Railway infrastructure is critical for enabling mobility, and as transport demand continues to grow modernizing and expanding the railway network becomes essential.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) emphasises the importance of filling the gaps in the CEE transport system for the development of the region, bringing significant economic benefits. To meet global environmental policy objectives, it is imperative to develop sustainable transport systems that reduce CO2 emissions. When designing new transport systems, it is important to consider that they should not only be cost-effective and energy efficient for the future but also boost economic growth and provide long-term benefits for the regions they serve.
Investment in transport infrastructure is a critical factor in boosting economic development in the CEE region. The development of high-speed railways and other key infrastructure projects, such as the Centralny Port Komunikacyjny (CPK), Rail Baltica, and HSR development projects implemented by the Czech rail infrastructure manager Správa železnic will improve connectivity in North-East Europe, including Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Baltics, and Ukraine, with huge benefits for the CEE region, and Europe as a whole. By enhancing regional transportation systems, countries in the CEE region can attract more investment and create new opportunities for businesses and residents alike.
The Centralny Port Komunikacyjny (CPK) is a comprehensive multimodal transport project based on three main pillars: an airport hub, a new rail network and an airport city. As a strategic infrastructure investment, CPK will effectively integrate air, rail and road transport, connecting nearly 180 million inhabitants in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) making Poland among the best-connected places in Europe and giving it the potential to become a strategic transport hub for the entire CEE region. The CPK railway investment includes the construction of approximately 2,000 km in new high-speed railway lines and several horizontal projects. They will create seamless, fast, and interoperable travel between major cities in Poland and improve the connectivity in the CEE region, making it more competitive against short-haul flights. CPK will also provide a significant boost to freight traffic capacities in the region, playing a crucial role in improving connectivity and enhancing economic growth in the CEE region.
Investment in the new transport system for Poland and Eastern Europe
The idea behind investing across the whole country is to create a comprehensive, integrated and sustainable transport system that will not only benefit Polish citizens but people across Central and Eastern Europe. The CPK project responds to the current and future needs of Poland and Europe. Together with investments in high-speed rail infrastructure, the CPK transport hub will provide efficient connections between major cities and regions in Poland, as well as with neighbouring countries. The high- speed railway line to Ukraine will play a critical role in linking Poland and Ukraine, improving trade and cultural exchange between our countries. By 2050, the completed high-speed rail network in the Three Seas region, suitable for both passenger and freight transport, will span approximately 4,500 km and the total cost of developing the entire HSR network in the Three Seas region should be around EUR 60 billion. These investments should provide significant benefits quickly, estimated to be close to EUR 120 billion. This means that, in the long term, the developed HSR network in the Three Seas region should generate twice the economic value compared to its initial cost.
Integrated railway network for both passenger and freight transport
The new CPK railway lines have been designed to accommodate both passenger and freight traffic. The passenger traffic will be served by high-speed trains while the freight trains will transport freight, for which speed and reliability are critical factors. To ensure efficient and reliable freight transport, CPK is prioritizing intermodal trains, particularly shuttle trains that operate on a fixed timetable at guaranteed time slots. This approach will provide greater flexibility for freight operators while ensuring that passenger services run on time and at high speed. The integration of both passenger and freight services will lead to a more sustainable and cost- effective transport system in the CEE region. Planning the locations for the intermodal terminals along CPK railway infrastructure is crucial for further developing the intermodal markets and achieving climate goals. These terminals will be designed to serve 750 m long trains and provide excellent connections to both rail and road networks, ensuring seamless and efficient transport of intermodal units – containers and semi-trailers.
Upon completion, the CPK’s fast, frequent, and seamless railway infrastructure will comprehensively address numerous mobility needs in the region. It will deliver a direct connection to the CPK Airport from every major city in Poland via the high-speed rail network, linking the country’s largest cities with a travel time of under 2.5 hours. Finally, CPK will serve as a gateway to Eastern Europe, offering international routes covering the whole of Central and Eastern Europe while connecting Polish railways with neighbouring countries.
The CPK transport infrastructure as part of the revision of the TEN-T regulation
In December 2021, the European Commission published a draft of the new Trans-European Transport Network Regulation, which considers many of the Polish proposals for the revision of the network, including the investments covered by the CPK project. The most important changes from the point of view of CPK are related to the updated TEN-T network routes and the list of nodes. These include the airport infrastructure, i.e., CPK being included in the maps of the TEN-T core network, both as an airport and as a road-rail terminal, as well as the new railway infrastructure, which has been entrusted to CPK.
