Prospects for enhancing transport communication between the border regions of Russia and Poland

Ivan S. Gumenyuk,
Dr., Associate Professor,
Department of Geography, Nature Management, and Spatial Development,
Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University,

Tomasz Studzieniecki,
Gdynia Maritime University,
Department of Management and Economics

The border between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Poland is of increased research interest, as it is a zone of interaction between the EU and the largest in size and territory of the neighboring country of a non-member of the European Union – the Russian Federation[1]. Despite the difficult political and economic background, the development of cross-border cooperation remains an important item on the agenda of bilateral relations between Poland and Russia. This is confirmed by the launch of the next round of the Russia-Poland cross-border cooperation program 2014-2020. In the context of the predicted activation of cross-border cooperation between neighboring regions of Russia (Kaliningrad region) and Poland (Warmia-Mazury and Pomorskie voivodship), an important issue is the effectiveness of ensuring passenger transport links between border regions of neighboring countries.

There are various projects, both national and international, the implementation of which can diversify the possibilities of passenger transport between border regions.

The existing transport infrastructure in the Kaliningrad Region of the Russian Federation and the neighboring provinces of the Republic of Poland makes it possible to use four different types of transport in providing passenger services: road, rail, air and sea (coastal). But currently, of the four types of transport, only the automobile mode of transport is involved in providing cross-border passenger traffic on a regular basis. Automobile and bus traffic across the border is provided through four functioning automobile checkpoints, the total capacity of which is 6,700 vehicles per day. After the suspension of the local border movement regime in the middle of 2016 between the neighboring regions of Russia and Poland, the intensity of crossing the state border has a steady downward trend. At the end of 2017, the total number of crossings of the Russian-Polish border was 4.2 million crossings, which is 8% lower than the 2016 figure. And if we compare the figure for 2017 with the level of 2014 (the WFP mechanism was in place and the highest border crossing indicator was recorded, since 2002 – 6 million crossing), then it can be noted that the border crossing intensity decreased by 30%. Currently, road transport as a whole provides for the existing need for passenger traffic between the border regions of Russia and Poland. However, the experience of the implementation of the WFP mechanism clearly showed that with the increasing intensity of crossing the state border, the existing transport corridors are not enough. It is necessary to create project transport capacity and diversify passenger transport flows between the Kaliningrad region and neighboring voivodeships, which will have a positive effect on improving the quality of transport services and reducing their cost for passengers due to increased competition between different types of transport.

There are various projects, both national and international, the implementation of which can diversify the possibilities of passenger transport between border regions. Several projects, each of which represents a different type of transport, have high chances of successful implementation in the short or medium term.

  1. Project to launch a regular passenger train service. Until 2013, regular passenger rail service was provided within the Kaliningrad-Berlin route (through Poland), but ceased to function due to various economic, infrastructural and technological constraints. In early 2018, a test railway route was organized from Kaliningrad to Gdansk. This gave reason for the resumption of negotiations between the Polish and Russian partners on the launch of the route on a regular basis. At the initial stage, it is planned to launch regular communication at regular intervals once a week (Saturday) with the possibility of increasing the frequency for summer time and other periods of increased demand for crossing the Garnetz (New Year holidays, “long weekends”, sports or cultural events, etc.).
  2. The project of launching a cruise and ferry service through the international port of Pionersky (Kaliningrad region). In the Kaliningrad region, an international maritime terminal for receiving cruise and cargo-passenger ships is being built at Pionersky. The project, which is scheduled for completion in 2020, will allow for the reception of cruise ships and ferries in the region. And if cruise shipping is more focused on providing tourist flows, the ferry service, which can also be launched along the three-hedge-Pionersky line, will be able to provide regular passenger-and-freight services. The project of the ferry service can be implemented in the medium term, only after a detailed study of the possible demand for this type of message in the Kaliningrad region and border regions of Poland.
  3. The draft regular air service between Kaliningrad and Gdansk. The launch of regular aviation routes between Kaliningrad and Gdansk seems promising. On the basis of the Gdansk city airport, a powerful airline hub is being formed, offering a wide range of routes throughout Europe, which is becoming more and more popular among residents of the Kaliningrad region. The regular flights between Kaliningrad and Warsaw, established since 2018, make it possible to optimistically consider the idea of launching the Kaliningrad-Gdansk aviation route in the medium term. This transport corridor will not become a significant alternative to the existing transport corridors, but will create the necessary diversification and, as a result, a competitive environment in the passenger transportation sector between various types of transport while ensuring Russian-Polish cross-border cooperation.

[1] The study was performed at the Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University with the financial support of the Russian Science Foundation. Project № 18-17-00112 «Ensuring economic security of Russia’s western border regions in the conditions of geopolitical turbulence».


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