PKP Intercity EuroCity 55 Berlin-Gdynia-Express: Bydgoszcz Główna to Gdańsk Główny by Train (5 November 2019)

Logo pkp ic.svg

EuroCity 55
The Berlin-Gdynia-Express

 

Having landed at Bydgoszcz Ignacy Jan Paderewski Airport after a short flight from Warsaw, I needed to head to my next destination — Gdańsk. There is a city bus, line no. 80, which takes about forty minutes from the airport to Bydgoszcz Główna (also known as Dworzec Główny or “main station”). This bus departs from a small stop right outside the airport terminal building.

/Photo: MOs810Merc l.80 Bydgoszczz dwCC BY-SA 4.0

Route of Bydgoszcz bus line 80:

The timetable for the bus from Bydgoszcz Airport to Bydgoszcz Główna can be found here.

Bydgoszcz Główna and its History

Bydgoszcz Główna is the principal railway station serving the city of Bydgoszcz, the largest city and co-capital of Poland’s Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship. Transportation infrastructure is of critical importance to the voivodeship’s economy and Kuyavia-Pomerania is a major node in the Polish transportation system. Railway lines from the South and East pass through Bydgoszcz to connect to the major ports on the Baltic Sea. Bydgoszcz Główna is at a railroad junction with various lines: 18 (electrified and double-tracked to/from Kutno, as well as Piła), 131 (to/from Chorzów Batory as well as Tczew), 356 (to/from Poznań), and 745 (single-tracked and electrified to/from Czyżkówko).

Bydgoszcz Główna is served by fast PKP Intercity trains which connect passengers with Warsaw and other major Polish cities. In addition to fast express services, inter-regional trains are operated by the firm Przewozy Regionalne, whilst domestic rail transportation within the voivodeship is provided by Arriva RP, a private firm to which the provincial government subcontracted the provision of rail transport.

In addition, Bydgoszcz is home to the rolling stock manufacturer PESA SA, Poland’s largest producer of trains and trams.

View of Bydgoszcz Główna’s steel-glass façade from from ul. Dworcowa.

Suffice to say, with all the lines that Bydgoszcz has got, the city has had a long and colourful history of rail transport.

The first station building in Bydgoszcz was established in 1851 during the construction of the Prussian Eastern Railway from Krzyz to Königsberg. On 25 July 1851, the first-ever station was inaugurated upon the event of the official opening of the railway east of Krzyz – Bydgoszcz (145 km) by the Prussian King William IV.

With the development of rail and transport growth in what was then the Prussian Empire, there was demand for an extension of the Bydgoszcz railway station (then called Bromberg Hauptbahnhof). There was also a need to ensure adequate space to base the burgeoning Eastern Railway Headquarters in Bydgoszcz, which managed the construction, operation, and maintenance of railway traffic in the eastern provinces of Prussia (east of Berlin). The station was again rebuilt in 1861 and 1870, and the 1870 reconstruction provided the station with increased passenger processing facilities. In 1888, the station was linked with the centre of the city by trams, initially using horse traction, and then, from 1896, using a new electrically operated and powered generation of trams.

The station building after reconstruction in the 1920s.   /Photo: Kurier Codzienny, Bydgoszcz dworzec od 1915, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons

In 1910, following a fire at the station, work began on an entirely new building. This was completed in 1915. The new station building had a hipped roof and a square tower in the middle in which there was a large clock. On the square in front of the station, a decorative lawn was retained for the use of city residents and visitors; this was then replanted in 1926 in a more ornate form. The railway station building survived the whole interwar period in that design, sustaining only minor damage during the course of World War II.

During Poland’s communist era, yet another reconstruction of the station was carried out in 1968. The clock tower was removed, a pedestrian pathway was built beneath Sigismund Augustus street, and the station lawn was removed in favour of a parking lot for cars and buses.

Bydgoszcz Główna’s station façade from 1968 to 2015.   /Photo: Pit1233Dworzec Bydgoszcz Główna 2010CC0 1.0

In 2013, PKP Intercity appointed Ernst & Young and WS Atkins to undertake a feasibility study for an EU-supported modernisation of the station, planned for in 2013-15. This resulted in the current iteration of Bydgoszcz Główna, with its towering steel-glass façade and renovated station hall.