The high-speed railway line from Warsaw via CPK and Łódź to Poznań/Wrocław (so-called HSR ‘Y’ line), being part of the CPK project, is already included in the TEN-T core network under the current regulation. As part of the proposal, the EC confirmed the HSR ‘Y’ line is included in the TEN-T core network and a part of the ‘North Sea- Baltic Sea’ European Transport Corridor (ETC).
The Katowice-Ostrava railway line, known as ‘spoke’ no. 7, which is a new cross-border connection between Poland and the Czech Republic, has also been included in the extended TEN-T core network. This line will become part of the European Baltic-Adriatic corridor. The European Commission also included the Central Northern Rail Line in the category of projects for the extended core network with a high priority in the allocation of EU funds. It is an extension of the existing Central Rail Line to the north, to Warlubie, as part of the CPK’s planned ‘spoke’ no. 1. The route of the existing Central Rail Line and its planned extension by CPK runs along the Baltic-Adriatic Core Network corridor. Placing the line within the ETC indicates its high priority within the EU transport network. The line between Wrocław – Świdnica – Wałbrzych – and the Poland/Czech Republic border (and further towards Prague) remains on the TEN-T comprehensive network as a line with HSR parameters.
In the opinion of the European Commission, the key investments of CPK Poland should constitute priorities in the EU investment policy and their implementation should become Poland’s contribution to the European transport system.
Connection of the Polish and European HSR networks with Ukraine
The development of the Poland-Ukraine HSR connection has been discussed for many years and was recently reflected in Ukraine’s Recovery Plan presented by Ukrainian authorities in Lugano on 4-5 July 2022, as well as in the EC proposal of 27 July 2022 on extending the European Transport Corridors (former TEN-T corridors) to Ukraine to develop a rail network with European gauge (1435 mm).
To tap into this opportunity, CPK proposes to extend the planned railway line: Lublin – Trawniki – Zamość – Bełżec
– PL/UA border to Lviv and to include the cross-border section from Lublin to Lviv in the TEN-T core extended network and Baltic Sea – Black Sea – Aegean Sea European Transport Corridor as proposed in EC amended proposal of 27 July.
The proposed new line connecting Warsaw and Lviv could continue longitudinally through Ukraine (east of the Carpathian Mountains) towards Eastern Romania (Constanța port), as proposed by the EC on 27 July 2022. In the future, the line could also be extended from Lviv in European gauge (1435 mm) to Kyiv as part of the new Ukrainian HSR system connecting the country to the EU Member States.
In CPK’s view, such an extension would facilitate the development of a High-Speed Rail line connecting the EU and Ukraine at the same time linking Romanian Black Sea ports with Polish and Baltic countries’ seaports creating the shortest overland Black Sea – Baltic Sea connection, thus providing viable alternatives for Ukrainian export of goods, especially in the event of a blockade of the Black Sea, and facilitating military mobility in the region and on the NATO’s Eastern Flank.
CPK: Pioneering Sustainable Mobility for a Greener Future
Investing in sustainable transport and green mobility is crucial in today’s world. Rail transportation plays a significant role, accounting for 8% of global passenger travel and approximately 9% of freight activity. Its remarkable efficiency sets rail apart, using only 3% of transport energy compared to other modes. According to the International Energy Agency, rail consumes 12 times less energy and emits 7 to 11 times fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per passenger per kilometre travelled when compared to private vehicles.
Centralny Port Komunikacyjny (CPK) project aligns perfectly with the EU Smart and Sustainably Mobility Strategy goals of enhancing passenger and freight rail services while promoting zero-emission transport on shorter routes and supporting multimodal transport solutions. The Three Seas region, encompassing multiple countries of Central and Eastern Europe, is determined to be a leader in climate-friendly, sustainable, and resilient transport. By developing a high-speed rail (HSR) network in the region, CPK significantly contributes to these objectives. But the benefits extend beyond environmental sustainability. The project’s positive impact on the economy, improved transport connections, and a more sustainable future cannot be overstated. Enhanced rail infrastructure provides efficient and eco-friendly transportation options, reducing reliance on traditional modes that contribute to carbon emissions and traffic congestion. Investing in sustainable transport through projects like CPK paves the way for a greener and more connected future. By prioritizing rail development and embracing environmentally friendly solutions, we can create a smarter and more sustainable mobility system for generations to come.