On holiday by train instead of by car? “It is not the EU, but Putin and oil prices that will convince people to turn around”

The price of fuel seems to have reached the point where it is realized that the railways can be an alternative to the car. This is what Piotr Rachwalski, expert on public transport and former president of Koleje Dolnośląskie, thinks. In 300 Economy we check whether a train journey during this holiday can actually be a competition for traveling by car.

Both the last long weekend in June and the following public holiday in 2022 could be a test for public transport in Poland. This year’s summer is unique for several reasons: it is the first summer season in two years in which pandemic restrictions have been lifted in Poland. And this could mean that Poles will go on holiday in large numbers and more willing than usual.

But it is also a time of record high fuel prices, reaching up to 8 PLN per litre.

A train instead of a car. Because it’s expensive

The prices are very difficult for drivers. This makes the Polish Railways an alternative to traveling by car. Our Reader and her husband decided to use a similar solution when leaving Warsaw for Koszalin. In an interview with our portal, she described this situation:

It is 540 km from Warsaw to Koszalin, so we will not be able to cover such a route on one tank of fuel. For us, a single journey by car costs more than PLN 500, including fuel and toll. This is an extremely high amount compared to the train we decided to take. A return trip in a sleeping car for one person costs about PLN 360 – he says.

And adds:- I have been a driver for 15 years, I like driving and I appreciate the freedom this means of transport gives. But at such prices as today car travel becomes almost impossible – he lists.


Also read: Planes on the track: Will night trains change the way we travel in Poland and Europe?


In the above case, the train turns out to be almost half cheaper than traveling by car at the current petrol prices. In this situation, can the somewhat forgotten train journeys come back into favor?

Putin will lead us to the railway

The price of fuel seems to have come so far that people are realizing that rail can be an alternative to the car – says the president of Koleje Dolnośląskie in 2014-2019 and transport expert Piotr Rachwalski.

On his blog, Rachwalski talks about the herds of people interested in traveling by train during the long weekend of June (June 16-19). Even buying a ticket two days in advance was a miracle at the time, demonstrating the interest in this mode of transport.

This is confirmed by the record data from PKP Intercity from last week. Over the long weekend, from Wednesday, June 15 to Monday, June 20, PKP IC trains transported nearly 1.17 million people. Most, 247,000, on Sunday, June 19. This is a record in the company’s history.

And it turns out that it’s not the EU or the Polish government, but Putin and oil prices that can ultimately persuade people to return to the railway. – notes Rachwalski.

Our editors took a look at how much a trip to the most popular holiday destinations in Poland would cost us on June 22. We took Warsaw as the start of the route and checked the travel costs to five places – to Zakopane, Sopot, Ostróda in Masuria, Sanok (starting point towards the Bieszczady Mountains) and Jelenia Góra (starting point towards the Sudeten).

The cost of fuel required for a journey with one car and two train tickets is shown in the following infographic:

How did we calculate it? We assumed that an average car consumes 6.5 liters of petrol (type 95) per 100 km. We assumed the price of petrol at PLN 8 per liter and chose the shortest route indicated by Google maps.

In turn, we chose the cheapest connections for the rail lines – direct in the case of Sopot and Ostróda, and with 1 change on the other routes.

In our comparison, the trains proved unbeatable when it comes to the cost of a trip for two people. In any case, two TLK, Intercity or regional train tickets (without promotion) are cheaper than refueling for this route.

In addition, the planned train journey time is shorter for direct connections. However, it is worth noting that in the case of a trip to the Bieszczady Mountains, the journey by train is much longer than by car. In addition, you have to travel from Jelenia Góra, Ostróda or Sanok by another means of transport to places in Masuria, the Bieszczady or the Sudetes.

Railway test

A separate issue is whether the railway in Poland is ready to receive an additional pool of passengers. The expert’s answer is unfortunately negative.

Years of cutting the wagons for scrap with almost no purchase of new ones. Last purchased EMUs [Elektryczne Zespoły Trakcyjne – pojazdy szynowe, charakteryzujące się zazwyczaj jedną wspólną przestrzenią pasażerską na długości całego pojazdu – red.] are older than 7 years and millions on the clock – lists the reasons why rail transport is not ready for such an increase in passenger numbers.

And he adds that the local government railways are no better either, where there are practically no reserves.

– This holiday will be a test for the Polish railways – he lists.

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