The CENTRAL
POLAND AIRPORT
PROJECT

Summary & Prologue
Income-Driven Demand for Air Travel
Air/Rail Modal Split: Competition or Symbiosis?
EU Injections and Priorities
Could Backwardness Offer an Advantage?
An Interim Solution
The International Dimension
Funding & Conclusion
EUROPEAN TRANSPORT POLICY IN PERSPECTIVE
THE PROSPECTS OF A-R-R INTEGRATION
AIR-RAIL INTEGRATION
ILLUSTRATIONS
NEWS
Homepage

Could Backwardness Offer an Advantage?

Lagging behind the West Europeans in practically every sphere, the Poles are determined to catch up quickly. In doing so they can take advantage of the West’s experience and avoid such pitfalls as the unbridled expansion of road transport. Rather than seeking to catch up in number of motor vehicles and in density of motorways, Poland would be well advised to turn its ‘retardation’ into an advantage and build high-speed railways at relatively low cost.

Land in Poland costs only a fraction of West European prices, among others due to the incomparably less advanced industrialization and urbanization of the country. Warsaw itself is a telling example: a new, truly high-speed line can be laid right into the centre without ever leaving railway terrain—much of which remains idle, anyhow. Unlike any other capital city of Europe, Warsaw can have trains coming in at 300 km/h as far as Prymasa Tysiaclecia Street, or within 3100 metres of the Central Station in Warsaw’s heart.

Turning to airports, the present Warsaw airport (Okęcie) cannot be enlarged by adding ever new terminals on the perimeter, to reach the dimensions of a sprawling Heathrow or Frankfurt Rhein/Main. Instead, a brand-new airport has to be be built on virgin soil—a true greenfield project, with one large terminal in the middle. Most importantly, however, unlike any other European country, Poland can feed this airport with passengers descending from high-speed trains that come in and under the terminal from all four sides

This possibility is within easy reach, even though the ministerial decision makers may not be fully aware of it. Few people remember these days that 30 years ago a dedicated railway (CMK) was built to high-speed specifications, to provide a new link between the heavily industrialized Silesia in the south, the new industries in the Polish Midlands, the area of Warsaw, and, eventually, the northern ports on the Baltic. Today, this partly completed line is used chiefly by express trains linking Warsaw with Katowice (and Cracow). The tracks of this marvellously straight and level line begin as the train leaves the 150-year old "Viennese" railway some 40 km from Warsaw.

The northern end of CMK (view to the south)
The northern end of CMK (view to the south).

Alas, at the other end of the line, there are 40 km of extremely worn tracks, as the train approaches Katowice. In effect, only for two thirds of the distance the train runs at 160 km/h. Even so, the average speed between the two cities is 117 km/h.

Not much is needed to speed up the trains there to 250, or even 350 km/h. The most costly thing are the high-speed trains themselves. But the country's oncoming economic expansion should make more than one foreign investor sense business in turning CMK into a truly high-speed line, even if it were to take 30 years to bring train headways between successive trains down to 3 minutes—like on the Paris–Lyon and Tokyo–Osaka lines.

A decade ago plans were being considered for the construction of a high-speed railway across Europe, to link Berlin and Moscow, via Poznań, Łódź, Warsaw and Minsk. At an average speed of well over 250 km/h, the train ride from Berlin to Moscow would take little more than six hours (as compared with the present 30 hours!). By then, the border stops and gauge changing will have to be eliminated, of course.

This trans-European high-speed railway can still be traced on a ‘vintage’ schematic map of the PKP (Polish State Railways). In fact, some 40 km west of Warsaw the red trail crosses with the northern extension of the CMK (the latter is in black).

Whereas the trans-European line is not even mentioned in the current TEN-T (European Union) guidelines, the latter cover only the next six years (up to 2010). And since the new central-Polish airport will not open until 2012, the chances are that the two projects will eventually converge some time between 2015 and 2020.

Turning from the ‘futuristic map of high-speed railways to a topographical map of the region, we find the planned northward extension of CMK marked by a broken line. Thus we can locate the area where CMK would intersect with the east-west red trail. The place is some 36 km west of Warsaw. A mere 2 km south of the site runs the A2 (Berlin–Warsaw) motorway, scheduled to be completed in 2008. This motorway from Berlin was one of the ambitious projects of the 70s, to be ready for the 1980 Moscow Olympics. At the point where the A2 was to pass over the future extension of CMK, a weird view opens from behind scattered trees to the straying wanderer.

For no other reason but the prospective convergence of the country's two major railways alongside the east-west motorway under construction, this site is ideally suited to accommodate the principal airport of Eastern Europe—even if it were located amidst a rolling landscape, or right in the middle of an extensive lake.

Fortunately, over dozens of miles west of Warsaw the country is level, the horizontal inclination not exceeding one metre per kilometre. And since, in view of prevailing western winds, the 4000-metre runways must have an east-west (latitudinal) orientation, their inclination lengthwise would be less than four metres.

Is the area not densely populated, perchance? Well, it happens to be populated below average because it abounds in rivulets engulfed by meadows; what remains to be done is either to channel the flows or divert them to neighbouring streams. To be sure, this is by no means a desert, rather the typical Polish landscape of small farming plots.

High-speed railways as planned by Polish Railways 10 years ago
High-speed railways as planned by Polish Railways 10 years ago.
Mazovian flatland 30-40 km west of Warsaw. The site of the proposed Central Poland Airport is in the centre, 3 km north of the (planned) motorway and its intersection with the extension of the railway from Cracow and Katowice
Mazovian flatland 30-40 km west of Warsaw. The site of the proposed Central Poland Airport is in the centre, 3 km north of the (planned) motorway and its intersection with the extension of the railway from Cracow and Katowice.
Forty-two pylons planted 25 years ago for A2 to bridge CMK
Forty-two pylons planted 25 years ago for A2 to bridge CMK.
Panoramic view of future central airport location (CPL) from bridge over Pisia Tuczna between Cegłów and Osiny, next to altitude 91.3m
Panoramic view of future central airport location (CPL) from bridge over Pisia Tuczna between Cegłów and Osiny, next to altitude 91.3m.
Aerial photograph of rural area in which the Central Poland Airport should be built
Aerial photograph of rural area in which the Central Poland Airport should be built.

What about nearby towns and settlements? There are no settlements, beyond a few villages, each inhabited by no more than a few dozen people, at either end of the runways, and the nearest towns are situated sideways, at a distance of 5 to 10 km from the airport.

Is there a better location for such an airport anywhere else in Eastern Europe? None at all, in our view.

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