Tuesday, 9 May 2017

En marche!

Meaning 'On the move', or 'I'm on my way'. Delighted that Putin's poodles have been soundly routed by the French electorate, I'm on my way from a working lunch about Industry 4.0 with members in Katowice to a meeting with business owners about how to increase the value of their companies in Tarnobrzeg.

Now getting from Katowice to Tarnobrzeg is not easy. By the shortest route, 233km. Via Kraków and the DK79, 255km.  By train (given that our Katowice event finished at 16:15) the first connection would have taken over TEN HOURS, depositing me in Tarnobrzeg at 05:43 and entailing a four-hour wait in Rzeszów between midnight at four am. NO. WAY.

So the alternative had to be bus. PKP seems to have given up on competing on the busy Katowice-Kraków corridor - there are buses leaving both cities headed for the other one every 15 minutes. And they're not expensive - I paid 14zł for a seat in a modern coach that took 1hr 25mins city centre to city centre. The train between Katowice and Kraków would have taken 2hrs 10mins. Stopping at every single station on the way.

A problem I have had with Polish buses is the poor (compared to trains) accessibility to timetables, the state-owned PKS services tend to have timetables consigned to .pdf files; Google searches for specific routes often end in dead links; it's frustrating. Fortunately, enterprising app writers have come up with some good ones. Marta from our Krakow office was on hand to check the times for me, introducing me to busradar.pl; bus connections between Kraków and Tarnobrzeg turned out to be very good, with Jotka and Trans Hans both offering services that depart hourly and linking the two places, 155km apart, with journey times of around three hours.

The connection at Kraków was excellent - I arrived just six minutes before the Jotka service set ofp for Tarnobrzeg. This was not so much a coach as a busik - a Mercedes-Benz minibus similar to the one I took between Szczecin and Berlin last November. Not only that, but the minibus was equipped with wifi that worked part of the way. So the whole journey, from Katowice to Tarnobrzeg, took 4hrs 10mins. Not at all bad. And the cost? 39zł (£8) for 255km/158 mile journey.

Poland has a dense network of privately run minibus companies; the problem is finding which towns are connected by which companies. If you don't know the name of the local, privately-owned company, it's difficult. Type in the town names and 'bus' and Google is less than helpful, But busradar.pl may well be the answer, opening up new travel opportunities.

Motorways and expressways are helping too; new bypasses are being built and by the end of this year a whole lot of new projects will have got under way. Road safety will need to be addressed; the frustration of 'anywhere in Poland is five hours from anywhere else' (as it used to be in the late 1990s) led to stupid and dangerous driving. For several years - in particular since 2012 - the number of fatal accidents in Poland had been falling. Sadly, in 2016 it ticked up over the 3,000 mark once again. Having said that, only 15 fatalities were in buses.

This time three years ago:
Jeziorki spring pictorial

This time four years ago:
Kitten time

This time five years ago:
Warsaw - Centrum to Jeziorki by train with super-wide lens

This time six years ago:
Loose Lips Sink Ships - part II

This time seven years ago:
Jeziorki in the infra red

This time eight years ago:
Some rain, at last!


DC said...

I'll have to check out this busradar. Thanks for the tip.

I've been using https://www.e-podroznik.pl/ for a while. They also have an android app. It's nice that you can compare to the train, when available. For me the tricky part is if you want to flag down a bus from an intermediate stop and travel to a stop other than the terminus. There can be several different routes that could work, but knowing which is the correct terminus to match to the sign in the window before starting to wave... e-podroznik has this info if you click on the "route" tab after you search for your journey. Would be nicer if this info were presented a little more simply, but at least it's there.

Hey Michael - did you ever make it to see the EK A380 one-off? I was really looking forward to your pictures.

Michael Dembinski said...


Will try e-podroznik.pl...

The A380 visit happened when I was in London - my son Eddie managed to film it on his iPhone. It was taking off - rather than landing - over our house, so higher than it would have been had it been landing, impressive nonetheless.

whitehorsepilgrim said...

Bus times aren't necessarily easy to find in the UK if one hasn't a bit of time with Google. Except in London where TfL provides great information. I needed to get from Oxford to Milton Keynes and was surprised and pleased to find a half-hourly coach service with nice, modern vehicles - quicker than the circuitous rail journey via London (with three changes) and a third of the price. Curious, though, how a commercial (not subsidised) coach service makes money - on average ten passengers, £13 return for a 1 hour 15 minute trip each way. The low points compared to rail are the ride (very bumpy on English single carriageway roads) and the lack of terminal facilities (Oxford coach station reminds me of eastern Europe just post-1989). Within a decade rail service on this route will re-open for the first time since the 1960s, so clearly some modal change from car travel is expected.