The unfulfilled promises, rejected projects, accessibility to highways and parameters of asphalt mixture and intellectual vanity of the government are discussed in the interview between Wiesława Lewandowska and the parliamentarian Jerzy Polaczek
WIESŁAWA LEWANDOWSKA: - Poles deserve good roads, as the Minister of Transport says, explaining the necessity or renovating them during building, still before making them accessible. He certainly adds that the opposition starts a political conflict, as a result of misunderstanding certain things and bad intentions. What don’t you understand as a parliamentarian?
PATLIAMENTARIAN JERZY POLACZEK: - I understand that the minister Nowak behaves like a fireman who sets fire only in order to extinguish it beautifully but he does not put it out...I do not understand this paradox that one day, to the appeal of the Minister of Transport, the government accepts the novelisation of the Act about roads, concerning the accessibility which is only an agreement to allow for the traffic on the unfinished parts of highways or express motorways, still being built; and the same minister scares companies, announcing ‘the zero of tolerance’ for wrongly built roads. So we must ask here about the intentions of the minister if one day he makes decisions which, as it is known in advance, will negatively influence the quality of the future roads and after that he ‘scolds’ their builders....Either one is an arsonist or a good fireman, but the minister does not know who he is, the minister of sport or transport.
– Why is allowing for the so-called accessibility of unfinished roads for Euro 2012 not a good decision in your opinion?
– It is an anti-systemic suggestion which, according to the governmental project, is supposed to be reduced to a few months functioning of ‘the accessibility’ of unfinished highways. It is sad to suspect that the government was not aware of consequences or dangers connected with it! Although it is really difficult to exclude it, is the prime minister suggests such ‘new’ ministers, like Joanna Mucha or Sławomir Nowak, for the most difficult parts in this hectic time.
– Maybe the prime minister simply meant to show nice Polish faces to the world on EURO 2012?
– This may be a general rule of action by the Civic Platform of the government – accessibility, appearance and auto-presentation count but not what will be later.
– Do you think that the government controls the present time well?
– That’s it. We can see more often that the present time is slipping off from the hands of the prime minister and his ministers.
– Because of the difficult time, crisis...
– If it is the reason, then good and experienced professionals should be employed in these posts, whereas in the transport sector there is temporariness in the institutions belonging to the minister, and they are managed by people officiating as chiefs of the Civic Platform. In the office of the railway transport the minister Nowak has just dismissed a 30 year-old director who had governed this office for 1,5 years and at this time he dismissed regional directors, but did not appoint any new ones... Officiating as the chief, he manages the Office of Civil Aviation, the Polish National Railways, the General Directorate for National Roads and Highways and he has also been officiating the general director for 4 years...
– What is strange in it – is the Civic Platform governing?
– Or maybe rather the civic platform of the Civic Platform! That is, nothing stable... It would be even funny if it was not connected with the safety of the citizens. The first three months of the old and new government are a kind of declarations by the minister Nowak, about what will not be done on time or what will not be done at all. So there will not be the majority of roads or railways for high speed on time... The fact is that the Polish infrastructure is cracking today like these roads during their building.
– The roads crack in a natural way because of strong frost; however, the Minister of Transport takes the side of citizens and announces a strict control of their builders.
– Sometimes I have an impression that the minister is joking... Why, during the investigation of the reasons for these cracks, doesn’t anybody from the Ministry of Transport or the General Directorate of National Roads and Highways mention that in November 2010, under the directive no 102 of the General Directorate of National Roads and Highways technical requirements were changed which concerned asphalt mixtures? Today an expert answer must be given to the question how much this change influenced the quality of the roads which are being built. It is also worth asking the question how these new norms functioned in practice – what the cooperation was between builders and engineers of contracts, supervising building roads on behalf of the General Directorate for National Roads and Highways and how the Directorate was monitoring the progress of the works...Or maybe it is too late to scare builders and announce the zero of tolerance to the bad quality?! The zero of tolerance should be decided at the very beginning but not now when the last layer has been put on the surface of roads.
– Why do you assume that the main culprits are not only the builders?
– If a phenomenon of cracking appeared in over 80 places on different places of building work distanced from one another, it is difficult to decide about a reason of wrong road building. The conclusion is simple – either technical norms are wrong or there was lack of suitable professional supervision. Maybe builders were not unsupervised but hurried or maybe technological requirements were not fulfilled in fact...Anyway, the essential part of responsibility lies on the side of the General Directorate for National Roads and Highways, that is, on the side of the government.
– Or maybe the frost is to be blamed for, though?
– Everyone who is guilty says that they would like everything good but it turned out to be different. It is a pity that frost says nothing...
– Can we say that the governmental side, which was ordering the fulfilment of the investment, did not prove its suitable care?
– I think so. I definitely do not share these very simple conclusions – about the fault of frost or builders. Now a group of experts should gather in order to analyze the whole issue and draw conclusions for the future. When I was holding the post of the Minister of Transport, the management of the General Directorate for National Roads and Highways consisted of people who knew the issue very well, whereas after taking over the authority by the Civic Platform a promotion of ‘new view’ appeared in many neuralgic public institutions connected with the quality of the investment, public finances or management rules of risk and danger.
