Solidarity Transport Hub (STH) will directly change the travel pattern between Warsaw and Łódź integrating the air, rail and road transport. Once the STH is developed, it will also provide increased access and connectivity across the country and will also play a major role in Central and Eastern Europe which will be integrated with the transport system of Western Europe. The project covers the construction of the appropriate airport, of a new rail system based on high-speed concept and the modernisation of the existing rail infrastructure, as well as the construction of road infrastructure.
2027 and 2034 will irrevocably mark Poland’s transport system and economy defined by the Solidarity Transport Hub (STH), the newest, innovative and important project for the country and the Central and Eastern Europe.
These two specific years mean a new airport and a new rail system which will significantly reduce travel time and will allow connections from any part of Poland to STH with a maximum 2h and 30 min average trip time.
In short, STH will be an integrated transport system comprising air, rail and road transport which will be also part of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) and will offer increased access to all of Europe.
The Solidarity Airport will be the heart of the new rail system and its location near A2 motorway and halfway between Warsaw and Łódź will provide convenient infrastructure integration and increased access and capacity.
The project includes construction of the airport, almost 2,000 km of railways, 400 km of expressways and motorways as well as new airport city around the Solidarity Port, which will consist of a trade fair and congress facilities, conference, and office facilities.
The project’s CAPEX for the first phase with implementation schedule from 2021 to 2027 covers EUR 3 billion for preparation works which will be financed by the Polish Government until 2023. The entire project will be carried out with funds from the government, from the EU for the rail part of the STH project, and from the private sector in the aviation component.
For the project, an application of EUR 1 billion from EU CEF funds has been submitted for infrastructure construction and further studies. By now, STH has obtained more than PLN 120 million (EUR 25 million) in EU funds allotted for the preparatory stage. The European Union shares the belief that such complex railway investments first be “drawn on paper” and” that is why we won the CEF Connecting Europe competition,” STH says.
STH will be located between the two biggest cities in Poland – Warsaw and Lodz. The construction of the Solidarity Transport Hub which includes the airport and high-speed rail system will provide a rapid development impulse to accelerate the urbanisation process.
The airport provides the needed capacity
The new airport will be constructed on a 3,000 ha-surface and will be located 37 km west of Warsaw, in Baranów, which is characterised by a short distance from the Poland’s capital. It is expected that the airport will handle 40 million passengers per year in 2035 and 60 million passengers in 2055.
This component also includes an airport city based on the Aerotropolis concept around the Solidarity Transport Hub region including fair, congress and conference facilities as well as offices. A large railway station integrated with the airport and individual railway stations scattered around Poland will allow the transport integration of the whole country.
The site will be used as a logistics and service centre, closely linked to the Solidarity Transport Hub. Due to the proximity of the airport, railway station, A2 motorway – the main highway in the country, and the planned motorway ring road of Warsaw, the region will be accessible from every part of the country.
Apart from everything that the airport concept means for civil mobility, the Solidarity Airport will also have an additional role: to increase the security of Poland and Central and Eastern Europe. In times of armed conflict, airports, including civilian ones, are sometimes used for the transfer of military units, equipment, goods or humanitarian aid and also by supporting forces as well as rapid reaction forces. In military terminology, this mechanism is called ‘dual use’, which means dual purpose infrastructure. This way it can be used by NATO forces whenever necessary. “We need depth and redundancy in transport infrastructure. The STH project will add a capability and capacity that no other node in Poland (or elsewhere in Eastern Europe) can match,” General Ben Hodges, former commander of US ground forces in Europe stated for Polish Press Agency. The airport could be used by heavy transport aircraft carrying troops and heavy combat equipment from American continent and Western European. Many experts say that Poland needs an airport with high capacity, capable of operating 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, adapted to handle cargo connected to motorways and the rail network and the planned Solidarity Transport Hub will play a major role. Such infrastructure will contribute to increased operational mobility on NATO’s eastern flank.
