Grodzisk Mazowiecki–Zawiercie railway

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Centralna Magistrala Kolejowa
Wloszczowa dworzec pln.JPG
Włoszczowa Północ Station
TypeInter-city rail line
SystemInterCity and EuroCity
LocaleGrodzisk Mazowiecki, Opoczno, Włoszczowa, Zawiercie
TerminiGrodzisk Mazowiecki railway station
Services1 main
Daily ridership(est.)?
OwnerPolish State Railways
Operator(s)PKP Intercity
Character2 track main line
Line length224 km
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
Electrification3 kV DC
Operating speedcurrent max 200 km/h (160/250 since 1987/theoretically)
Route map
POL rail 4 map.svg

The Central Rail Line (Polish: Centralna Magistrala Kolejowa, CMK, also known in Poland as the Rail Line No. 4, Polish: Linia kolejowa nr 4), which was completed on 23 December 1977[1], could have been the first high speed railway line in Europe.[2] Designed for speeds of up to 250 km/h, the line goes from the city of Zawiercie in Zagłębie Dąbrowskie region of southern Poland, to Grodzisk Mazowiecki in the suburbs of Warsaw. Its length is 224 kilometers, and in the Polish rail system it is officially known as Rail Line Number 4 (Linia kolejowa numer 4). The line was originally built for rail freight transport, but it now carries InterCity and EuroCity long distance passenger services, mostly from Wrocław, Opole, Częstochowa, Katowice and Kraków to Warsaw.[3]

Since 14 December 2014 new Alstom Pendolino trains operate on the CMK between Grodzisk Mazowiecki - Idzikowice section (speed limit raised in 2017) and Włoszczowa Północ - Zawiercie at 200 km/h (124 mph). This is currently the highest speed of any regularly scheduled passenger train in Poland.

PKP PLK announced in 2018 that there is a plan to increase speed to 230 km/h on the whole Central Rail Line called CMK soon.[4]


The CMK was constructed between 1971 and 1977, as a freight line designed to haul coal from Upper Silesia and Zagłębie Dabrowskie to the ports of the Tricity. According to the original idea, it was supposed to start at Zawiercie, and end at Tczew or Gdańsk. However, the economic crisis in mid-1970s Poland changed these plans, and due to lack of money the CMK ends at Grodzisk Mazowiecki, where it is connected to the already-existing Warsaw–Vienna railway[5]

The idea of construction of a direct rail connection between Upper Silesia and Warsaw was first proposed by professor Aleksander Wasiutyński[6] in the 1920s. He rightly noted that the Warsaw–Vienna railway, which goes to Warsaw through Zawiercie, Myszków, Częstochowa, Radomsko, Piotrków Trybunalski, Koluszki, and Skierniewice, would not be able to carry all the passenger and freight traffic between the two industrial centers of the newly created country. Wasiutyński’s idea was abandoned however, when the government constructed the Polish Coal Trunk-Line instead.

In the late 1950s Polish planners again considered the concept of Wasiutyński, but came to the conclusion that electrification of former Warsaw–Vienna railway should suffice for the increased traffic. The electrification was completed in 1957, increasing traffic volume by some 25%,[7] but this was still not enough. In 1970 rail authorities briefly considered adding new tracks to existing lines, however this idea was quickly abandoned and the idea of construction of a brand new line was revived. The line was planned to be a two-track, high speed connection, designed to carry both express passenger trains and heavy freight trains. Construction of several overpasses was planned, to avoid intersecting with roads. Speeds up to 250 km/h (155 mph) were projected for passenger trains, and a maximum weight up to 5,000 gross tons for freight trains.[8]


Polish engineers considered several options for the route of the new connection. They differed in several aspects - from the starting point (either at Zawiercie or Łazy), to a finishing point somewhere in the extensive Warsaw rail junction. According to the original design, the CMK would merge with the Warsaw - Radom line south of the Polish capital. This was rejected because of the inadequate infrastructure of the Warsaw - Radom line and the impossibility of extending the CMK further northwards. Another idea was that the CMK would merge with the Warsaw-Vienna Railway near Piastów, but this would have been too costly because of the densely populated area. Finally, the route from Zawiercie to Grodzisk Mazowiecki was chosen.

