Poland: the hidden truth behind increased ticket prices at Polish incumbent PKP Intercity

Brussels, 11th January 2023: Today, Polish incumbent PKP Intercity increased the price of tickets for all of its train services. Passengers travelling with PKP Express InterCity or with the highspeed Pendolino service (EIP) will have to pay 17.4% and 17.8% more respectively for their journey.

The reasons given by PKP Intercity for such an increase are, allegedly, inflation and rising operating costs due to higher electricity prices. However, the state-owned operator chose not to identify the real cause: market closure and complete lack of competition.

Having a monopoly over the Polish rail market surely is convenient: with no operator to compete against, there is no incentive for improvement and rising ticket costs can be passed onto passengers who have no alternative. At the same time, all attempts at introducing competition and significant changes on the market are being successfully blocked by the Polish Office of Rail Transport (UTK).

Experience has demonstrated that in those EU countries where competition has been introduced on long distance services, this has resulted in increased service frequencies and lower fares for passengers.

This process has been frustrated in Poland. Indeed, in 2016 and 2017, UTK rejected independent operator Arriva RP’s application for commercially driven services on the Warsaw-Kraków and Warsaw-Poznań lines. Similarly, in 2016, regional operator Koleje Mazowieckie was not allowed to run commercially between Warsaw and Poznań. Then, in 2019, Czech independent operator Leo Express also made an attempt at introducing a real change on the Polish rail market by applying for commercially driven services between Kraków and Warsaw. This was again successfully blocked by UTK, leading the operator to withdraw its application in 2022, after three years of waiting. Today, another independent operator, RegioJet, faces the exact same scenario with UTK systematically paralysing its attempts at introducing competition on the Prague-Gdynia, Kraków-Gdynia and Wrocław-Warsaw train lines. Let us not forget that these are only some examples of the domestic connections which could successfully be operated in a commercially viable manner.

Therefore, with market opening in Poland being padlocked, there is no counterbalance to what state protectionism can lead to, price increases included.

“Competition leads to better service, lower fares, higher frequencies and more passengers to the benefit of all operators. Without this, Polish institutions risk being portrayed in a very negative light as those who are voluntarily blocking the liberalisation of passenger rail in Poland.

Nick Brooks, Secretary General of ALLRAIL