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The Warsaw Voice » Other » July 9, 2008
France in Poland
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Engineering a New Poland
July 9, 2008   
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Danuta Kembłowska-Dupieu, head of Systra SA Oddział w Polsce (Poland Division), talks to Agnieszka Domańska.

Many people complain about inefficient transportation systems in Poland, especially in urban areas. Is this an important signal for foreign civil engineering companies to enter the Polish market?
It definitely is, though civil engineering companies like Systra-and especially its foreign design engineers-encounter considerable formal and legal obstacles in Poland. It is a major stumbling block to quick progress in Poland's transportation infrastructure when foreign companies are unable to strengthen their human resources by directly hiring foreign design engineers. We can only carry out projects if our engineers work together with their Polish counterparts.

But let me begin with the problems you asked about. They are substantial indeed. The long period without any investment in the transportation sector caused the infrastructure to deteriorate and fail to keep up with the rapid growth of Polish cities and regions. Regional and interregional transportation in Poland requires enormous investment. A lot has been said and written about it. What you hear much less about are the problems cities cope with in their public transportation systems. Polish cities have been growing at a rapid pace, and the intensity and directions of passenger traffic are changing all the time. Current urban transportation systems are totally inadequate to the new needs. Our company works with cities around the world to develop comprehensive plans for urban transportation systems that are optimal for residents and for the city and take into consideration the actual investment possibilities. We also want to do the same in Poland.

What does "comprehensive and optimal" mean in this case?
Optimal means a thorough examination of the transportation needs in the city and region. The analysis focuses on the passenger flow and its directions and intensity, not only towards the city center and during the morning and afternoon rush hours. We look at what people do throughout the day, what interests they have after work, and how they travel between different parts of the city. In the selection of means of transportation and connections between them, we analyze what can be achieved within the available funds to decrease the total travel cost-in terms of both price and time-and the number of transfers, and what can be done to assure regular departures and arrivals and provide passengers with more comfort and safety.

Only then can we decide whether it is better for a city to have a commuter train, a light subway system, a tramway or a bus. If we want to increase travel speed and capacity, we have to prepare for higher costs, and so on. There are dozens of such choices and decisions to be made at the design stage.

The adjective "comprehensive" means Systra's ability to carry out projects from the stage of market analysis onward, including technical study and analysis of the cost-effectiveness of a given project. When the project gets approved, we take care of preparing the technical documentation and documents for the bidding process, and provide assistance during the bidding procedures. Finally, once the construction project has begun, we supervise the entire process. We are frequently involved in the capacity of project manager.

What experience does Systra have internationally?
Systra, established over five decades ago, is a French company with ties to the French railways and the metro in Paris. We work in two sectors, rail and urban transportation. We carry out transportation projects in 350 cities on all continents. Some recent examples include the construction of the TGV network in Taiwan and South Korea, the newly opened TGV line between the English Channel and London, and TGV projects in California, Algiers and Morocco. We have also worked on the design and construction of many metro lines, such as the new metro in Dubai, Santiago and New Delhi, whose tracks run for kilometers above ground level on a network of U-shaped viaducts patented by our company. There is also the network of tram lines in France, built totally from scratch. In American league tables, we rank as the world number one among transportation engineering companies.

What about Poland?
We entered the Polish market in the early 1990s. At first we worked from France, and three years ago we opened our offices in Warsaw and Wrocław. Some of our most noteworthy projects that are currently under way include work to design a 3-kilometer tram line in Warsaw, complete with the innovative Krasińskiego Bridge, which has been given a lot of publicity in the media. Another large project is the modernization of the E59 railway line from Poznań to Wrocław and supervision over work on a rail link between Warsaw's Okęcie airport and the city center. We are steadily earning the trust of Polish investors who include the state railway company and the authorities of Polish cities. We are happy to see the growing trust of Polish designers, as it allows us to develop cooperation in mixed French-Polish teams. All this means that Systra will remain very active on the Polish market.

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