sexta-feira, 21 de março de 2014

PKP vs PolskiBus: a comparison

Since PolskiBus is often brought up as a reason why railways are losing clients in Poland, I decided to investigate how competetive long distance trains and PolskiBus are. To do this, I used the following map to check which are the largest cities in Poland, and compared the speed and price of rail travel (TLK from PKP Intercity or InterRegio from Przewozy Regionalny) against the speed and price of PolskiBus travel.

The bus route price was calculated in the PolskiBus website, buying to the next day around 6-10 am, a common scenario. Higher than average values were skipped, but undesirables times (such as 5 am) too, obtaining usually the value most common among desirable travel times.

The rail price is just a guess from the TLK price table. In the PKP Intercity website it takes a long time to switch between routes, so I had no time to get all the real prices, but this should give an estimate. The InterRegio has smaller prices than TLK and also second, third and fourth persons in a group pay half, but on the other hand InterRegio has so many less trains than TLK that it is really a small player, and PKP Intercity is by far the largest player in Poland in long distance rail.

The bus time is from PolskiBus website and the rail time is from an average of the TLKs in the route ignoring those that are slower than average (due to going via a longer route for example).

The distance is not a direct line distance, but instead it is the road distance calculated in this website: I suppose that the rail distance will be similar, but of course it is not perfect.

Route km Rail - Time Rail - Price Rail – Speed Bus - Time Bus - Price Bus – Speed Road Plans Rail Plans Amount
Wrocław-Katowice 180 02:50 39 63,53 02:20 16 zł 77,14 Highway A4 Halfway via 160, rest is slow and under refit to 100/120 TLK: 7
IR: 2
EIC: 2
PB: 13
Wrocław-Kraków 270 05:00 50 54 03:10 16 zł 85,26 Highway A4 Very slow section Katowice-Kraków, construction finished by 2017(?) TLK: 5
IR: 1
PB: 20
Wrocław-Poznań 150 02:50 42 52,94 03:20 26 zł 45 Construction finished by 2020 Modernization to 160 km/h finished by 2020 TLK: 10
EIC: 2
PB: 3
Warszawa-Wrocław 360 06:10 65 58,38 05:50 36 zł 61,71 Construction finished by 2015 Slow and no plans to improve TLK: 3
EIC: 3
PB: 15
Wrocław-Szczecin 400 06:00 65 66,67 N/A N/A
Construction finished by 2020 Halfway modernization to 160 km/h finished by 2020 TLK: 3
Wrocław-Gdańsk 460 07:00 67 65,71 08:35 46 zł 53,59 Construction finished by 2015 Modernization to 160 km/h finished by 2015 TLK: 4
PB: 3
Wrocław-Rzeszów 450 08:50 67 50,94 06:25 26 zł 70,13 Construction finished by 2015  No plans PB: 2
Warszawa-Lublin 170 02:20 44 72,86 04:00 24 zł 42,5 Construction finished by 2020 Halfway modernization to 160 km/h finished by 2020 PB: 5
Warszawa-Radom 100 02:20 37 42,86 01:45 19 zł 57,14 Halfway via Highway Halfway modernization to 160 km/h finished by 2020 PB: 6
Warszawa-Kielce 180 03:30 50 51,43 02:50 36 zł 63,53 Construction finished by 2020 No plans TLK: 1
PB: 10
Warszawa-Białystok 200 02:50 50 70,59 03:10 26 zł 63,16 Construction finished by 2020 Modernization to 160 km/h finished by 2020 TLK: 8
PB: 2
Warszawa-Olsztyn 215 02:50 50 75,88 03:10 '21 zł 67,89 Construction finished by 2020 No plans TLK: 2
EIC: 1
PB: 4
Warszawa-Gdańsk 340 04:45 62 71,58 04:55 '48 zł 69,15 Construction finished by 2020 Modernization to 160 km/h finished by 2015 TLK: 3
EIC: 4
PB: 15
Warszawa-Katowice 290 03:35 60 80,93 04:45 36 zł 61,05 4-lane road DK1 + S8 CMK, 160km/h+ TLK p/ CMK: 1
TLK outros: 5 (4h50)
InterRegio: 1
EIC: 6
PB: 4
Warszawa-Kraków 290 03:30 60 82,86 04:55 '46 zł 58,98 Construction finished by 2020 CMK, 160km/h+ TLK: 3 (+1 slow via Radom)
IR: 1
EIC: 6
PB: 10
Warszawa-Poznań 300 03:10 60 94,74 04:00 '31 zł 75 Highway A2 Modernized to 160 km/h TLK: 5
IR: 3
EIC: 6
PB: 7
Warszawa-Rzeszów 300 05:40 60 52,94 05:15 '21 zł 57,14 Construction finished by 2020 No plans TLK: 1
PB: 5
Warszawa-Łódź 130 02:15 40 57,78 02:15 '23 zł 57,78 Highway No plans TLK: 14
IR: 6
PB: 19
Warszawa-Bydgodzcz 250 03:30 54 71,43 04:20 '31 zł 57,69 No plans No plans TLK: 8
EIC: 3
PB: 3
Szczecin-Gdańsk 370 05:00 65 74 N/A N/A N/A No plans No plans TLK: 3
Katowice-Kraków 80 02:15 26 35,56 01:15 '16 zł 64 Highway Modernization to 160 km/h finished by 2017(?) TLK: 7
IR: 1
PB: 9
Katowice-Gdańsk 550 09:15 69 59,46 09:00 '51 zł 61,11 Halfway via Highway Modernization to 160 km/h finished by 2015 TLK: 3
PB: 6
Katowice-Poznań 370 05:40 65 65,29 N/A N/A N/A via Wrocław via Wrocław TLK: 7
Katowice-Szczecin 580 09:00 69 102,35 N/A N/A N/A Construction finished by 2020 via Wrocław / Poznań TLK: 3
Katowice-Łódź 200 04:00 50 50 03:40 '31 zł 54,55 Construction of half finished by 2020 No plans TLK: 3
PB: 6
Poznań-Łódź 200 03:15 50 61,54 02:50 26 zł 70,59 Highway A2 No plans TLK: 2
PB: 4
Poznań-Gdańsk 300 03:35 60 83,72 05:05 36 zł 59,02 Construction finished by 2020 No plans TLK: 4
EIC: 1
PB: 3
Poznań-Szczecin 220 02:40 52 82,5 N/A N/A N/A Construction finished by 2015  No plans TLK: 7
IR: 2
Łódź-Gdańsk 340 05:15 62 64,76 05:15 '41 zł 64,76 Construction finished by 2015  No plans TLK: 3
PB: 6


