New Polish Government Embarks on Strategic Review of CPK Project

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– “The future of the Central Transportation Hub (CPK) will be decided in a transparent manner,” announced Donald Tusk in his speech yesterday and emphasized that independent experts will be involved in the decision-making process about this project. The PiS government’s flagship infrastructure investment has raised doubts about its scale, cost, and schedule from the beginning. The new majority in the Sejm announced a comprehensive audit that would check the expenditures incurred for this investment and show how to proceed with this project. “So far, the problem with CPK has been a lack of transparency; there are many hidden elements in this project, and the details, when they sometimes come out, raise doubts. Therefore, a reliable assessment of the risks associated with this project is crucial,” says Piotr Malepszak, an expert on railway infrastructure. In his opinion, the new government will most likely not completely throw the CPK project in the trash, although it is not known to what extent it will be continued.

– “During the election campaign, there were announcements about withdrawing from the CPK project, but it was not specified whether it was the entire project or just part of it. This is to be shown by the audit that has been much talked about in recent weeks. This year marks five years of CPK’s operation and this is a good moment to scrutinize the issues where there was a lack of transparency, and there were no full information,” says Piotr Malepszak, the President of Gdańsk’s proxy for railway issues. “I assume that this audit will show the priorities upon which we need to focus and help determine a realistic action schedule because we must clearly say that the current one is completely detached from any realities – both when it comes to the airport part and the railway. It cannot be built by 2028.”

– The Central Transport Hub is a transit node planned for several years, which is to be located between Warsaw and Łódź, and which is to integrate air, rail, and road transport. In the first stage, which according to the schedule is to end in 2027, the plan is to launch in Baranów near Warsaw a new, central airport for Poland, which will be able to handle about 40 million passengers per year. In the following years, it is to be modularly extended – up to about 65 million passengers in 2060. In addition, 12 new, fast railway connections – including 10 so-called spokes leading from various regions of Poland to Warsaw and CPK. In total, it is almost 2000 km of new lines, which according to the schedule should be ready by the end of 2034. The entire communication hub is to be surrounded by the so-called Airport City, i.e., a complex of services linked to the airport (hotels, service buildings, and offices, parking lots, logistics center, etc.).

– “I am a realist when it comes to the feasibility of infrastructure within the CPK project, the first priority section of the Warsaw-Lodz railway line. This will not happen in 2027 or 2028. In my opinion, if it happens before 2035, considering the complexity of this project, this will be a success. There we have, among others, a 10-kilometer exit tunnel from Warsaw, passing through the western part of the city, and these are not infrastructure elements that are built in two years. The same with the airport – let’s not tell fairy tales that someone will build an airport by 2027 to be able to put it into operation for passengers in 2028. Such things physically do not happen. Especially when we consider at what stage of the investment process we are – we do not have construction permits, we do not have location decisions, we have not chosen contractors and we do not have ready project documentation,” points out the railway infrastructure expert.

– CPK is to be the largest infrastructure investment in the history of Poland. It is a flagship project of the PiS government, which, however, causes great controversy from the beginning. Some experts question the justification for building such a huge communication complex, which may also hinder the development of regional ports. Others point out the tight, in practice difficult to realizable investment schedule, and its unclear cost.

– The new parliamentary majority – composed of KO, Third Way, and Left – proposed during the campaign the resignation from the construction of CPK. So far, a comprehensive audit has been announced that would check the expenses incurred on this investment and show how to proceed with this project.

– “This audit is to reveal information that has not appeared in the public space so far, because even members of parliamentary committees could not obtain basic information e.g. about what is the detailed schedule. We also need to know the actual costs of this investment, find out what are the projected flows of passengers and goods on these railway lines, because many ideas are based on very weak flows, which – in my opinion and not only – do not justify the construction of new infrastructure. When we get to know all these numbers, the public will see what this project really looks like,” says Piotr Malepszak. “So far, the problem with CPK has been a lack of transparency. There are many hidden elements in this project, and the details, which sometimes come out, raise doubts. Therefore, a reliable assessment of the risks associated with this project is crucial. In my opinion, an analysis of alternatives is also needed, especially for the airport.”

– In recent weeks, the PiS Government’s plenipotentiary for CPK, Marcin Horała, has repeatedly emphasized that resigning from this project would be difficult and costly, as it would involve, among other things, the need to change the special law on CPK and the return of money that Poland has already received from the European Union. Horała also estimated that the direct costs of closing this project would involve about PLN 3-4 billion in losses incurred, for example, on conducting the study, environmental inventories, or ordered projects. In addition, President Andrzej Duda announced that CPK is one of the key projects for Poland and he will defend it using his presidential powers. In other words, the new parliamentary majority can expect a presidential veto when amending the special law on CPK (and it will not have enough votes to reject the presidential veto).

– “After the audit in the next few months, the new authorities will have to decide what we do next – whether we do everything or part. I assume that there will not be a situation where we do nothing. In my opinion this will not happen, certainly part of the investment will be implemented,” the expert assesses.

– Among the options considered is, for example, unleashing the potential of the port in Modlin instead of building another airport or giving up part of the airport and implementing only the railway program.

– “The railway industry is preparing for the CPK project, although for now we are in a stage of waiting to see what will happen next,” says Piotr Malepszak. “When a decision is made about what we are finally building, the construction industry will naturally have to prepare for it. We have significant resources in Poland when it comes to construction companies, but not in all areas, as there are also certain specialist areas for railways and they need to be checked well for our potential to carry out this work. Let’s wait a few more months when it is determined what’s next. In my opinion, 2025 should already be the stage of the first tenders for the railway line sections and in 2026 we should physically enter the construction.”

– On Monday, December 11, CPK announced that it had obtained an environmental decision for the first of two sections of the proposed high-speed railway line between Warsaw and Lodz. A tender for drilling a long-distance tunnel under the center of Lodz will be announced in the coming days.