Port of Gdansk - a new rail gateway for Central and Eastern Europe
Rail connections in Poland, as in other European countries are becoming increasingly important, especially in the context of intermodal transport. Among other EU countries Poland has retained its strong second position after Germany in terms of rail freight. The infrastructural vision for this mode of transport in our country finds itself in a constant state of flux. One such example is the railway access infrastructure to the Port of Gdansk.
The Port of Gdansk is one of the most important logistical hubs in Poland, through which millions of tonnes of cargo are transported by rail every year. About 20% of the tonnage serviced annually at the port is transported by rail. If, however, one takes into account the currently most dynamically growing container sector, over 30% of the container cargo is carried by this means of transport at the Port of Gdansk.
Given that within the next decade the volume of freight in Gdansk is expected to even triple, particularly in the case of unitised goods, it has been necessary to modernise the rail infrastructure allowing access to the port, especially to its right bank.
Thus, the investment by the PKP PLK group that had been at the planning stage for years concerning the modernisation of the 226 railway line along with the construction of a new railway bridge across the Dead Vistula is a popular project that is currently taking shape.
This project worth over 500 million PLN includes in total a 12 km stretch of railway line between the Pruszcz Gdanski and Gdansk Port Polnocny (Northern Port) stations, whose modernisation has comprised as many as 24 engineering structures, including 10 bridges, 4 overpasses and 10 culverts.
The largest of the objects is the bridge over the Dead Vistula, which is already in place parallel to the road suspension bridge. This object, requiring approx. 2,000 tons of steel and concrete, will cost 38 million dollars and will increase the traffic capacity of the railway to the right bank of the port six-fold.
This massive steel structure spanning 124 meters and with a height of 21 meters will eventually be located 8 meters above the water, i.e. at the same level as the cable-stayed bridge built years ago. The clearance under the bridge has been increased by nearly 3 meters and its construction does not require supporting pillars in the water (as opposed to the current railway bridge) - a solution for which the port had been aiming for many years.
Improving the navigation conditions on this stretch of the Dead Vistula, i.e. the five-fold expansion of the waterway, through the implementation of modern engineering solutions, is also a vital piece of information in the context of the long term future development of inland waterway transport at the Port of Gdansk.
The construction of the bridge, by virtue of his position within the administrative boundaries of the port, required from the PGA SA extensive ongoing cooperation in terms of technical solutions to be found, deadlines for the various stages and many other technical and operational issues affecting the current activities of the port.
The process of building the bridge was initiated by the foundation of its abutments, which required approximately 60 piles with a diameter of up to 1.5 meters to be driven into the riverbed.
However, the railway bridge over the Dead Vistula is an interesting design not only from an architectural or engineering point of view, but also logistical. This bridge is made up of as many as 72 finished steel elements produced in the very South of Poland - in Ruda Slaska at the Huta Pokoj steelworks - and then transported overland to Gdynia, where they were transformed at the Nauta shipyard so that the whole bridge could be transported on a special barge to its final destination. The 16-hour transportation initiated at the same time a further phase in the engineering works, including the raising of particular arches of the bridge, the installation of temporary supports, and finally the welding of various arches of the bridge and the foundation of the assembled structure onto the abutments prepared previously.
However, the investment is not just a railway bridge. PKP PLK, as the investor in this undertaking, took care of a range of other elements. The project also includes 12 km of upgraded track and the same amount again of new traction line. In addition, the undertaking will also include the use of modern vibration technology so that the investment will confirm to ecological environmental standards, all the more relevant in that the project is being carried out in the Valley of the Dead Vistula - currently a habitat of protected birds. Therefore, the investment required from PKP PLK some extensive environmental consultation so that it will not damage the natural surroundings.
The second phase of the project will involve the design and construction of specialised equipment for railway traffic control and telecommunications.
In a word, soon, thanks to this invaluable investment made by the national railway infrastructure authorities - PKP PLK - who realised the enormous potential of the port and related rail infrastructure for the further development of the Polish maritime industry and the entire economy of the region, the Port of Gdansk has become not only a sea and road gateway, but also a rail link for Central and Eastern Europe. By the end of this year, one track will have been launched on this line with a maximum speed of 100 km/h. Along with its launch, the existing railway bridge will be demolished and work will begin on the construction of a parallel track, scheduled to be operational by August of next year, which will ideally coincide with the completion of, among others, the ongoing expansion of current investments in the container terminal DCT Gdansk and the almost finished investment in the new PERN company oil terminal.