The decision to begin construction of the 143-kilometer Zawiercie - Radzice connection was taken in June 1971, and the first works began in August of that year. Some 30 companies participated in the construction, and the first trains ran on the still unfinished CKM on 26 September 1974, when a single track between Zawiercie and Idzikowice was opened, together with branches to Kraków (Starzyny - Psary), Kielce (Knapówka - Czarnca), Częstochowa (Włoszczowa Północna - Żelisławice), Łódż (Idzikowice - Dąba Opoczyńska), and Radom (Idzikowice - Radzice). The CMK was finally completed on 23 December 1977, when the 80-kilometer connection Mszczonów - Grodzisk Mazowiecki was electrified. After completion of the track from Zawiercie to Grodzisk, construction of a Warsaw - Gdańsk Port Północny (via Wyszogród, Płock, Sierpc, Brodnica and Malbork) connection was planned, but abandoned *in the late 1970s and early 1980, due to the ongoing financial crisis in Poland.


For the first seven years, the CMK was used mostly for freight traffic. In 1980, the line carried 73 freight trains and only 4 passenger trains daily.[9] This changed in the mid-1980s, when the government in Warsaw decided to open the line to more passenger trains. On 1 June 1984 the first express trains (Górnik, from Warszawa Wschodnia to Gliwice, and Krakus, from Warszawa Wschodnia to Kraków Główny) began traveling on the CMK, with speed of up to 140 km/h (87 mph). Two years later the maximum speed was raised to 160 km/h (99 mph). The CMK, however, was designed for speeds of up to 250 km/h, and after several repairs and replacement of tracks, on 11 May 1994, an Italian Pendolino train reached the speed of 250.1 km/h (155 mph) (near Biała Rawska), which remained the speed record for train travel in Mid-Eastern Europe until November 2013. This single achievement, however, did not mean that trains began regular services with speeds of up to 250 km/h. Before 2009 the Polish State Railways owned no rolling stock capable of such speeds, and numerous improvements in the infrastructure would be required. The CMK line also lacked cab signalling which is required on high-speed rail lines, where trains travel at speeds which make observation of lineside signals unreliable.

Modernization after 2009[edit]

Central Rail Line, green line shows max speed of 200 km/h

In June 2008 PKP ordered ten (10) Siemens Eurosprinter ES64U4 Taurus electric locomotives capable of 200 km/h (124 mph), the first of which reached a speed of 235 km/h (146 mph) in a test on the CMK line on 28 May 2009.[10] Delivery of the 10 locomotives was completed in June 2010. Despite their high speed capability these locomotives were initially assigned to conventional services operating at less than 160 km/h (99 mph).

On 29 August 2009 PKP signed a contract with Thales Rail Signalling to install European Train Control System (ETCS) Level 1 signalling on the CMK rail line, a very modern signalling system which is being installed throughout the European Union particularly on high-speed rail lines.[11] ETCS replaces lineside signals by data transmission to an on-board computer on the train, with signal aspects, speed restrictions, and a safe braking curve displayed on a monitor in front of the driver. Level 1 retains lineside signals for trains operating at less than 160 km/h (99 mph), while allowing ETCS-equipped trains to run at speeds above 160 km/h (99 mph).[12] ETCS satisfies the requirement of cab signalling for high speed trains, while also providing greatly increased safety. The ETCS signalling on the CMK was certified on 21 November 2013,[13] allowing trains on the CMK to operate at 200 km/h (124 mph).

