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Liquidation of the bus station, exclusion of communication. Bus transport development fund. Comments: Adrian Frugalski, Ryszard Haracewiat, Paweł Krutul

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In the years 2019-2022, ten PKSs went bankrupt. A particular example is Radom. From April, thanks to the opening of the airport, residents will be able to fly to Rome or Copenhagen, but since the end of last year they have no way to get to work – says Adrian Furgalski, president of the Management Board of Grupa Doradców Gospodarczych TOR, in an interview with TVN24 Biznes. He adds that “some fifteen million Poles” live in an area that is a white spot in terms of public transport.

Communication exclusion map

“The complaints submitted to the Ombudsman show that the problem of communication exclusion affects in particular the inhabitants of smaller towns or villages” – the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights answers questions from TVN24 Biznes.

It is about numerous inconveniences related to, for example, difficult access of patients to health care, people with disabilities to rehabilitation, difficulties in commuting to work for people who do not have a private car.

The Ombudsman explains that “very often the communication between the village and the city comes down to school buses, running only during the school year. The source of this state of affairs is most often the liquidation of the connection by the carrier due to its unprofitability”.

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The Transport Economics Association has published a map of transport exclusion in Poland. According to research, up to approx. 20 percent. towns in Poland are not accessible by public transport.

Transportation problems. “The situation is not optimistic”

Problems with commuting to work, to the doctor or to the grocery store are addressed by MP Paweł Krutul (Left) in a parliamentary question. It describes the situation of a resident of Krynki in the Podlaskie Voivodship.

“His wife and children commute to school and work in Sokółka. They were surprised when PKS Nova, along with the New Year’s timetable change, eliminated most connections on the Krynki-Sokółka line, leaving one connection in … early afternoon “- we read.

According to MP Krutul, “the situation in other Podlaskie cities is also not optimistic.”

“PKS Nova informed the residents of Siemiatycze (Podlaskie Voivodeship) that from July 1, 2022, 10 connections are suspended in the direction of, among others, Białystok, Bielsk Podlaski, Milejczyce, Drohiczyn and others. Some time ago, all connections on the Siemiatycze– Warsaw,” he writes in an interpellation.

In an interview with TVN24 Biznes, he gives another example. – From Sejny to Białystok the bus leaves at 7 am, from Białystok to Sejny at 2 pm. This is the only direct connection that does not allow commuting to work. Moreover, during the academic year, the bus, especially before the weekend, can be overcrowded with passengers. The next example is connections with Siemiatycze. The problem is also reported by the inhabitants of Hajnówka or Krynki – indicates Krutul and adds that until 2014 there were 788,000 in Poland. bus lines, and in 2020 only 480,000.

We asked PKS Nova for a comment on the changes in the timetable. According to the information sent to TVN24 Biznes by the company’s management board, in 2022 the company created 50 new lines and closed 73. “In addition, we are implementing the Białystok-Krynki line at 16:30, access to Krynki is at 17:34, travel time is 1 hour 4 minutes, the cost of the ticket is PLN 24. The route is 49 km long. The connection is organized by the Mayor of Krynki in consultation with the Supraśl Municipality and the Szudzialowo Municipality as part of the public utility line.

When asked what challenges residents of smaller towns face today in the context of public transport, Adrian Frugalski, president of the management board of Zespół Doradców Gospodarczych TOR, replies in an interview with TVN24 Biznes that “about fifteen million Poles do not have any challenges related to it, because they simply live in an area which is a white spot in this regard.

– This handicaps people, especially young people, who have difficult access to education, cultural offer or simply to social life and the development of social ties. Millions more have access to public transport only on weekdays. People, of course, self-help and give each other a ride, but the most common cure is simply to buy a car. Very often poisonous duckweed brought from German. Then we are surprised that there are traffic jams in cities and on access roads, that there is noise, accidents or environmental pollution – he says.

bus fund

The solution to the problems of liquidated connections was to be the government’s Bus Transport Development Fund (FRPA). We asked the Ministry of Infrastructure, the addressee of MP Krutul’s interpellation, how he assesses the effects of the fund, which was established in 2019.

In response, the ministry stated that “FRPA is the first instrument of financial support on such a large scale for local government units that organize public collective transport.”

