Poland runs out of money for roads

Apologies but while my fellow Polandians wallow in post-Christmas-excess misery I can sneak in with something about my favourite subject, the laughable state of the Polish road network (oxymoron alert!).

According to this article, almost half the tenders for planned road construction are to be cancelled. As many as 20 of the 41 outstanding projects could end up being “frozen” leaving Poland with a patchwork of roads scattered around like leftover spaghetti.

The article is unfortunately not clear on two key points:

  1. Are the funds actually not available or does Poland just not want to spend them because of worries about having to add the debt of the National Road Fund to the calculation of public debt (in GDP terms)? Apparently, the debt of the road fund should be added to the calculations of national debt in accordance with Euro rules but if this happened Poland’s deficit would rise by 6% to around 60% of GDP meaning austerity measures with higher taxes and lower spending would be needed. Looks like Poland’s finance ministers have attended Gordon Brown’s lessons in creative accounting, especially the ones about building things you can’t afford. Surely there must be a way for the EU to provide special dispensation for Poland to allow it to finish what is after all a Europe-wide transport network and not just a Polish luxury.
  2. Which projects on this map are not going to happen? One assumes that those under construction (orange) will finish and that those “in preparation” (white) will certainly not but what about those “in contracting” (green). The article mentions that 371km of road may not get built. That’s not very much and might just equate to the length of the green lines on this map……..

Source – GDDKiA website.

I love the way the new road network pretty much ignores the capital city, Warsaw, and puts Łódż at the centre of the universe. If you look at the more detailed plan for Warsaw you’ll see  lost of good ideas the vast majority of which are in the “being thought about” category, pathetic!

I also adore the way the roads in general are being built in a completely random way that does not actually result in many useful stretches of useful highway in any part of the country except perhaps if you want to go from Germany to Krakow. Łódż to Poznan is also complete but having travelled on that two-lane piece of crap I’m not going to get excited about it. The story is no doubt one of “social consultation”. I’m sorry but matters of national infrastructure require proper planning and part of that planning is the acquisition of the real estate needed to make it happen. Sure, we’d all love to have a road network where nobody gets hurt, people, animals, areas of natural beauty, but that’s just not realistic so do the best you can and then act forcefully to make it happen with appropriate compensation and so on. My grandfather lost his home and his butchers shop to a “compulsory purchase order” from the UK government to build something far less important than Poland’s highways so it can be done and everyone recovers from the upheaval eventually.

Most amusing is the fact that this latest article comes less a month after the one that said this:

Poland has already spent 20 billion zlotys (about 4.9 bn euro) on the construction of roads in preparation for the Euro 2012 football championships.

“Never before has so much construction has happened in Poland”, says Lech Witecki, head of the general directorate for road and motorway construction. “Poland is the biggest construction site in Europe. We have signed contracts on the construction of 1,700 km of roads, while 1,400 km of roads are already being built”, Witecki told Polish Radio.

Work is even continuing even in winter conditions, he said. Mr Witecki pointed out that Poland is striving to realize in three years a program which should have begun twenty years ago. He said that problems are sure to crop up but pledged to have no mercy on those who fail to meet the deadline.

Of course, there’s always the lingering smell of corruption that might be holding things back. Articles like this one back in August don’t really build confidence in Poland’s ability to manage such a large infrastructure project without squabbles about who gets the biggest brown envelope.

Media reports that copyrights to highway plans are usually handed over to GDDKiA after the contract is completed. The deal, whereby the copyright to the section of the A1 would not be handed over, was rubberstamped by head of the Katowice regional head of the directorate Krzysztof R. [name not revealed in accordance with Polish privacy law], who is under suspicion of taking 900,000 zloty (225,000 euro) in bribes.

When Aleksander Grad became Treasury Minister, his wife was placed as deputy chairman in MGGP SA as well as MGGP Aero. Earlier, the company was run almost exclusively by the Grad family, and known by competitors on the construction market as the “Gradowka.”

Still, the good news is that if you do manage to find a stretch of highway you can now drive really fast on it!! Try not to kill yourself though.

“Poles to speed up for New Year’s Eve,” headlines Gazeta Wyborcza, referring to the new regulation which increases speed limit on motorways by 10 km/h.

The regulation, which was passed by the Senate and signed by president Bronislaw Komorowski, will come into force on the last day of 2010. According to the new law of the road, drivers will be able to drive at 140 km/h on motorways and at 120 km/h at dual carriageways. The new speed limit will be the highest in the EU, where it ranges between 130 and 120 km/h. The new regulation is highly controversial, writes the daily. Not only has Poland the lowest amount of motorways in Europe, but also the highest road accidents rate.

