The EU has agreed to grant the STH Company nearly €2,000,000 for preliminary works on the construction of a 30-kilometre stretch of railway line near the Czech border, enabling the restoration of a railway connection to Jastrzębie-Zdrój – currently Poland’s largest town without a rail connection. The line will form part of the Katowice-Ostrava route, which is scheduled to be constructed by the STH in collaboration with the Czech rail operator SŽDC.
The subsidy granted to the STH (in the amount of €1,750,000) will fund preliminary works on the construction of a railway route from the Polish-Czech border to Jastrzębie-Zdrój and its connection to the existing Chybie-Żory line. The prospective 30-kilometre-long section will constitute the missing link of the TEN-T Trans-European Transport Network. Works will also include proposing a route for the new rail corridor fromJastrzębie Zdrój to Katowice.
The project will not only improve the railway connection between Poland and neighbouring countries but will also enable connecting Jastrzębie-Zdrój – a town of nearly 90,000 inhabitants andcurrently Poland’s largest town without access to rail lines – to the national long-distance railway route system
The STH applied for funding under the Connecting Europe Facility(CEF) in late April. Funds from the facility are used to finance infrastructural projects in EU member states.
Obtaining financial aid under the Connecting Europe Facility is excellent news given the tough competition in the form of projects submitted by other EU member states. It also serves as proof that there is demand for this project. This was the first application for funding for the STH Railway Programme under the CEF
64 applications from various EU member states were submitted for the competition as part of the ‘Transport’ category of the CEF, of which 56 (including the application submitted by the STH) concerned investments into transborder sections as part of the TENT-T network – their total value amounted to €227,000,000. The commission ultimately selected 31 projects from this category, with the EU allocating €117,000,000 in funding for the projects. The decision requires further approval from the European Commission.
Since April, the STH and Czech rail operator SŽDC have been collaborating as part of preparations for the construction of new railway lines. Collaboration involves the coordination of the preparation and construction process of the new transborder Katowice – Ostrava line as well as the Wrocław – Prague line. Both parties have agreed to work together to determine the detailed route of the new lines as well as their detailed technical parameters.
Construction of a new line in the Jastrzębie-Zdrój area, partially funded under the CEF, is only part of the STH Railway Programme in the Śląsk and Małopolska regions. The main project to be implemented in the area is the Małopolska-Śląsk Hub (Węzeł Małopolsko-Śląski – WMŚ), which will act as a new transfer hub and long-distance stop for the towns of Jaworzno, Chrzanów and Olkusz.
How will passengers benefit from WMŚ? Construction of the hub and connecting lines will reduce the fastest travelling times fromKrakówto Katowice to 35 minutes. Thanks to the hub, trips from Warsaw to Katowice will take approximately 1 hour 35 minutes and from trips from Warsaw to Kraków will take 1 hour 45 minutes. The project will also result in a significant increase in the number of trains passing through Katowice and Kraków.
The new track layout will also enable direct routes from Katowice via Sosnowiec and Dąbrowa Górnicza, WMŚ and Olkusz to Kraków to be opened, which will help redress certain past shortcomings – as a result of which Sosnowiec (over 200,000 inhabitants), Dąbrowa Górnicza (120,000 inhabitants) and Będzin (60,000 inhabitants) lack a railway connection with Kraków, which is located 65 kilometres away.
Implementation of the STH Railway Programme will also help to reduce the duration of train trips abroad – to the Czech Republic but also to Hungary and Slovakia. Plans include the construction of the V4 transborder high-speed rail route (Budapest – Bratislava – Brno – Warsaw), which will pass through Ostrava, Jastrzębie-Zdrój (on the new section to be subsidised under the CEF), the area of Rybnik and Katowice and further on through WMŚ and the existing Central Rail Line and will terminate at the STH.
The STH Railway Programme contemplates the construction of over 1,600 kilometres of new railway lines (known as rail ‘spokes’), leading to the STH and Warsaw from 10 directions. As part of the zero stage, which is scheduled to be completed prior to the Solidarity Airport obtaining operational capability, a 140-kilometre-long new rail link between Warsaw – STH – Łódź will be constructed, enabling trains to reach speeds of up to 250 km/h. The estimated travel time from Warsaw to the STH will be 15 minutes and from Łódź to the STH 25 minutes.
Each of the 10 ‘spokes’ leading to the STH will comprise new sections of tracks and renovated or modernised fragments of the existing infrastructure. The STH Company will be responsible for the construction of the former, while PKP Polish Railways will be responsible for the modernisation of the latter.