– Do you think that these problems, for example, of the National Stadium came from this situation?
– Yes, I do. It is one of the examples of the ‘cracking infrastructure’ under the reigns of the Civic Platform but very symbolic in its oddity. This roads building is simply a collection of setbacks resulting from the chaos of incompetence... If the National Centre of Sport, as a subsidiary investor on behalf of the State accepts setting up grass at the temperature of -20 degrees, it can be compared to painting grass green at the times of Gierek. I made a statement with an inter-appeal in this issue in which I request the Minister of Sport to make the National Centre of Sport show these technical norms which allow for this kind of works so that people will know who is responsible for these decisions on behalf of somebody ordering and executing them. However, as far as taking responsibility is concerned, a full anonymity obliges in the government of the Civic Platform. It is completely different as far as bonuses are concerned...
– Well if it was not for your curiosity, there would not be a full personal clarity in this issue...
– In fact I have been the first person in Poland who reached to compromising annexes in contracts connected with the company PL.2012 and the National Centre of Sport. My judgement is very radical: I think that the change in the managerial contract which leads only to the exclusion of the quality or deadline while granting bonuses – that is, adding the annex that if for ‘any reasons’ the chairman of the National Centre of Sport resigns from his post, he deserve a bonus of half a million zlotys anyway – is an obvious acting at the cost of the company and the country. And besides that it is a mockery at citizens.
– We are counting days till Euro, but do you expect the infrastructural compromise of Poland?
– At the time of 100 days before Euro everything proves that – despite the announcement of the government in 2007 – cities being the co-hosts of this event will not fully joined by highways or express motorways with one another, and there will not be satisfying railway connections either. We can count for a good transport (and only the railway) only between Poznań and Warsaw. I am afraid that on this occasion Euro 2012 will painfully clash with the reality of the governmental politician of piar...
– The new minister was appointed to remove another ‘railway compromise’ of his predecessor so that – as the prime minister assures in his expose – he would concentrate on improvement of the state of Polish railways. Maybe it will be successful, not necessarily because of Euro?
– I am afraid that there will only be next promises, unfulfilled, although more modest. Just after taking over his post, the minister Nowak put off the preparations for building railways of high speed in Poland by one generation. Maybe he decided that there are more necessary needs but I doubt that he will be able to sort out this mess in railway left by his predecessor. I would suggest that he should, first of all, get interested in choosing new joint trains - whether they are suitable for the net where they are supposed to move. According to my knowledge, essential investments are needed in the sphere of energetic power on assigned railway routes, otherwise this expensive train will not use its technical possibilities - but it will move much slower. Here the ‘new political view’ is not enough and which is based on rejecting other projects.
– The minister explains that we must save money and get engaged mainly in repairing the old train...
– The problem is not lack of money but in the contrary – a big trouble of this government is inability of using all European financial means assigned for this purpose; whereas we do not hear about creating any new projects but only rejecting them. Through generating essential delays in investments the railway will not be able to transform all the financial means in such a scale in which it has been planned in the governmental documents.
– We already know that on Euro 2012 the Polish transport infrastructure will be far away from perfection. And later, after Euro – completely new troubles?
– Bigger and bigger. In this rhetoric of the government I forecast dozens of processes and disputes between the General Directorate and executors. And I will say brutally – it will be difficult to be astonished by it if the government and institutions subjected to it, like the General Directorate of National Roads and Highways or the Polish Railways, first estimated the costs of investments for specific amounts of money and later they signed contracts for half of prices...The trouble is also based on the fact that the government accepted the rule ‘make projects and build’ 4 years ago. This model of action does not work in Europe and is used very rarely.
– Why was it accepted?
– Probably because it was decided that it is the best shortcut in order to be on time on Euro 2012, and the least troublesome for the government because it limits the necessity of essential engagement. I warned against it over 3 years ago, saying that; accepting the model ‘make projects and build’ in Polish conditions will give us a product from the lowest European shelf.
– However, the minister assures that ‘Poles deserve good roads and they will have them’.
– I doubt it very much. In fact it is embarrassing that it is today’s shouting ‘zero of tolerance for unfinished roads’... But why won’t the Minister of Transport check the consequences of these directives from 2010 which changed the technical norms for asphalt surfaces, instead of smiling in front of cameras? Aren’t these directives a reason for the present damage in building roads? Will ‘highway-similar wafers’ be created, instead of highways, which will break, as a result of the directives and because of the lack of the essential supervision by responsible state services? I am afraid that we will spend a lot of money on repairs and future modernizations which after Euro 2012 will continue for successive years.
– And maybe this haste connected with Euro is guilty of this all? It seems that organizing this event is an effort beyond any possibilities for the country which is trying to build its welfare.
– The Polish government thinks positively. The minister Nowak notices that ‘roads on Euro do not work’, and ‘plans are in order to have them’. In fact, the whole government of Donald Tusk applied a favourite theme of this team – it is an emptiness in which it likes to spread because Donald Tusk presented himself as a consistent continuator of the ‘welfare’ of the former minister Katarzyna Hall in the sphere of education and imposed a duty of permanent education also on 30-year-olds. In this term of office he included especially ministers of sport and transport in this piloting project and the emptiness comes out from it in its perfection.