New multimodal infrastructure in CEE region to help EU meet its transport goals

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One of the largest infrastructure projects in Europe is currently under development in Poland. It is Centralny Port Komunikacyjny (CPK) project covering several greenfield investments in transport infrastructure. As part of the project, a new multimodal airport hub will be built near Warsaw connecting it with almost all largest Polish cities via newly constructed High-Speed railway lines. The initiative closely aligns with the European Union’s vision for multi-modal transport that optimizes the efficient use of trains, planes, and cars. The purpose is to completely reshape the transportation system in Poland and boost connectivity in the region.

While traffic on high-speed railways in Western Europe has seen continuous growth over the last decades, Central and Eastern Europe countries remain unconnected by high-speed lines. This also applies to Poland, where the development of High-Speed Rail has been long overdue. To address this gap, CPK SPV was established in 2018 to become an agent of change in the Polish rail market and finally deliver HSR system in the country. In doing so, the company will serve the larger goal of contributing to geographically balanced development of HSR infrastructure in Europe.

While firmly embedded in Polish realities, CPK project was never meant to be a stand-alone initiative, having a strong regional dimension stretching beyond Poland’s national borders. Having learnt from mistakes pointed out in the ECA’s 2018 Special Report on HSR, CPK wants to avoid adding yet another piece to the ineffective patchwork. Instead, CPK strives to become an integrator of future cross-border HSR network by connecting all regional HSR investments into one functional system. To do that, a close coordination with entities responsible for neighboring HSR projects, namely RB Rail AS and Správa železnic, has been inherently embedded in the preparatory phase of CPK project. This is even more important as most of CPK HSR sections were included in the revised TEN-T network proposed by the European Commission. Becoming part of two European Transport Corridors has made CPK project an indispensable piece of puzzle contributing to regional connectivity and more broadly the completion of EU internal market.

CPK Railway Programme can also become a key contributor in EU’s efforts to reduce transport emissions in line with European Green Deal objectives. Its investments in HSR infrastructure can draw more passengers to the most sustainable transportation mode which for many years has been struggling to meet its full potential. CPK project will enhance the process of completing an integrated European HSR network, which is indeed a critical success factor in achieving the objective of doubling HSR traffic by 2030 and tripling it by 2050, as foreseen in EU Smart and Sustainable Mobility Strategy.

If we look at the CEE region as a whole, the combined length of all planned HSR lines in Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Baltic States will reach around 4,500 km already by 2030. With regard to CPK, the feasibility studies for 1,500 km of new railway lines are either ready or in preparation, while the construction of the most advanced CPK railway investment – the long-distance HSR tunnel in Łódź – will kick-off already by the end of this year.

But CPK Railway Programme is not only about building new infrastructure. It also plans to establish new traffic organization, integrated clock-face timetabling, development of Polish HSR standards, introduction of HSR rolling stock on new rails and many other elements, which are meant to help railways meet the challenges of modern times.

The keystone of the CPK project is a planned multimodal transport hub located 37 km west of Warsaw. It will be reachable from almost all Polish largest cities within 2.5 hours travel time through a network of railway lines delivered under CPK Railway Programme. CPK Airport is intended to be the first net-zero ready airport in the region upon its inauguration. On that account CPK is trying to set new standards for green airports globally and serve as a source of inspiration.

While aviation is often labeled as a hard-to-abate industry primarily because of the technological limitations that make it difficult to directly reduce carbon emissions, CPK Airport might become relevant to the EU decarbonization efforts. A well-functioning hub will enable seamless switching between different modes of transport resulting in shortening the distance of a journey and thus, being highly efficient not only in terms of travel time, but also transport emissions.

What is equally important, sustainable design and green improvements will set new standards for the transition of aviation infrastructure. To give a better illustration of this concept, CPK Airport will be technically ready to operate using exclusively renewable energy sources for heating, cooling and power supply. All buildings and airport infrastructure will be gradually certified with Airport Carbon Accreditation as well as BREEAM. In result the re-use of water will be maximized, and circular economy approach implemented. The infrastructure will be designed to withstand extreme weather conditions making the airport resilient to climate change. Finally, CPK Airport will be ready to accommodate zero-emission aircrafts by reserving space for future hydrogen fuel infrastructure.

While having sustainability at its core, the CPK Airport project is also based on solid economic grounds. Private investors from Europe and Asia-Pacific region have declared their interest in carrying out the construction and future management of the airport. In October, CPK selected a joint offer from Vinci Airports and IFM Global Infrastructure Fund as the preferred bidder in the competition for airport’s strategic investor. The future project partners intend to contribute a minority share of the capital necessary for the construction of the airport and in return acquire up to 49% of shares in a future company responsible for running the new hub.

CPK company has already advanced the permit granting process for the new airport by receiving an environmental decision, an approval of the Master Plan and a promise from the Civil Aviation Authority to establish a new airport. The project will soon enter the second phase of the Multi-Annual Programme for the years 2024 – 2030. The Programme covers financing necessary to continue the design and construction phase of CPK Airport, as well as related key investments, including roads and railways.

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