For the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic, I got on a train. I check how PKP Intercity is doing in times of distance

Trains, buses, trams - public transport was the first that I gave up when the coronavirus reached Poland. However, it is not possible to resign from traveling for a longer period of time. That's why I grabbed the mask, put on gloves and decided to check how PKP Intercity cares about safety and how it fights the virus.

I used to use Express InterCity Premium - i.e. Pendolino - regularly, at least once a week. The Katowice-Warsaw connection was part of my professional routine. Everything turned upside down at the turn of February and March, when it was already certain that the coronavirus would not miss Poland. I stopped using public transport and succumbed to social isolation. Soon after, most connections were suspended by PKP Intercity itself, following the then recommendations and restrictions.

For some time now, normality has returned to Polish railways. Most connections have been restored.

The restrictions are rationalized and relaxed from week to week. Initially, we could only use some of the connections. We obligatorily sat down every second place in the car. Catering cars have been excluded from use, as well as those used for sleeping. We have lost the possibility of sending individual parcels with the help of a rail carrier. The mobile wagon gastronomy stopped working. This was what the railway looked like in May this year.

Some of the restrictions, however, began to relax. At the same time, others remained in force, drastically changing the way we use railroads today. Observing this process of transformation and adaptation, I waited for the moment when I would feel safe enough to get into the car myself. So in mid-July I return to the beautiful, modern train station in Katowice, watching the Pendolino approach the platform.

I checked how PKP Intercity works on the example of an Express InterCity Premium train on the Katowice - Warsaw route.

The first change was still visible on the platform. The train crew gets off the wagons by standing at the door. The staff wears masks (the medical ones, with filters, working for several hours) and disposable gloves. The carrier's employees make sure that I have the correct ticket. You cannot get on the train by accident. You cannot run into it. You cannot try to buy a ticket only inside, at the conductor. You must be prepared for the trip in advance, having your own ticket and your own place.

Importantly, the traveler always has an assigned seat not only when using Express InterCity Premium. Trains of other categories, such as InterCity and TLK, also operate with a clear allocation of seats. You must have the ticket in advance, and every seat matters. It is not possible for someone to stand between the occupied armchairs or occupy the corridor. Even more so, it is impossible for the car to be crowded. Tickets can always be issued as many as there are seats on the train. Not one more. It would be wonderful if such a system also remained after the pandemic was over.

PKP Intercity has lifted the previously binding 50% limit. seats were occupied in carriages, but the principle of using only half of the seats was retained in the catering car. People who want to eat or drink something cannot sit next to each other. Adequate distances must absolutely be kept. Considering that the virus is transmitted by airborne droplets, this makes sense.

I like the fact that I received a mask and disinfecting wipes for good morning.

In the Express InterCity Premium standard, each traveler receives a personal protection package. Even with your own mask, your own gloves and your own disinfectants. Such a tightly packed package includes a mask (plus for additional stiffening, good quality), disposable gloves and two disposable swabs for disinfection. A useful and nice addition at the same time, considering the high ticket price.

Being with the masks - the obligation to wear them while traveling remains in force. Fortunately, all passengers complied with it. Train staff also scrupulously fulfill the obligation to cover their mouth and nose. It is a good idea to have separate colors (white and red) for employees of the conductor team and WARS staff. Thanks to this, we immediately know who we are talking to. It is enough to look at the mask of such a person.

Right, WARS. The gastronomy was restored. The food ordering app works great.

Catering services are functioning on PKP Intercity trains again. Of course, with restrictions. Above I mentioned the necessity to leave an empty space next to each other. There are disinfectants on the counter that can be used at any time. Most importantly, the tables are washed and disinfected after each client. A sign informing about recent disinfection is then placed on the top of such a table. Like a restaurant.

You may know that WiFi has been working on every Express InterCity Premium train for several months. Consequently, the train of each route supports a dedicated mWARS application (iOS and Android). With its help, we can order food from the catering car directly to our passenger seat. The meal will be brought by the staff wearing gloves and a mask, adding disinfecting wipes. I tested this system with apple pancakes and cappuccinos. It works perfectly, avoiding possible queues waiting for a free seat in the restaurant compartment.

The sense of security is built by the perceptible smell of cleaning products present in the air.

I spent tens of hours in Pendolino on the Katowice - Warsaw route. Now the first difference that hit my nostrils was the strong smell of chemicals. Luckily, enjoyable. I have no doubts that the trains are cleaned and disinfected not only at the depot, but after their journeys are finished. The staff regularly disinfects the catering car and all passenger compartments. It's a nice, security-building difference.

It is also a great idea to implement full automation for doors and passages. You don't need to push the green button anymore. All sluices open automatically as soon as we stand right in front of them. The same works for external doors. Moving between the Pendolino sections, visiting the toilet, entering the dining car and getting off the train, we do not have to touch a single handle or a button. I liked it.

In times of a pandemic, can you travel by train?

I may be perceived as oversensitive, but I stick to the rule: if you don't have to, don't go to the office. If you don't have to, don't travel. Minimize time spent in confined spaces that aren't your home. However, I perfectly understand that life must go on. A few hundred cases a day cannot stop the procedures of almost 40 million people in a country. Sometimes we have no choice but to use public transport. Just like I did.

Traveling by train turned out to be safer than I initially assumed. Limiting the number of passengers to the number of seats, adherence to masked rigor and frequent disinfection were elements that reassured me during the trip. I took the liberty of talking to the WARS crew and these people are really doing their best to maintain high sanitary standards. Even if it involves several hours of working in a mask and constantly polishing the tops.

* The material was created in cooperation with PKP Intercity

For the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic, I got on a train. I check how PKP Intercity is doing in times of distance


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