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The Warsaw Voice » Business » September 2, 2011
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Fast Track to Development
September 2, 2011   
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Witold Stępień, Marshall of ŁódĽ voivodeship, talks to Maria Sondej.

Poland’s turn at the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU is among the hottest topics in the Polish media at the moment. How important is this event for the ŁódĽ region?
The Polish presidency offers a unique opportunity for the country, including our voivodeship, to make its mark in Europe, demonstrate its strong points and potential. This is also an opportunity to invite investors to ŁódĽ voivodeship and catch the interest of some of the most important politicians. We have been taking part in discussions that are of key importance to our voivodeship, most notably those involving issues such as transportation, including high-speed rail, regional development, the role of major cities and broadband internet access for hospitals. ŁódĽ voivodeship also wants to use the Polish presidency of the EU to promote the region’s rich historical and cultural heritage.

Several meetings where the voivodeship played an important role have already taken place. Have they lived up to your expectations?
I believe they have been highly important to the region from the marketing point of view. I am particularly satisfied with a seminar on the high-speed rail system and the system’s impact on the territorial cohesion of the EU. The meeting, attended by Infrastructure Minister Cezary Grabarczyk and coorganized by our Regional Office in Brussels, made it possible to demonstrate the extent to which ŁódĽ voivodeship has been involved in the construction of both the high-speed rail and ŁódĽ Metropolitan Rail networks. It was an opportunity to exchange expertise with participants from other EU member states. Along with local government officials in regions, participants included government officials from Poland and the Czech Republic, members of the European Parliament and EU officials from different countries. The topics discussed included the economic situation of the projects and their significance to people living in the voivodeship. The conference, the first one to be held in Brussels during the Polish presidency, was very well received. Delegates from the European Parliament and the European Commission remarked how the proposal to organize the meeting had come from the regions and Brussels has a lot of respect for regions in general.

Now that work on railway-related projects in the ŁódĽ region is being discussed at the European level, is it possible to expect that these projects will get under way soon?
The development of high-speed rail in Poland hinges on a new line linking Warsaw and ŁódĽ with the western cities of Poznań and Wrocław. The tracks will fork in our region. The project has been submitted for public consultation regarding the tracks’ route through ŁódĽ voivodeship. The plans in the region are correlated with existing tracks as well as other forms of transportation, including freeways, expressways, flight routes and regional and local transport.

Does that include the ŁódĽ Metropolitan Rail network?
The plans to modernize local railway infrastructure also cover the ŁódĽ Metropolitan Rail project. The project involves the purchase of rail cars, new technical facilities and modernized train stops. The ŁódĽ Metropolitan Rail system will enable people to commute from the suburbs to the center of ŁódĽ in less than 30 minutes. Our partners in the project are 12 local governments. In the next phase, the ŁódĽ Metropolitan Rail system will be expanded to include the planned cross-city line passing through a tunnel linking the ŁódĽ Fabryczna and ŁódĽ Kaliska train stations. New intermodal stations will be built to further integrate the ŁódĽ Metropolitan Rail system with the public transportation networks in satellite towns and supraregional transportation facilities, including the Władysław Reymont Airport in ŁódĽ and the high-speed rail system.

Are enhanced rail services the primary means of raising the economic status of the region?
These projects will definitely result in a better environment to foster economic development in the region and attain cohesive urban space in the ŁódĽ metropolitan area. We believe that thanks to the projected fast connections, both conventional and high-speed rail, the region will improve its intellectual capital, in part because researchers will gain better access to ŁódĽ academia. Furthermore, the ŁódĽ metropolitan area is at the core of the development strategy for ŁódĽ voivodeship and the ŁódĽ Metropolitan Rail is a perfect tool to integrate the area.

In what other ways can the region expect to raise its profile at home and abroad?
We have been working on a range of interesting tourist services. Historically, ŁódĽ voivodeship has been an inspiring location and a melting pot of cultures. ŁódĽ is widely regarded as the most multicultural city in Poland, and the voivodeship as a whole is a conglomeration of historical regions centered around the cities of Piotrków Trybunalski, Łęczyca and Sieradz, all of which contribute to the cultural heritage of central Poland. We also have plenty of natural attractions and a lot of historic sites interlinked by tourist trails. A standout feature is Europe’s longest horse trail, which will soon penetrate the entire region. You can also visit the region using special hiking, bicycle and canoeing trails. As they follow the trails, tourists can easily find out that ŁódĽ voivodeship is a magnificent and diversified region that is increasingly better integrated and presents a wealth of opportunities in various areas.
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