First of all I was really disappointed at the PolskiBus price. Everyone keeps saying that you can travel for 1 zł (actually 2zł) everywhere with PolskiBus, as if you don't need to think, just use it to go everywhere and it will be fast and cost 2 zł. Well, even if buying months before, I couldn't find any ticket for 2zł. The tickets were priced in average 20zł cheaper than TLK, and in a group with 2 to 4 persons it would cost the same as an InterRegio ticket. The only exception is in the A4 axis: Wrocław-Katowice-Kraków-Rzeszów. In this axis PolskiBus has really cheap tickets. I suppose that the reason is that this axis has a lot of competition from other bus companies, so PolskiBus is doing dumping to try to kill them. But many routes were neither fast no cheap, for example 51zł and 9 hours for Katowice-Gdańsk!

Second, we can see that PolskiBus wasn't faster, it the travel time with PolskiBus and TLK on average was the same, although some sections are very slow for rail and very fast for buses like the A4 axis in the south, in many other sections trains are faster because there are no highways yet there, and in some like Poznań-Warszawa, even if there are highways, the trains are still faster because the line is in a very good state.

On the other hand the PO government plans for huge highway construction and very small railway improvements in the European Unions perspective 2014-2020 will clearly give buses an advantage in the decade to come, and shows the pro-road stance of the polish government which is against the European Union policy of modal shift towards railways. Just compare the huge highway building program, which spares no expense and will drown Poland under hundreds of billions of debt with the tiny railway program:

Yellow, Red and Blue sections will be finished by 2020 in the map bellow:

Railway investments in 2014-2020:

One more thing which I concluded is that the bulk of the polish long distance rail is TLK trains, InterRegio and EIC trains serve only a fraction of the main destinations, and since TLK is dependent on a ever increasing governmental subsidy and an ever decreasing amount of passengers, it's pretty fair to say that the future of long distance rail in Poland is at the very least highly insecure. With the most popular political party (PO) being staunchly anti-rail, I'm pretty sure that service will greatly decrease in the next 10 years.

sábado, 8 de março de 2014

Russian-Ukrainian conflict

I don't care much about the russian/ukranian conflict, but I'd like to challenge the anti-russian consensus in the west with some different ideas to think of:

1> An interesting read about the subject can be found here:

2> Territorial integrity is saint? Well, it wasn't seen like that when the USA was bombing serbia to create Bosnia & Kosovo, was it? I fail to see why Serbia had no right to Bosnia where half the population is serbian. Kosovo is mostly albanian, but it has no history what-so-ever as an independent country, it is a completely new creation, a new muslim country in Europe. On whose best interest the on-going support for Bosnia and Kosovo is? Not on the best interest of europeans I'm sure.

3> If Obama (or any other black politician, and yes, even if he lived in a palace obtained through corruption) was deposed, well, I'm pretty sure the streets would be on fire (no, I'm not exaggerating, there are plenty of historical precedents). But somehow the Russians don't have the right to be angry that the western ukrainians deposed the russian-speaking president in Ukraine?