On the GDDKiA website there’s a video section called GDDKiA TV that promises to provide “The whole truth about roads” – ROTFLMAO!!!!

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21 thoughts on “Poland runs out of money for roads

  1. Bartek says:

    You bastard… Me wallowing in post-Christmas excess misery? I’ve been bending over backwards to finish my MA thesis off before National Hangover Day. No lazing away this year…

    In 2008 I hoped Poland road construction projects would kick off for good. Who’d expect the pitiable state of our public finance would grind it to a halt… It could have been predicted, but at least I thought our government would go an extra mile to seek retrenchment somewhere else…

    do the best you can and then act forcefully to make it happen with appropriate compensation – if they were appropriate – I heard recently they’ve been, but decent compensations still don’t persuade some people, they take it to the court and eventually get dispossessed and get less money than they were offered at the beginning, but it last years and construction has to be suspended.

  2. Steve says:

    There must be something wrong with my map reading skills, but Łódż does seem to be at the centre of the universe. Putting the motorway straight along Piotrkowska could therefore be the first part of a city improvement programme. (To be fair, however, I gather that the town has improved somewhat in the last five years or so.)

  3. Name says:

    Lodz is in the center of Poland but it is in no way the center of Poland.

    Anyway, if everyone was being honest with themselves then it should come as no surprise that when it was announced that Poland was going to host Euro 2012 and thus we’d build thousands and thousands of motorway kilometers over a four year period that the roads wouldn’t be done on time, done properly or done at all… and that some old-fashioned nepotism would ensure that a few people make a lot of money off’ve it all and badly mis-managed the whole damn thing.

    But hey – us Krakowians can really haul ass over to Germany, assuming that some twat that wants to go even faster doesn’t run us off the road along the way.

  4. Last comment (the snotty one) was mine.

  5. odrzut says:

    Let’s do thought experiment – from the first map erase all roads that are white (being thought about :( ) then compare number of roads east to Wisła with the number of roads west of Wisła.

    Then consider that Poland organizes Euro with Ukraine, and the road that is connecting Warsaw with Ukraine is going throught Lublin, and is mostly white, and even the pieces that are orange or green aren’t guaranteed to be built by 2013 (they are on list that says “roads that MAY be built by 2013” – which in practice means they won’t be built by then.

    The road that now connects Warsaw with Lublin, and then goes to Ukraine, is the most dangerous road in Poland, with the most deaths and crashes every year. It was supposed to be rebuild to become DK-17, and around Lublin there was supposed to be ring (S-17) – now all the transit goes right throught the city. In 2012 people will be driving from semi final (Warsaw) to final (Kijów), and if they will be going the shortest way, all of them will have to go throught the centre of Lublin.

    People from Lublin will protest this stupid decision at the beggining of January (probably 5.01.2011, but this may change). There are planned blockades of said road, if nothing will work we will do what miners do – it seems to work the best.

    I have enough of ignoring needs of the eastern Poland.

    Link about the protest: http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=1282713

  6. odrzut says:

    Also – I forgot to add that if roads that uses European Union funds won’t be ready by 2015, moneys from EU for these roads are lost. So roads that won’t start by 2013 probably will have to be built by Poland without european moneys.

    Which in case of eastern Poland roads probably means – never (the roads that are whit on map are being in preparation for ever already).

  7. dev says:

    Łódz at the centre of Poland? Minister Grabarczyk is from Łódź – connect the dots.

    @odrzut DK17 is already DK17. The plan was to upgrade it to S17.

  8. odrzut says:

    @dev: yeah, my wrong, anyway – it should be priority – death toll of this road is outrageus.

  9. Steve says:

    Whilst Kielce, with more regional centres within 200 kms of it than any other Polish city, is obviously the historic and emotional centre of Poland, I do feel that one has to leave aside personal loyalties when coming to decisions on motorway routes. Too much emotional, rather than economic, weight is given to Warsaw.

    I tent to lean more towards Odrzut’s “I have enough of ignoring needs of the eastern Poland”, although some stupid football contest is too minimal an interest from my point of view. In the medium term, the eastern circular route (Gdansk, Olsztyn, Białystok, Lublin, Rzeszów, Kraków) will be an essential addition to ensure maximum development of Poland’s economic potential. My beloved Kielce still doesn’t make it onto the primary route, but I have to swallow my pride on that one.

