Centralny Port Komunikacyjny – Building a Region’s Future
Poland is about to launch the construction of its Solidarity Transport Hub, the EU’s largest infrastructure project, set to transform the connectivity of the central European region.
The Solidarity Transport Hub is a megaproject from the government of Poland, aiming to integrate air, rail and road transport in order to enhance mobility within the country and the whole region.
The heart of the project is a new, built-from-scratch greenfield airport to be located in the centre of Poland between the capital city of Warsaw and the city of Łódź, connected to high-speed rail and the road system. It is the largest infrastructure programme in Poland’s history, and currently the largest infrastructure programme in Europe.
The new airport will be able to serve 40 million passengers a year which may be increased to 100 million in the future. But above all and more importantly, the construction of a new airport in the heart of Poland is accompanied by its connection to Poland’s main cities with almost 2,000 kilometres of new railway lines, mainly high-speed.
“STH is indeed the biggest infrastructure and transformational project being run in Poland today. It is aimed to transform Poland’s public transportation system and take the maximum advantage of that transformation and is based on three main pillars,” says Mikolaj Wild, CEO of Centralny Port Komunikacyjny Sp. z o.o., Polish state-owned SPV establish to design and deliver this largest transport infrastructure mega-project in Europe.
Mr Wild explains that a plan to increase the country’s airport capacity and enhance its transport infrastructure had been under consideration for decades, with the final decision to go ahead made in 2017, when the Polish government approved the concept of the Solidarity Transport Hub.
The first pillar is to establish the heart of a new transportation system, the Solidarity Airport, a hub fully integrated with the railway network. The second pillar is the transformation of the railway system in Poland by introducing high-speed railways to the country, i.e. to build new railway lines and modernise existing lines to meet high-speed railway standards.
Finally, the third pillar, a consequence of the previous two, is the site planning of the area surrounding the Hub, in order to provide maximum advantages of what is destined to be the best-connected location in central-eastern Europe.
“The added value of this ambitious project lies in bringing together individual infrastructure projects related to air, road and rail transport into one unified programme in order to provide the biggest benefit for the transport system and economic development,” says Mr Wild.
Although Poland has a well-developed rail infrastructure and Warsaw is currently served by two airports, he explains that the country needs to enhance the system to match those in the countries of western Europe. “Poland, and the whole central-eastern Europe region, is underserved in terms of aviation.”
“To give you an example: only 16% of Polish air cargo is served by Polish airports, which means that 84% of Polish air cargo is served by airports outside Poland. In addition to the obvious inconvenience, this has dire environmental consequences, as Polish suppliers are forced to use trucks to ship their cargos by road from other countries.”
“Similarly, if Polish tourists want to travel east, they need to travel west first, to a western airport. By integrating air and rail transport in this unique way, we will be able to replace domestic flights by a high-speed railway connection, a system that is being tried out in France, for example. This is just one of the reasons we believe so strongly in the economic and social as well as the environmental benefits of this project.”
State of Play
The Solidarity Transport Hub concept as approved by the Polish government estimates that construction work on the airport will be complete by the end of 2027. This is not a definitive schedule, notes Mr Wild, as the final timescale will only be approved by investors, within the framework of time, cost and quality.
According to EU rules, the airport component and the rail infrastructure structure will have to be funded separately – while Poland will have to finance the terminal project itself, applying for European funding is an option for rail infrastructure because the network of new lines to be built would fall within the sustainability and smart mobility strategy adopted by the European Commission, and will therefore be compliant with the European Green Deal. Additionally, the most important rail connections in the Solidarity Transport Hub Railway Program are included in the EU’s core and comprehensive networks of TEN-T.
Mr Wild confirms that the preparatory works are in full swing. So far, the company has signed the largest in Europe landmark framework agreement for railway investment planning. Proposals from the main terminal design providers have now been received, as well as the offer from the Master Civil Engineer.
Given its international importance, the project has not only stirred interest with European suppliers but has also attracted global attention. “It is standard practice that for large projects local contractors are given preference. However, this is not the case for STH. We aim to benefit from the knowledge and experience of the world’s leading and most experienced suppliers. Therefore, we are open to, and welcome, suppliers from all over the world.”
“We are now already working with global stakeholders on the preparatory phase – we have entered into a cooperation agreement with the Korean government and Incheon airport in Seoul, and from the very beginning we have been working closely with advisors from the UK, France, and Spain providing engineering and architectural expertise.”
The Best Infrastructure in the Region
Needless to say, the project reflects environmental and sus-tainability requirements, aiming at net-zero operation using state-of-the-art technologies and renewable energy sources. “As this is a greenfield development, we are not limited by existing structures and constraints and can apply the latest technologies.”
So what are the immediate tasks ahead? Mr Wild says: “We will submit the application for an environmental permit in the following weeks and expect this to be granted by the middle of 2023. This year we also plan to select the Master Architect for the terminal, as well as the Master Civil Engineer, Airport System Infrastructure Designer and Support Infrastructure Engineer. We will also start the on-site preparatory construction work. Next year, we expect to sign agreements with investors.”
He admits that the project will have an extensive impact on the rural location and its community, fundamentally transforming not only the site but also the lives of its inhabitants. “There is still a lot of hard work ahead. Considering the massive impact of the construction on the local people, we have set our standards very high, to make sure we provide the best infrastructure in this part of the world that will benefit the local community, the country and the whole region.”