According to IATA, the International Air Transport Association, if there is no investment in the Solidarity Transport Hub, Poland would lose 850 million potential passengers by 2060. In 2024, Polish airports will return to pre-pandemic levels to around 50 million passengers and by 2040, the traffic will increase to around 100 million. IATA’s baseline scenario for Poland shows that in 2060, 140 million passengers will use country’s airports. Marcin Horała, the Deputy Minister of Infrastructure and the Government Plenipotentiary for the STH says that “with the construction of the Solidarity Airport, we will attract around 850 million passengers by 2060. There could hardly be a more irrefutable argument for the construction of STH.”
For the Solidarity Airport, IATA forecasts around 30 million passengers in its first full year of operation and the level of 40 million passengers is to be reached in 2035 and 50 million in 2044. At the end of the forecast – in 2060 – it predicts about 65 million in the baseline scenario, 48.5 million in the low scenario, and in the most optimistic scenario, STH will serve about 72 million passengers. The capacity of the new greenfield airport between 2027 and 2035 is expected to be 40 million passengers per year and should increase to 50 million passengers in the next 7-10 years. By 2060, the capacity should reach 65 million passengers per year.
In addition to passenger traffic, IATA has prepared a cargo forecast. It takes into account the current situation of Chopin Airport (Warsaw), which handles less than 1% of the European air cargo. Currently as much as 62% of the air cargo from the Central and Eastern Europe, representing 1.8 million tonnes per year, is exported to airports in Western Europe. IATA forecasts that the Solidarity Airport could gain up to 20% market share in the Central and Eastern Europe in the short term. According to forecasts, without the construction of STH, Poland would have missed out on 35 million tonnes of cargo by 2060.
The baseline scenario, the cargo forecast for STH indicates 0.5 million tonnes in 2030, 1 million tonnes in 2035, up to 1.76 million at the end of the forecast period, i.e. in 2060. Thus, the Solidarity Airport has a chance to join the largest cargo hubs in Europe such as Frankfurt Airport which currently handles 2.1 million tonnes of cargo per year, Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris with 2.1 million, and London Heathrow – 1.7 million tonnes.
STH signed strategic agreements with partners from Korea. In February 2021 a contract was signed with Incheon airport for Strategic Consulting and the government of the Republic of Korea. Incheon Airport in Seoul acts as the strategic advisor of the entire investment. In 2021 STH also signed a joint venture agreement, which is an unequivocal expression of the Koreans’ interest in obtaining equity in the Solidarity Airport.
STH cooperates with several entities coming from South Korea, Great Britain, Spain, France, the United States, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania, Hungary, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, and Japan that express interest in the Solidarity Transport Hub investment. The company already has a cooperation agreement with the first three markets and also implemented a know-how exchange project with France.
Rail, at the heart of STH system
The rail system of STH forms Poland’s core high-speed-rail network, linking nation’s largest urban areas and serving major international routes running across Central and Eastern Europe.
The rail component of the mega project consists of the construction of 2,000 km of high-speed lines which will be built by the end of 2034 and the modernisation of 3,700 km of existing rail routes. The rail system gathers 12 rail routes including 10 major corridors (the so called ‘spokes’) leading from various regions of Poland to Warsaw and the Solidarity Port and besides increased connections, the new line will deliver access to the cities without a rail link (such as Jastrzębie-Zdrój and Łomża) to the network.
STH is currently carrying out preparatory works on 1,300 km out of 2,000 km planned for in the Solidarity Transport Hub rail programme. As part of the STEŚ (technical, economic, and environmental study) STH is conducting multi-industry analyses, analysing collisions with railway networks and organising regular meetings with affected residents by the Solidarity Transport Hub investments.
The 4 km long high-speed tunnel in Lodz play an essential role of the future rail system as it will be part of Warsaw-Łódź-Poznań/Wrocław high-speed railway, the so-called “Y” line. In August, STH submitted an application for a local decision on Łódź high-speed tunnel with main construction works expected to start in the first half of 2023. The tunnel project has begun in November 2021 when STH signed a design contract the consortium of Metroprojekt and SUD Architekt Polska and the location decision is expected to be issued fourth quarter in order to apply for a building permit. The long tunnel starts at the Łódź Fabryczna station and will exit to the surface to the south-west of the Łódź Kaliska station with connection to the existing railway line No. 14.