The modern Bydgoszcz Główna has been adapted to the needs of disabled people, with special paths for persons with reduced mobility and markings for the visually impaired. An info counter is open daily from 07:00AM to 09:00PM, and a sign language interpreter service can be provided for those who need the service. There are luggage lockers, and toilets are available for use at a cost of 2.50 Polish złoty.

Station Plan of Bydgoszcz Główna.   /Image: Polish State Railways (Polskie Koleje Państwowe)

There is free wi-fi (network name: _PKP_WIFI) that can be used at the station. It was of sufficiently high speed to browse sites and watch videos, and I also used it to make a hotel reservation for my stay in Gdańsk.

Purchasing the Ticket for EuroCity 55

E-tickets for PKP Intercity trains can be bought at their website. But one can also get a paper ticket at the ticket counters in the train station.

There are multiple trains a day from Bydgoszcz to Gdańsk. I chose to take the next train for Gdańsk, which happened to be EuroCity 55. This train was scheduled to depart Bydgoszcz Główna at 06:54PM and arrive at Gdańsk Główny at 08:21PM. I bought a Second Class ticket for the train at the counter, and it came with a seat reservation for seat number 66 in wagon 269.

My ticket cost 42 Polish złoty (approximately 15 Singapore dollars), and it was possible to pay for it by credit card.

EuroCity 55, the Berlin-Gdynia-Express

The Berlin-Gydnia-Express and its sister line Berlin-Warszawa-Express were international trains run by Polish state railway operator PKP Intercity and Germany’s Deutsche Bahn (DB Fernverkehr). Strictly speaking, the two brand names are no longer officially used, but as the Berlin-Gdynia-Express is eponymous with the termini at both ends of this route, I will use it for the purpose of this article.

In the past, the Berlin-Warszawa-Express brand name was painted on train cars plying between Germany and Poland, and both rail operators provided carriages for the service. DB Fernverkehr provided the First Class carriage and restaurant car, while PKP Intercity provided the Second Class carriages. A few years ago, the decision was made for PKP Intercity to run the routes, so all carriages were to be provided by the Polish rail operator. Carriages with the brand name have since been painted back to the standard PKP Intercity livery.

An old picture of a Second Class carriage painted in the Berlin-Warszawa-Express livery. Carriages have since been repainted into the PKP Intercity livery.   /Photo: Wikipedia / Wikimedia-User Jivee BlauBerlin Ostbahnhof- auf Bahnsteig zu Gleis 7- Wagen des Berlin-Warszawa-Expresses 11.8.2009CC BY-SA 3.0

EuroCity 55 typically operates daily, but there may be certain days in which the train does not run. Commuters should check out the PKP Intercity or Deutsche Bahn websites for more information such as ticket pricing on their intended date of travel.

Major stations on the EuroCity 55 route (with the arrival and departure times):

Station Arrival Departure
Berlin Hbf 02:37 PM
Frankfurt/Oder 03:39 PM 03:45 PM
Rzepin 04:05 PM 04:08 PM
Poznań Gł. 05:23 PM 05:26 PM
Bydgoszcz Gł. 06:47 PM 06:55 PM
Gdańsk Gł. 08:23 PM 08:26 PM
Gdynia Gł. 08:51 PM

EuroCity 55 runs on Polish line 131 between Inowrocław and Tczew. This particular line runs through five provinces and 18 counties, and its construction in the Second Polish Republic as a freight line helped funnel coal from Upper Silesia to the port of Gdynia. Line 131 connects with line 146, and this is a vital link in the rail corridor connecting southern Poland with its ports in the north. From Bydgoszcz Główna, the EuroCity 55 train takes a northeasterly direction parallel to the Vistula River to Tczew, before joining Polish line 9 for Gdańsk, Sopot, and the terminus of this train — Gdynia.

