The Centralny Port Komunikacyjny (CPK) is a new transport development programme in Poland that is extremely important for the economic growth of the country and the region and, of utmost importance, the security of Europe as a whole. The CPK will not be just the largest airport in this part of Europe. It is a huge infrastructure project on an incredible scale that will quickly and efficiently integrate air, rail, and road transportation.
Strategic investment based on four pillars
The first and the most recognisable one is a multimodal transport hub – an airport located in the centre of Poland, integrated with country’s main rail transfer port and connected with the highway network, the CPK Airport.
The second pillar is the extension and modernisation of the country’s rail transport system comprising the construction of 2,000 km rail lines providing connections between Warsaw and all Poland’s largest cities in no more than 2.5 hours.
The third pillar is the construction of 400 km of new roads and the full integration of CPK with the existing motorway and expressway system.
The last but not least is Aerotropolis – future development of the areas around the CPK Port – areas that will become, thanks to the port and country’s new public transport system, the best-connected place in Europe.
Heart of the transport system connecting Europe
The new central airport for Poland is a strategic investment that has been under discussion since the 1970s. However it was the current Polish Government who decided in 2017 to take decisive steps in this direction and turned the concept of building a central airport into a strategic investment on a huge scale, which is expected to change the face of public transport in the country and effectively connect Poland and the CEE region with the rest of Europe. As part of the CPK project, new railway lines with a total length of nearly 2,000 km will be built, mainly high-speed lines, which Poland lacks, and the function of Warsaw Chopin Airport, which remains as the main airport for the capital and the country, will be taken over by the new CPK Airport.
“The added value of this ambitious project lies in bringing together individual infrastructure projects related to air, road and rail transport into one unified infrastructure programme in order to provide the biggest benefit for the transport system and for economic development of the region”, Mikołaj Wild, CEO of the CPK says.
A new transport hub in the heart of Poland, making it the centre of Central and Eastern Europe, is a kind of ‘gateway’ to the rest of Europe and to the world for the whole region. The residents of Poland, and among others Czechia, Slovakia or the Baltic countries currently rely mainly on transfer hubs in Western Europe, as the ones in Frankfurt, Munich, Paris or Amsterdam. The construction of the CPK Airport will allow long-haul flights to be established directly from CEE Region. The new transfer hub is also an opportunity for the economic growth of Poland and its neighbouring countries. Poland, due to its central and strategic geographical location at the intersection of east-west and north-south transport routes, is a natural choice. What is more, such location will result in increasing the attractiveness of the entire region.
Development of air transport
There are a number of economic factors behind the construction of the new airport. First of all, Chopin Airport – until now the largest airport in Poland – has become too small to meet current and future demands, moreover the possibility of its further expansion is severely limited by its proximity to Warsaw’s urban infrastructure. According to the latest IATA forecasts, air travel in Poland will return to its pre-pandemic levels in 2024. In 2019, Warsaw Chopin Airport served nearly 19 million passengers, while the maximum capacity is only approx. 22 million passengers per year. Taking into account the current post-pandemic traffic recovery, Warsaw Chopin Airport is expected to reach its absolute limits by 2025–2027. According to IATA forecasts, the new Centralny Port Komunikacyjny will serve approximately 30 million passengers in the first full year of operations, and 40 million annually by 2035.
“The forecasts are very clear – we are expecting not only a return to pre-pandemic travel performance, but further dynamic market growth after 2024. With the construction of CPK Airport, we expect to attract approximately 850 million passengers by 2060. I am convinced that this is the most irrefutable argument for the construction of the Centralny Port Komunikacyjny. I’m glad that such a respected institution as IATA recognises the value of our project and makes it clear that we won’t move forward without it”, says Marcin Horała, deputy minister for funds and regional policy, government plenipotentiary for the Centralny Port Komunikacyjny .
Network of rail connections
The Centralny Port Komunikacyjny is not just an airport – the project also consists of the construction of approximately 2,000 km of new railway lines across Poland. It is planned that the Centralny Port Komunikacyjny will be equipped with a total of 12 railway routes, including 10 so-called spokes leading from different regions of Poland to Warsaw and CPK Airport. The entire investment programme will be completed by 2034.
CPK has accelerated the implementation of the rail component as this year has launched the investor variant for the Warsaw – Łódź high-speed which will allow trains to run at a maximum speed of 350 km/h.
The project comprises the construction of a 140 km double track, a new station (Brzeziny) on the eastern side of Łódź which will be integrated into the existing rail system. The new railway line will cut travel time by 50% compared to the existing services for both passenger and freight trains.
A rail tunnel in Łódź will play an important section of the future rail connections under CPK for which the company has submitted the application for local decision and expects to start the construction in 2023.