On 30 May 2011, PKP signed a contract to procure twenty Alstom Pendolino ETR 610 trains capable of a maximum speed of 250 km/h (155 mph) for delivery in 2014.[14][15] The first Alstom Pendolino was delivered on 12 August 2013.[16] Initially, the Pendolino trains will run on the CMK line at 200 km/h (124 mph). Plans exist to convert the electrification of the CMK line from the present 3 kV DC to 25 kV AC. The Pendolinos and the new Siemens ES64U4 locomotives can operate on both electrical systems. When the CMK electrification is converted to 25 kV AC, the Pendolinos will be able to run at 250 km/h (155 mph).[17]

High speed tests using the new Pendolino ED250 on the CMK were conducted in November 2013. On the first day of tests, 16 November, the Pendolino reached 242 km/h (150 mph).[18] On 24 November 2013 the final day of tests on the CMK the Pendolino reached 293 km/h (182 mph).[19]

In early 2014 installation of 13 high-speed railroad switches (points in British terminology) of the most modern type was carried out at Szeligi [pl] on the CMK some 22 km south of Grodzisk Mazowiecki. These are moveable-frog (or 'swingnose') switches of the type used on French TGV and German high-speed rail lines, and the switches at Szeligi are the first such installation in Poland. All of the switches permit 250 km/h (155 mph) speed in the 'through' direction, with a diverging speed of 100 km/h (62 mph) on 5 switches and diverging speed of 60 km/h (37 mph) on 4 other switches. The installation at Szeligi was carried out by the Polish subsidiary VAE Polska of the Austrian supplier Voestalpine Weichensysteme GmbH.[20]

On 14 December 2014 Pendolino services under the name 'Express Intercity Premium' began operating on the CMK, with trains running from Kraków and Katowice to Warsaw on the CMK and continuing to Gdańsk and Gdynia. The Pendolinos reach 200 km/h (124 mph) on a total of 133 kilometers of the CMK, divided into two disjoint sections; the first regularly scheduled operation at 200 km/h in Poland. In addition, two daily Pendolinos run from Warsaw to Wrocław, running on the CMK part of the way to Częstochowa and continuing via Opole to Wrocław.[21][22]


  1. ^ Portal, Timeline of Events
  2. ^ Although the CMK might have allowed high-speed travel, high-speed services never started, and thus the Italian Direttissima from Rome to Florence, which opened in 1978, is generally credited to have been the first true high-speed line in Europe. (source)
  3. ^ Rail Transport Page
  4. ^
  5. ^ Portal, Timeline of Events
  6. ^ A. Wasiutynski, notka biograficzna, '170 Lat Koleji Warszawsko-Wiedenskiej,'
  7. ^ Gazeta Czestochowska, 50th Anniversary of Electrification of Warsaw-Vienna Railway
  8. ^ Portal, Timeline of Events
  9. ^ Portal, Timeline of Events
  10. ^ pl:Siemens EuroSprinter#ES64U4 Husarz
  11. ^ "Cab Signalling to Bring 200 km/h to Poland". Railway Gazette International. 10 September 2009.
  12. ^ European Train Control System
  13. ^ Railway Gazette International, 23 December 2013 'First ETCS certified in Poland,'
  14. ^ Railway Gazette International, 31 May 2011, 'PKP Intercity signs Pendolino Contract,'
  15. ^ Railway Gazette International, 15 May 2013, 'EIB increases Polish Pendolino loan,'
  16. ^ 'The first Pendolino (EIC Premium) is already in Poland,' Alstom Press Release
  17. ^ Railway Gazette International, 8 December 2011, Polish high speed rail project cancelled,
  18. ^ 'Pendolino osiągneło na CMK 242 km/h,' Kurier kolejowy 16 11 2013,
  19. ^ 'Bariera 300 km/h nie padła. Na koniec testów 293 km/h,' Rynek Kolejowy, 2013 11 24,
  20. ^ 'Pierwsze rozjazdy na 250 km/h dotarły na CMK,' Kurier Kolejowy 21.03.2014,
  21. ^ 'Polish Pendolino launches 200 km/h operation,' Railway Gazette International, 15 December 2014,
  22. ^ 'Wszystko co musisz wiedzeć o Pendolino,' Rynek Kolejowy 13 December 2014,

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