“The functioning of the Fund has been planned in a long-term perspective. Starting from 2020, we guarantee PLN 800 million annually to support local governments launching bus connections. Thanks to this, new communication lines are created, and residents, primarily from smaller towns, have the opportunity to travel to work by public transport, schools, health centers and cultural institutions.

According to government information, in 2019, 1,228 communication lines were co-financed with PLN 10 million. In 2020, transport was carried out on 2,834 communication lines, which were co-financed with PLN 139 million. In 2021, the subsidy from the Fund covered 4,371 communication lines nationwide, and the amount of the subsidy transferred to the organizers was PLN 358 million. In 2022, the subsidy covered 5,705 communication lines, and the amount of subsidy requested by the organizers from the Fund is over PLN 631 million.

As part of the calls for proposals for 2023 carried out so far, local governments applied for the launch of 6,347 new communication lines throughout the country. “We will allocate PLN 773 million from the FRPA for this purpose,” the Ministry of Infrastructure announced.

“Certainly the government expected more”

Why is it so bad when it’s so good? Adrian Frugalski admits that “the fund was the government’s first financial response to the problem of disappearing bus connections and carriers heading for bankruptcy”.

– The costs of tidying up in this area are estimated at twice as much, but even these PLN 800 million can certainly be considered groundbreaking, although when they are not accompanied by deeper systemic changes, the effect of their impact is unfortunately limited – he comments in an interview from TVN24 Business.

In his opinion, “certainly the government expected more” from the fund. – When the law was adopted in 2019, buses traveled 532 million kilometers a year. In 2021, 399 million kilometers. So we are dealing with further shrinking of the bus connections market – he states.

According to the expert, the government shows the effectiveness of the adopted solutions, but only in the narrow aspect of the use of funds from the fund, and not in the development of the situation throughout the country.

– In the years 2019-2022, ten PKSs collapsed. In 2021, PKS Ostrów Wielkopolski and PKS Łódź were liquidated, and earlier the state carrier PKS Gniezno. Last year, PKS Radom and PKS Wałcz were liquidated. Radom is special to me as an example of combating communication exclusion. From April, thanks to the opening of the airport, residents will be able to fly to Rome or Copenhagen, but since the end of last year they have no way to get to work – he sums up.

Read also: PKS Radom collapses. “All employees have been terminated and we are closing operations”

“We were treated like a fifth wheel”

In Wałcz, a city in the north-western part of Poland, inhabited by over 24,000 people, the local PKS stopped operating in 2022. Ryszard Haracewiat, the liquidator of the company, in an interview with TVN24 Biznes says that “the state aid received was insufficient to cover financial losses, nor did it cover all periods when distance learning was conducted and passenger restrictions were in place.

– Explosion war in Ukraine resulted in a very large increase fuel prices liquids and electricity. Losses incurred in the years 2020-2022, counted without revenues from the sale of the company’s assets, amounted to approximately PLN 4 million, he explains.

According to Ryszard Haracewiat, “the conditions for the functioning of public transport created by the state had a major impact on the difficult financial situation.” He enumerates the lack of the possibility of using EU funds for the purchase of bus fleet or the lack of cooperation on the part of local governments, which are the organizers of public transport. – We were treated like a fifth wheel on the cart. Local government units are of the opinion that PKS companies must carry out transport without any subsidy – he says.

It also points to the “lack of possibility of comprehensive use of funds from the bus transport development fund”.

Furgalski: there should be one ticket connecting bus, railway and public transport

He also draws attention to the shortcomings of the Fund Adrian Frugalski, adding that experts already pointed to this in 2019, when the regulations were adopted.

– Why is the grant only for one year? After all, this discourages from entering the service, since there is no certainty that it will last longer. This prevents the purchase of rolling stock, because who will buy new rolling stock for a year? According to the postulates, these are now to be contracts of up to ten years – he comments.

As he states, the reconstruction of regional railway connections began when voivodship self-governments increased their share in tax revenues. – I see the success of collective transport in another such movement, not in central funds and various acts. There should be one ticket connecting bus, railway and public transport – he estimates.

However, he notes that “today, the state pays for such a good offer for residents, because then it takes away refunds for journeys with statutory discounts on buses and trains”.

– Absurd. The state should even reward such integration of services – he concludes.

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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