In August, CPK has also unveiled the investor variant for Łódź – Wrocław high-speed rail crossing Sieradz (in Central Poland). The project comprises the construction of a 140 km double track and two passenger stations (in Czajków and Wodzierady) while trains will stop to other three stations (Czernica Wrocławska, Kępno and Sieradz stations) that will be modernised and adapted to the high-speed services and future increased passenger traffic towards Wrocław and Poznań.
It is expected that in mid-2023 the investor variant and two variants will be presented to otain location decision and proceed with the construction of the new line.
The new high speed line will be an extension of the new high-speed railway between Warsaw and Łódź expected to become operational from 2027.
The two new high-speed rail lines (Warsaw – Łódź and Łódź – Wrocław) will provide better communication in the region and will add capacity on the entire rail system of Poland.
The Centralny Port Komunikacyjny project will bring Poland’s transport system to the forefront of Europe, while also reducing transport exclusion. There are still towns in Poland with a population of more than 50,000 inhabitants where there has been no railway for many years or there has never been one. The new network is expected to provide access within a maximum of 2.5 hours from most major Polish cities to the new airport and the country’s capital. More importantly, construction of the Centralny Port Komunikacyjny will be much more convenient, saving travellers’ time and money. Planning a trip abroad will no longer require hours of searching for connections or using transfer hubs in nearby countries. Instead, travellers will be able to reach various destinations in Europe, Asia, North and South America, and Africa directly from the centre of Poland via an airport that will be connected by a high-speed rail network to provinces and cities across the country.
Last year, the European Commission proposed to incorporate many of the Polish proposals for revising the TEN-T which includes Europe’s strategic rail, road, air, sea and inland waterways, as well as so-called “point infrastructure” (such as airports, seaports, and road-rail terminals). As a result, CPK Airport, the extension of the Polish Central Railway Line (CMK – Centralna Magistrala Kolejowa) to the north, and selected railway lines, have been added to the EU’s investment priorities for the coming years. Importantly, the network of new railway lines to be built fall within the sustainability and smart mobility strategy adopted by the European Commission, and will therefore be compliant with the European Green Deal.
In mid-2022, the European Commission published a proposal to amend the Trans-European Transport Network regulation to strengthen the transport network on the EU’s eastern border and in Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova. The EC has proposed extending four European transport corridors into Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, which will include, among others, the port of Odessa.
Even though the Centralny Port Komunikacyjny is dedicated to civil aviation, the investment has been recognised by former commander of US ground forces in Europe General Ben Hodges for a capability and capacity that “no other transport Hub in Poland or elsewhere in Eastern Europe can match”. This makes it possible to improve the security of the region by providing it with the appropriate transport capabilities to enable the smooth and efficient transfer of military units, equipment, goods and humanitarian aid when needed. A significant advantage of the CPK, compared to other similar projects, is the intramodality and excellent connection of the airport with every part of the country and key European destinations.
“Despite its ‘civilian nature’, the CPK is also of significant importance from the point of view of our country’s and Europe’s defence. Of course, it will not be a military base, but nevertheless an extremely important part of NATO’s eastern flank – If only due to a significant increase of military mobility”, explains Marcin Horała, deputy minister for funds and regional policy, government plenipotentiary for the Centralny Port Komunikacyjny .
Many pieces of the puzzle to build the most innovative transport system
Given that the investment consists of designing a greenfield airport from scratch, the Centralny Port Komunikacyjny is the best opportunity to implement the most innovative solutions. One of the efforts to introduce modern technologies is participation in the Smart Airports project. This is an initiative supported by the European Commission, bringing together 15 institutions from the aviation industry, including Copenhagen Airport, Rome-Fiumicino Airport, the Danish Institute of Technology and the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The consortium is developing green, environmentally friendly, intelligent solutions for airports. The team, which includes representatives from the CPK, is working on, among other things, developing sustainable solutions for fuelling aircraft with biofuel, and introducing electromobility, including the development of management and planning tools for infrastructure and systems.
In 2022, the Centralny Port Komunikacyjny company presented the investor’s variant of CPK Airport, along with the accompanying infrastructure. This was preceded by months of intensive works on the Master Plan and the EIA Report, covering a number of site survey studies (nature inventory, drillings, water and soil sampling, laboratory tests, etc.). Contractors have also been selected in the tender for preparatory works, and tenders were launched for airport designers such as Master Architect, Master Civil Engineer, Support Infrastructure Engineer and Airport System Infrastructure Designer. To respond to the upcoming needs, the CPK company announced, among others, preliminary market consultations for the implementation of construction works for railway investments.
At the moment, the CPK company is conducting preparatory works (such as the feasibility studies) for 1,300 km of the 2,000 km of new railway lines. The whole railway part of the CPK project should be completed by 2034.