Sunday, 17 May 2015

Pendolino – first trip

No photos since the camera in Szajsung packed up and I had no room in my briefcase to squeeze there my regular compact camera.

Had some business duties to handle in Gdansk last Tuesday. While looking for alternatives for how to get there I considered: car (by A2 and A1 motorways more than 400 kilometres, i.e. some four-hour drive in each direction would be requisite), airplane (prices of in-country flights have dropped recently, yet getting to the airport in Warsaw and in Gdansk and having to turn up at the airport an hour before take-off are a bit of a nuisance, plus getting corpo-sign-offs for plane travel is an even bigger nuisance. So… a penny drops – let’s go there by train – the new Pendolino service should be in place. I checked the timetable to learn the journey from Warszawa Centralna lasts these days less than three hours! Plus the cost is quite modest!

My train departs from Warsaw at 6:34 a.m. Lots of people around and passengers are from all walks of life. In a carriage my colleague with who I travel and I are accosted by a pissed-off male in his thirties. Not well-dressed, yet silver-mouthed. He boasts about kicking the air and knocking it down, then ask whether we know Johnny and whether he is still alive. Then he walks off. I wonder whether he has a ticket and what the crew has done with him. A woman in her late sixties has a long phone call with her lawyer and discusses with him how to disinherit her son who plans to marry a wrong woman. Why washing dirty linen in public?

The very train passes muster. The smell of modernity lingers, seats are comfortable, plenty of room to stretch out legs for tall people. In second class carriages you get one beverage free of charge. Since displays in carriages do not show current speed of the train, I have no idea how fast the train moves, but passengers do not feel uneasy at speeds exceeding 150 kmph. Punctuality beyond approach – train pulls up to Gdansk Głowny exactly at 9:33 a.m.

Since our destination is mere two miles from the train station and the meeting is scheduled at 10:30, we spare the New Factory a taxi expense and take a walk. Having done what we were supposed we and having two free hours before our Warsaw-bound train departs, we head towards old town. On our way we spot a building resembling Warsaw’s Hala Mirowska and drop in there to Bar Dominikanski eatery. Lunch portions are huge and prices very modest (below 20 PLN for a meal which leaves you full up) – I recommend the eatery for the sake of superb price-to-quality trade-off, although they could do with less grease ;-).

The Warsaw-bound train, whose actual route is from Gdynia to Krakow, arrives on time (2:34 p.m.) and comes to Warsaw also exactly on time (5:30 p.m.). This time we do not come across naughty passengers, yet the train carries mostly the air – does not bode well for improvement is PKP Intercity’s profitability which needs to rely on state subsidies to break even…

In terms of comfort, I have no reservations. Reliability of Pendolino trains will be fully tested by proper Polish winter (heavy snowfalls, temperatures below –20C – as for the latter it was claimed in advance the Italian trains do not withstand such low temperatures). In terms of price per one person it beats flights and car journeys. If two people travel and have no chance to buy tickets more than two weeks before journey date, going by car from Warsaw to Gdansk appears more economical (300 – 350 PLN for petrol and motorway tolls) than by Pendolino (4 times 120 PLN per ticket gives 480 PLN). When going by train you sit back and do not care, or you can spend the three-hour journey reading or working. When going by car you are more flexible, but the journey lasts a bit longer, is more tiresome and statistically far more dangerous. I shall be visiting the same destination a few times a year in the future, so Pendolino will most probably become the preferable means of getting there.

PS. This is not the advertisement of PKP Intercity, nor the eulogy for how things are moving ahead when Bronisław Komorowski is the president. I will be voting for Mr Komorowski, as for the lesser of two evils. Time to reiterate my opinion of him was much higher five years ago and generally his presidency has let me down, though it has been mediocre, yet predictable. Frankly speaking, despite being fundamentally against vision of Poland by PiS, I cannot promise not to change my mind. Mr Komorowski is intent on losing in a run-off. Tonight I will be watching the debate between the two candidates and I can bet Mr Duda beats Mr Komorowski in terms of preparation for discussion and in terms of image. The incumbent president and his henchmen work very hard to help Mr Komorowski move out of Krakowskie Przedmiescie…

1 comment:

Alexander said...

A lot of Polish people still do not trust the former state owned Polish companies. They will have to prove them selfs extra hard.
Pendolino’s brothers have been in service between Switzerland and Italy since 2007 so the teething problems should be solved.
I have used the German designed and built high speed trains, ICE, 4 times.
Twice from Duisburg to Berlin, one time the other way, and one time from Berlin to Hannover.
Since then I have only used the 2 hours longer, locomotive pulled intercity via Osnabruck because the German HST broke down two times in those 4 times, and if I miss the connection with the Berlin-Warszawa Express I will be stuck until 6.00 am next day.
And for the railfans. PROBABLY in June the Germans and Russians will start a Talgo-train service between Berlin and Moscow. Talgo-trains are a system that changes the wheel gauges for European 1437 mm between the rails to Russia’s 1520 mm system more or less automatically