The construction of the first metro line in Warsaw
In October 2008 the first underground system in Warsaw became a reality. It improved the overall efficiency of the public transport system in the capital city and offers many possibilities to travellers. The project completed the first integrated passenger transport node in Warsaw to optimise transfer between underground, trams and buses. Another innovative element of the project was the introduction of a new parking construction, “the Park &Ride” system. The system provides free parking for those with public transport tickets.
Issue and objective: modernising public transportation in Warsaw
As early as in 1927, the first plans for constructing a metro line connecting the southern part to the northern districts of the city were developed. The first construction activities began in 1983 with the first section opening in 1995. However, it was not until 2004 that follow-up to the development plan was started. The collapse of the communist regime and the limited availability of funds postponed the whole process. The City of Warsaw has a population of nearly two million inhabitants, and every day approximately 550,000 people use the Warsaw underground. High quality public transport and a rapid transit network between buses, metro line and trams are of great importance. In other words, the overall objective of the project was to modernise the public transport networks in Warsaw. It is expected that the passenger flows using the node will increase once the construction of Warsaw’s Northern Bridge Route -which crosses the Vistula river (Wisła)- has been finished.
The project concerned the construction of the northern section of Warsaw Metro Line 1, and in particular the construction of the Młociny communication node. In total, four metro stations (“Słodowiec”, “Stare Bielany”, “Wawrzyszew” and ”Młociny”), as well as four route sections connecting the abovementioned stations and holding tracks have been built. The Młociny node is one of the largest communication nodes in Poland. It contains a tram and bus terminus, a multi-storey car park, and the necessary connections between individual elements of the node and the “Młociny” station.
Approach: innovative tools for synchronised land use
The development of the Bielany section of the Warsaw underground system was carried out by the Capital City of Warsaw and The Public Transport Authority, an organisational unit. The Metro Warszawskie company acted as a substitute investor. The open-cast method (a technique which removes rocks or minerals from the ground by using an open pit), which is cheaper than tunnelling, was applied during the construction phase of the project. The implementation of the project was made possible thanks to appropriate spatial planning and well prepared land reserve plans.
Results: a considerable improvement in public transport services
The project has already significantly improved transport services in the northern and southern districts of the capital city. These positive results will be further reinforced as a complementary project will be implemented involving the Northern Bridge Route. The following results have been achieved since the completion of Warsaw’s first metro line:
- The development of four metro stations and public communication stops;
- 3.87 kilometres of metro line and 1,032 parking spaces;
- The attraction of travelling by public transport has increased and the journey time has reduced by eleven minutes;
- Passenger safety and comfort have improved and the number of passengers has grown;
- Road traffic congestion has decreased due to the more frequent use of public transport and at the same time road traffic safety has been improved;
- The accessibility of public transport has been adjusted to the needs of disabled travellers.
EU involvement and the added value of Cohesion Policy on the project
The project was achieved within the framework of the ERDF’s Sectoral Operational programme Transport. The EU co-funding covered 320 million PLN (about €6.6 million) of the total costs (1 billion PLN or € 20.6 million). Cohesion Policy has positively influenced the project, as it would have been completed later without this EU support. The City of Warsaw was in great need of modernisation and the improvement of its mobility system. It was felt to be vital to make the city more attractive, and to gain European-wide recognition.
Furthermore, Cohesion Policy directly contributed to the speed and comfort of Warsaw’s public transport system. As a result, it improved the quality of life in the city and ensured sufficient transport services. But in view of the UEFA EURO 2012, the local funds allocated to the metro line would have been greatly reduced, and thus it would have postponed the overall investment in developing the metroline. Obtaining EU support ensured the timely completion of the project.
The completion of the first metro line stimulated economic growth and improved access to infrastructure. In addition, all actions taken to complete the project were in full compliance with horizontal EU policies. In particular, special attention was given to environmental protection. The underground does not generate noise or environmental pollution, nor does it occupy land or damage landscapes. Moreover, it reduces road transport and limits the consumption of fossil fuels.
Integrated urban development: more investments in green areas
Several elements of the project promote integrated urban development. For instance, the “Park and Ride” system stimulates competition between individual and public transport. Furthermore, the establishment of the first metro line fostered the revitalisation of post-industrial areas, especially in the Żoliborz and Bielany districts. Providing a faster and more comfortable means of transport connecting the northern Warsaw districts to the city centre encouraged many residents of the capital to move to these outlying districts. As a result, it enriched the development of the service sector. The underground, as a modern and environmentally friendly way of travelling, also prompted the district authorities to invest more in urban green areas.
The project corresponds to the key principles of the Commission Communication: “Towards a Thematic Strategy on the Urban Environment” and promotes sustainable transport for the following reasons:
- Public transport will be of greater significance and eventually discourage transport by car;
- The underground construction will directly lead to greater traffic safety, as it reduces road transport;
- The construction has a positive environmental impact.
Furthermore, the project conforms to the “EU Equal Opportunities Policy”, as the transport network is accessible by every citizen. Specific facilities have been developed for less mobile passengers.
Spin offs: the construction of a second metro line
Following the completion of the first metro line, the local government decided to continue investing in public transport. An example of this is the development of a second underground system, which will connect the Warsaw Wola district to the Vilinius Station (Dworzec Wilenski) in the eastern Praga district. In September 2011 a financial agreement was signed between the EU and the Warsaw city authorities for the construction of the central section of the line. It is expected that this will be the largest local government project nationwide, and its construction will be finished in 2014. Another infrastructure project which is currently under development is the “Northern Bridge Route” with road and public transport possibilities (tramway tracks) connecting the north-western and north-eastern districts. This investment will improve communication standards in the whole of the northern part of Warsaw and will integrate the areas located on the two banks of the Vistula river.
Lessons Learned: a positive assessment of the project
On the whole, the EU contribution optimised the entire implementation of the project. Obtaining the exact budget requested was an additional positive outcome. As a result, the project was positively assessed, in both substantive and financial terms. However, certain difficulties arose during the implementation phase of the project, among which were:
- Fluctuations in market prices;
- An increase in the project’s cost;
- Amendments to national laws;
- Technical obstacles to establishing the communication node.
It is however to be expected that in a multi-year project not everything will develop according to plan, and even in these new circumstances the metroline has been finished.
This text relies on helpful comments of the City of Warsaw administration