4> Crimea was indeed part of Russia until 1954 when the Soviet Union dictator, a Ukranian at the time, transferred it to the Ukrainian SSR. And the majority of the population is indeed Russian.

5> Sanctions against Russia? When will the EU support the right of armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh to not be ethnically cleansed by the Azeris? When will the EU grow a spine and threaten Turkey for invading and occupying Northern Cyprus, which amounts to occupying land from a member state from the European Union??? If we are pussys enough to do nothing about that, then what is the logic for threatening Russia for invading a country which is merely a possible future member? Ok, we do know the logic behind this, and the logic is: european people that resist the gay-leftist agenda (like Putin) are evil in the liberal world view.

6> The argument that next will be Poland is not a realist reading of the situation. The sphere of Russia with this conflict is decreasing, not increasing. Before Russia had influence in all of Ukraine through the pro-Russian president, now it will have dominium over Crimea, but the rest of Ukraine is now anti-Russian, so he lost territory here, he lots all of Ukraine except Crimea. That's the real reading of the situation. Russia is not expanding, it just decreased it's loss. And how can you claim that someone who is losing parts of his sphere of influence will next attack a NATO backed country for absolutely no reason at all? Poland has no russian minority, and everything that Russia could want from Poland, Stalin already took, like Lviv. Actually if poles were smart they would not be standing against Putin, but instead they would take this opportunity to retake Lviv ;) That is, if poles were interested in that in the first place. The problem of poles is wishing too much that other people have worse (like wishing Putin will get worse), instead of thinking of how themselves could improve their own power ;)

Anyway, now let me analyze the odds that Putin faces. I think that Putin will face an up-hill battle to annex Crimea, because:

a> The crimean tatars (12% of the population in Crimea) hate russians. Update: The new signs are that they will be expelled if they complain too much.

b> They haven't even taken all Ukrainian bases yet, and Ukraine is much larger and militarily powerful than Georgia. Update: From what I am reading, the full take over shouldn't take long by now, they will wait the Ukrainians to be out of food if necessary.

c> Crimea hasn't even declared independence yet Update: now Crimea seams on the fast track for independence (as a russian puppet-state).

d> Even if he wins, International recognition might take a century, see how other conflicts like the Armenian-Azeri one drag for ages without resolution.

I think that the correct position for the EU on the subject should be: Let them sort it out alone. Nothing good has ever come from western interventionism and playing the world cop. At least not since western interventionism became the war machine of the liberal ideology.

The wrong strategy: The Georgian one

Merging this topic with the Georgian-Russian conflict, I think that the war in 2008 shows what will happen to Ukraine if they attack. And that's what happens with nearly everyone which gets in a military conflict with Russia, like Napoleon, Hitler and more recently Georgia, experienced. So that's not the solution. To achieve the objective of keeping it's borders intact, a country which borders Russia needs to be clever as a fox, not pride as a lion.

Going out of the original topic a but, one strange thing is that I don't even fully understand what Russia has to win in the conflict with Georgia: why it supports so badly Abkhazia and South Ossetia? The best explanation that I read is because Abkhazians lobbied themselves as pro-russians, although this is kind of silly as they obviously are interested in nothing but themselves. But in the Ukrainian case Russia has a lot more at stake, Crimea is indeed a russian-majority area, and 30% of the population in Ukraine has russian as native language.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia do not pass the test of deserving their own country in my opinion. South Ossetia is not even economically viable, it has only 55.000 inhabitants compared to 700.000 in North Ossetia, and that the Ossetians are split among 2 countries, will that's the case for so many other ethnic groups that I can't even count. And Abkhazians were only 25% of the population in their region before they ethnically cleansed the place, and their country didn't exist for centuries, so just the fact that they killed and expelled so many georgians just makes them undeserving.

The right strategy: The Kazakh one

While the Georgian strategy shows how not to deal with Russia, the Kazakh one shows how to correctly deal with Russia. Georgia is 100% correct to wish to have its borders restored, but in my opinion they had very bad strategies to achieving this. They did not lobby themselves as pro-russians, they lost several wars against weak enemies, tried to join NATO before securing their borders (which is something not realistic and only worked to further make Russia fell threatened, and threatened bears attack!). Now look at Kazakhstan: There is a large number of russians in north kazakhstan, enough to make it a good prize for Putin, but there both countries are like the closest friends ever! The Kazakh president even supported Putin's actions in Crimea, even if they are against the interests of tatars which are related to kazakhs! [source] So that's the correct way to be a good close neighbour of Russia: Don't threaten Russia, agree with everything Putin says, and live nicely. In the long run victory will be achieved by slowly increasing control over the border regions, like the number of russians drops each year in Kazakhstan.

If Ukrainians didn't try to force their way they could have increased control over Crimea slowly over the years until such an invasion would be simply not viable in a future were most inhabitants of the peninsula would be ukrainians. On the other hand it can be claimed that this move by Russia could not have been predicted, at least I didn't think that Putin go for Crimea.