate for 'the largest Polish town you've never heard of', while the Pendolino just sails on through).

All in all, three hours and nine minutes there, three hours and 18 minutes back is not bad compared to the old times, which were around four and half hours.

Below: this TKt48 0-8-0 tank engine stands outside Opole station, rusting away under the heavens. Built 60 years ago, this class of engine (nearly 300 in total) was a Polish design and served to haul commuter services and lighter freight trains. Although 35 have been preserved, most are in lamentable condition.

This time last year:
My dream camera, just around the corner
[It's still just a pipe-dream!]

This time two year ago:
Longer, lighter lens

This time four years ago:
New engine on the coal train

This time five years ago
High time to leave the car at home

This time six years ago:
The answer to urban commuting

This time nine years ago:
Far away across the fields

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