  10. odrzut says:

    Thanks for supporting me in this matter, Scott.

    Of course euro 2012 shouldn’t be the main reason for building roads. The main reason for me is that poor roads make it difficult to get investors to invest here. I’ve read about some VIP from mulitnational company declining from building office in Lublin, after he was late to meeting in Lublin, because he waited for hours in traffic jam at Warszawa-Lublin road. Many of investors that eventually resigned from investing there said that poor communication was the key factor. Lublin has great potential (over 100 000 students yearly, nearby border with rapidly growing markets, low earnings compared to Warszawa or Wroc³aw).

    The second reason is safety – as I said, this road is very dangerous.

    Third reason is convenience for people from Lubelszczyzna – traffic on DK-17 already exceeds that on some Polish motorways, and is expected to rise – many people commute daily or weekly between Warszawa and Lublin.

    Euro 2012 is mentioned as the reason motorways should have priority over S-17 so I stressed that it is important for Euro 2012 also, althought neither S-17, nor motorways have chance to be finished by 2012.

  11. Nika says:

    Well, I am sorry to say that but there was supposed to be a new ringroad constructed near Okęcie… and it won’t be… They have bought the land, made people sell their properties and now they government has decided the money will be used elsewhere…

  12. guest says:

    Poles got what the deserved. I mean PO-lish voters, of course.

  13. Nika says:

    Sorry, but i don’t even dare to think what we’d have if we voted the other way around…

  14. odrzut says:

    That’s not matter of PO or PIS – it always makes me sad when people on internet turns everything about politics into PO-PIS fighting.

    Always somebody will say that the other side will be even worse, and always somebody will post something about stupid Poles voting PO.

    The problem (as I see it) is we allow politicians to turn our attention to non-issues like the cross in front of presidential palace, what Kaczyński said to whom, will homosexual people be able to get married or not, and (for 100th time) should the abortion be legal.

    These are not the things politicians should work on, nor should people concern themselves with such things – we should look on politicians hands the most carefully when they are deciding where to spend our moneys, in what way they change law that is important to everybody. We should demand reasons for important decision, like the selection of investments the gov will cut.

    Now, instead of this we see on media people discussing non-issues for 100th time.

    And what unnerves me the most is – people are buying into this – they are believing Kaczyński or Tusk is the evil incarnate, and nobody talks about problems, other than as an argument to make to prove my candidate is better than yours.

  15. jwojcie says:

    “I’m sorry but matters of national infrastructure require proper planning and part of that planning is the acquisition of the real estate needed to make it happen.”

    In that sentence is the answer for you why there is not a lot work close to Warsaw compared to other sites. It is just they can build 5x more km elsewhere with the same amount of money…

    “Sure, we’d all love to have a road network where nobody gets hurt, people, animals, areas of natural beauty, but that’s just not realistic so do the best you can and then act forcefully to make it happen with appropriate compensation and so on.”
    Since about 2 years since the law changed that things happen more easily. On the other hand to do make your wish true Poland would have to sign off from EU because of Natura 2000 networks. It makes roads a lot more expensive to save environment.

    But to bottom line paradoxically is that the road program in recent years became so successful that we simply run out of money. There is about 1300 km of motorways in construction right now which is quite a lot… What you wish for is to build entire network in 5 to 10 years, something what western countries have done in 50 years.
    Sorry mate, but you wish would bancrupt us sooner rather than later…

  16. Paddy says:

    I rather think Euro 2012 is an excellent excuse to build motorways, if I may say so.

  17. Nika says:

    Well, it should be… but it may happen that the Euro 2012 will come, and Poland will still have no roads… ;P (only because it’s Poland so we can’t organise anything properly)

  18. Sylwia says:

    You’re right. Eastern Poland needs roads. It’s the only way to make it a good place for investments, tourism etc.

    In fact it’s not so important how many people live in particular places right now, because many are likely to move when there are roads.

  19. Marty says:

    Well, to make a long story short – the money’s gone, the road network has not been built, there won’t be another excuse to raid the (EU’s) treasury for another 50 years.
    The road patches we’re building now will long crumble by then for lack of maintenance.
    Pls, notice how the Swiss Frank has been spectacularly up lately ?

  20. fadhilahmpa says:

    your blog is good. visit my blog too

  21. AJ says:

    wow i’ve left Poland at 17 so didn’t know about the road issue till this article :(

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