Plains, Trains and Electro-mobiles

“Transport of the mails, transport of the human voice, transport of flickering pictures – in this century as in others our highest accomplishments still have the single aim of bringing men together.” The words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery and, although the century has changed, the coming together that transport enables – be it of people, goods, or ideas – has never been easier or achieved more cheaply than it is today. As technology advances, so do the possibilities, but whatever may be happening in cyberspace, for now at least, people and goods have physically to come together using traditional transport.

Air travel has grown in recent years, with budget airlines having made a tremendous impact. As a result, last year saw 24.34 million passengers used Poland’s 14 regional airports, 3 million up on 2016, according to data released by the Polish Regional Airports Association. Regional airports accounted for 61 per cent of all air traffic in Poland, which totalled 40.09 million passengers. The remaining 15.75 million passengers, 39 per cent of the total, flew via Warsaw Chopin Airport.

The top three regional airports in 2017 were Kraków (5.83 million passengers), Gdańsk (4.6 million) and Katowice (3.89 million), with the Olsztyn-Mazury airport in Szymany recorded the highest growth in air traffic, with passenger number up 122 per cent on 2016. Indeed, 2017 was the best year for Poland’s regional airports in history, Artur Tomasik, head of the Polish Regional Airports Association, said. “The substantial upswing in air traffic recorded by virtually all hubs shows that they are a vital component of the country’s transport system”.

He also said that there was room for optimism in the sector for the years ahead, with the Civil Aviation Authority forecasting almost 65 million passengers passing through Polish airports in 2025. On the assumption that more than half of them will use the 14 regional airports, he suggested passenger numbers of some 35 million. The CAA estimates that some 26.5 million passengers will pass through Poland’s regional airports in 2018.

Meanwhile, a new freight railway route linking Poland and southern China was launched this week according to the Xinhua News Agency. A train carrying electrical products and sheet metal left Qinzhou in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous region for Małaszewicze, eastern Poland, on Wednesday. The train will cover the distance of some 11,000 kilometers in between 18 and 20 days, which is 12 days shorter than the journey would take by ship. The Polish government has been actively seeking to increase the number of trains between Poland and China.

And on the roads, Warsaw is to receive 130 new electric buses, financed to the tune of EUR 41 million through the European Union’s Cohesion Fund. The European Commissioner for Regional Policy, Corina Crețu, said that the move will improve the quality of life in Warsaw as the electric buses should help to reduce car traffic and improve air quality, which is certainly in need of improvement. The buses are expected to appear at the beginning of 2021.

This is in tune with the thoughts of President Duda who said at last week’s conference entitled Future Technologies Electro-mobility and held at the presidential palace in Warsaw that e-mobility was important since replacing combustion-engine cars with electric vehicles in the future would increase Poland’s energy independence and reduce pollution. He added that a Polish economy focused on innovative technologies would be able to compete with Western economies. The senate is also to discuss a new law on e-mobility, which includes waiving tax on electric vehicles, free parking in cities, and the construction of some 6,000 charging stations around the country.

Of course, Poland has some way to go to establish its green credentials, not least in reducing reliance on coal – and the electricity to charge the batteries of these electric vehicles has to come from somewhere, as folk are wont to forget – but it is encouraging to see these issues now being thought about more widely. Of course, cynics will no doubt take a different view, but once for might we not accept positive developments at face value.

So there we have it, a snap shot of three very different aspects of developments in planes, trains and electro-mobiles. The common theme, a country, a people and an economy on the move which is certainly a positive start to the year.

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