The Warsaw Metro (Polish: Metro warszawskie) is one of Europe's newest metro systems and Poland's first (and the only one so far). It was opened in 1995 and consists of a single north-south line, still partly under construction that links central Warsaw with its densely populated southern suburbs. Plans exist for further lines once the first is complete.
Plans to build an underground rail system in Warsaw date as far back as 1918, when the idea was first floated in reaction to Warsaw regaining its status as Poland's capital city. An underground railway system was expected to solve the transport difficulties of the densely-built city centre. Proper preliminary planning and boring work were initiated by the Warsaw Tramway Authority in 1925, with construction expected to start in the late 1920s. The Great Depression buried those plans as Poland and the world was gripped by hardship. In 1934, with the election of a new mayor of Warsaw, Stefan Starzyński, work was to resume on the metro. The mayor dusted off the plans from the mid-1920s, and with some minor adjustments, construction of the metro was planned to start by the late 1930s, with a projected finishing date of the first of two projected lines scheduled for the mid 1940s. By then, the subway network was to consist of two lines. The A line (North-South line, 7,5 km or 4,6 mi long), followed most of today's route and was to link the southernmost borough of Mokotów with the city centre and the northern borough of Żoliborz. This line was to be connected with the newly-constructed Warszawa Główna train station and the railway tunnel crossing the city from west to the east. The B line (East-West, 6,3 km or 4 mi long) was to start beneath the westernmost borough of Wola, proceed along the Chłodna street to the pivotal station beneath the Saxon Sq. and then further eastwards to the Vistula river escarpment. There, the line was to go overground, cross the river through a newly-built bridge and proceed to the easternmost railway station of Warszawa Wschodnia. Altogether, in 35 years 7 lines were to be built). The works finally started in 1938, but World War II brought an end to the ambitious undertaking. The short trace tunnels made in 1938 serve as a wine cellar today.
The city suffered heavily during World War II. Although the majority of pre-war projects perished during the war, most of the engineers behind their creation survived the war and returned to their city to take part in its rebirth. However, the new Communist authorities of Poland envisioned a city completely different from what it used to be before the war. As the ideal communist city, Warsaw was to be decentralized and a need to commute to the city centre was to be reduced. Thus the Reconstruction of Warsaw Office (BOS) commissioned a number of engineers to prepare a project of a fast tramway (Fast Urban Railway, SKM) crossing the city in a deep cutting. Although to a large extent it was to follow the A line of the pre-war plans, only the central stations were to be located underground. However, by the end of the decade the project was cancelled. Instead, in 1948 a different concept was considered. This time the SKM was to be a rapid transit line at a depth of up to 15 metres (50 feet). The suggested North-South direction, with three parallel branches of the same line in the city centre, corresponded to the planned development of the city along the Vistula. The works however never started and this project was also abandoned.
In the 1950s, as the Cold War raged on, Soviet strategic plans required that a secure transport link across the river Vistula be built. One of the ways to achieve this was to create a deep metro system in Warsaw (up to 46 metres or 150 feet beneath the ground), which would be interlinked with the rail network and could serve as an underground conduit for transporting troops. Plans assumed that the first line (ca. 11 kilometres) would lie along North-South axis, with a branch of the same line crossing the Vistula river in the city centre. The construction works started almost simultaneously at 17 different points on both sides of the river. Until 1953 771 metres of tunnels were built, however after the death of Joseph Stalin and the start of a period of détente, all works were halted under the pretext of technical difficulties. In following years only one junction tunnel and one shield-driven tunnel were continued to be constructed. These works were undertaken experimentally, in order to discover the best driving methods suitable for the ground conditions beneath Warsaw (pliocene clay formations layer spread beneath quaternary soils). Finally, in 1957 all the work was halted.
Since 1955 there was a return to the old idea of a shallow metro network. However, the planning phase proceeded at a very slow pace and the economical situation prevented all successive communist governments from actually starting a serious work. Finally, in 1984, the programme was approved by the government and the first tunnels were built. Lack of funds, poor planning, and tedious bureaucracy meant that the work progressed very slowly, at a speed no greater than 2 metres a day. The Metro was opened in 1995 with a total of 11 stations. The line now has 18 stations along a distance of approximately 19 kilometres, and will be completed with a total of 21 stations by late 2008.
Perhaps alone among world metro systems, tickets are not sold by the transport company itself, but by post offices and privately-run shops and newsagents'; however, the ticket system covers all Warsaw public transport, including the Metro, buses, trams and some suburban trains. In addition to single (or daily/weekly) tickets, one can also purchase a proximity card at which can be charged for up to 3 months at a time, offering a cheaper alternative to single tickets.
The first line was a compromise between earlier route proposals further east and west (one of which belonged to the planned Line 4) and as such does not go to some important areas of the city. For example, it does not pass directly under the old town, Warsaw's main tourist attraction, which has few public transport links, passing it about 600 m to the west. It also does not go to the central railway station, and the nearest stop is over 400 m to the east (the planned second line will also avoid it, with the closest station also about 400 m to the north). Furthermore, the first line, and thus the Metro system for the immediate future, is confined to the western bank of the Vistula river, thus doing nothing to ease traffic problems on Warsaw's bridges, a major bottleneck between the city centre and the eastern Praga district. Plans for the third line to Okęcie airport have been abandoned for the foreseeable future.
Transport planners have suggested that the WKD, a light rail line that runs to the western suburbs, could be integrated with the city's tram system, or be more closely tied to the Metro and a future suburban rail network, or both. The first such plans were prepared in the late 1930s and the railway tunnel running below the city centre was to be shared by both the railways and the metro. In the mid-1990s the WKD, PKP and Warsaw Metro systems were temporarily integrated and Warsaw city travel cards were valid also in the suburban railways. This idea was, however, dropped in 1999 due to financial problems.
Initially, all of the trains were Russian built. They first arrived in Warsaw in 1990 as a gift from the USSR, five years prior to the Metro's opening, from Vagonmash plant in Mytishchi (near Moscow) (model 81-717.3/714.3 - 10 carriages). Subsequent trains arrived from Saint Petersburg's Yegorov Plant in 1994 (81-572/573 - 32 carriages) and additional 18 81-572.1/573.1 carriages in 1997.
In 1998, 108 new carriages were ordered from Alstom. These were all delivered by 2005 (24 were produced in Barcelona and the rest in Chorzów). In 2006 additional carriages were ordered from Russia, with deliveries taking place during 2007, to lengthen the existing trains using older Russian carriages.
Currently, out of the 33 trains running, 15 consist of Russian-produced cars and 18 of Alstom-produced cars. The Russian and Alstom carriages are incompatible and cannot be used in the same train.
|Segment||Date opened||Length (km)|
|Kabaty-Politechnika||April 7, 1995||11.0|
|Politechnika-Centrum||May 26, 1998||1.4|
|Centrum-Ratusz Arsenał||May 11, 2001||1.7|
|Ratusz Arsenał-Dworzec Gdański||December 20, 2003||1.5|
|Dworzec Gdański-Plac Wilsona||April 8, 2005||1.5|
|Plac Wilsona-Marymont||December 29, 2006||0.9|
|Marymont-Słodowiec||April 23, 2008||1.0|
|Total:||20 Stations||20.1 km|