With the construction of Łódź – Wrocław high-speed railway, the travel time between the two cities will be shortened to 1 hour from currently 3 hours. The line will be designed for a maximum speed of 350 km/h with trains running at a speed of 250 km/h. The Warsaw – Łódź section is the first project under the STH Railway programme. When selected the preferred route variant (W31), the study paid attention to the proper integration of the new Warsaw-Łódź line into the existing rail network and as a result, the links with the existing lines will be created to enable regional connection between Łódź, Skierniewice and Łowicz. A new station will be built in Brzeziny on the eastern side of Łódź, which will enable the city to be better integrated in the railway network. The route will save the travel time by 50% for both for existing rail passenger traffic and for those who shift from road to rail transport. The net present value (NPV) of time savings for passengers over the next 30 years is over PLN 19 billion (EUR 4 billion). It is expected that the number of passengers on the Warsaw – Łódź route will increase threefold by 2050, compared to 2019.
Another milestone on the rail component is the announcement of the investor variant for the 200 km Łódź – Wrocław high-speed via Sieradz, in central Poland, Łódź Voivodeship. The technical-economic-environmental study (STEŚ) was prepared for the section of the line no. 85 Łódź – Sieradz and no. 86 Sieradz – Kępno – Czernica Wrocławska – Wrocław station. The project includes the construction of a double track and two new passenger stations at Czajków and Wodzierady and trains will also stop in Czernica Wrocławska, Kępno and Sieradz stations which will be completely rebuilt to accommodate high-speed trains and to allow the journey towards Wrocław. The rail section from Wrocław to Łódź is an extension of the Warsaw – Lodz high-speed line expected to enter passenger operation in 2027 providing connection between Warsaw Zachodnia and Łódź Fabryczna stations.
By Q2 2023, the investor variant together with two alternative variants will be presented by the STH in the application for the so-called environmental decision to the Regional Directorate for Environmental Protection (RDOŚ). This is the stage before obtaining the so-called location decision and building permit. According to the schedule, the first construction works on the section Sieradz – Czernica (Wrocław) are scheduled to start in 2024.
With the construction of Łódź – Wrocław high-speed railway, the travel time between the two cities will be shortened to 1 hour from currently 3 hours. The line will be designed for a maximum speed of 350 km/h with trains running at a speed of 250 km/h.
Currently there is no direct and fast rail route between Wrocław and Łódź and Warsaw which makes passengers to choose car trips. When completed, the new rail connection will make rail transport more attractive and will shift the road traffic towards railways.
STH is implementing more than 10 contracts for feasibility studies comprising the rail routes:
• Warsaw – Łódź
• Łódź – Wrocław
• Żarów – border with the Czech Republic
• Sieradz – Poznań
• Katowice – Ostrawa
• Łętownia – Rzeszów
• Zamość – Bełżec
• Ostrołęka – Łomża – Giżycko
• STH – Płock – Włocławek
• STH railway junction
The new rail network will shorten the journey time to the new airport and Warsaw by up to 2.5 hours from the most of the main cities in Poland. Thanks to the Solidarity Transport Hub, every Polish citizen will have access to the railway station within a 30 km radius.
Most of the STH railway investments belong to the Trans-European Transport Network TEN-T, according to the TEN-T Regulation review. This network is an instrument for coordinating and ensuring the coherence and complementarity of infrastructure investments.
In addition, there are plans for cross-border railway connections. Preparatory work is already underway for the section connecting Poland with the Czech Republic There are also planned connections with Ukraine through Lviv and Kyiv, and a trip to Lithuania will be possible using the Rail Baltica line.
The airport and the first section of the railway system are scheduled to be opened at the end of 2027.