My trip took me from Bydgoszcz Główna to Gdańsk Główny via Tczew.
Full route of EuroCity 55, the Berlin-Gdynia Express, from Berlin Hauptbahnhof to Gdynia Główna.

Within Polish territory (Rzepin — Gdynia Gł.), PKP Intercity lists this train within the Express InterCity (EIC) and/or InterCity (IC) category with the run numbers of IC/EIC 75000/75001/55. However, in Germany it operates as an international EuroCity (EC) train and PKP InterCity labels all Germany-Poland tickets sold on this train as EC 55. Thus, the EuroCity classification will be adopted for the purpose of this article.

Please note that this trip took place in November 2019. The Berlin-Gydnia-Express call numbers have since changed to EuroCity 58/59, and the service has been given the name ‘Gedania‘.

Boarding the EuroCity 55

The sun sets early in Poland in mid-November. By the time I was at the platform, the skies were pitch black.

Peron (Platform) 4 and Tor (Track) 11 at Bydgoszcz Główna. The Polish railways use a unique system of Peron and Tor, which may be somewhat confusing to foreign travellers.

The train pulled into track 11 of Bydgoszcz Główna two minutes late. While there were not many passengers boarding at Bydgoszcz, I noticed that the Second Class carriages were full of passengers that had boarded the train at earlier stations.

As it was time for dinner, I opted to forgo the reserved seat in Second Class and hunkered down in the restaurant car instead.

EuroCity 55 Train Composition and Onboard Service

The Berlin-Gdynia-Express EC 55 train is hauled by a Siemens Eurosprinter ES 64 U, classed as the EU44 Husarz in PKP Intercity’s locomotive fleet. While Poland utilises 3 kV DC, this particular locomotive type is able to operate into Germany as it is capable of running on 15 kV 16.7 Hz AC. It can also technically operate into the Czech Republic’s 25 kV 50 Hz AC system.

EU44 Husarz in PKP Intercity livery. Both Germany and Poland use 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+1⁄2 in) standard gauge. This photo was taken during a previous trip and is for illustrative purposes only.

With the EU44 Husarz locomotives’ ability to operate across borders, it is especially important for this route for it removes the need to change locomotives at the Polish-German border. This saves resources for PKP Intercity and cuts down the time needed (about ten minutes) for the journey, making cross-border rail service more competitive to flights between the two countries.

The EU44 Husarz locomotives are capable of hauling carriages at up to speeds of 160km/h in Poland. As with other locomotives in the Siemens Eurosprinter family, musical-sounding notes, said to resemble an alto saxophone, are produced when a train is moving off. This sound comes from the locomotive’s traction converters. This photo was taken during a previous trip and is for illustrative purposes only.

PKP Intercity operates ten EU44 Husarz locomotives. Other trains hauled by the EU44 Husarz include those operated under the Berlin-Warszawa-Express banner, ÖBB Nightjets, and a small number of cross-border EuroNight trains to and from Germany. When integration of Polish rail lines with the European railway network is complete by July 2023, it is expected that more international train routes will connect Poland with its western and southern neighbours.

This is the interior of a First Class open saloon-type carriage in PKP Intercity’s fleet. This photo was taken during a previous trip and is for illustrative purposes only. The First Class carriage in the Berlin-Gdynia-Express EuroCity 55 only had seats within compartments.

The EC 55 train composition is made out of one First Class carriage with six seats per compartment, one restaurant car (operated by caterer WARS), three Second Class carriages that have six seats per compartment, and one Second Class open-plan saloon car with eight bicycle racks. All carriages are equipped with air-conditioning/heating and vacuum toilets. With the exception of the restaurant car and the single Second Class open-plan saloon car with bicycle racks, all other carriages on the train have power sockets (230V) that passengers can use.

A typical First Class carriage in PKP Intercity’s fleet. This photo was taken during a previous trip and is for illustrative purposes only.
A Second Class compartment onboard a PKP Intercity train. This photo was taken during a previous trip and is for illustrative purposes only.

One of the Second Class carriages with compartment-style seating has a single compartment for passengers on wheelchairs. This particular carriage also has an additional large restroom for wheelchair-bound passengers. As a result, the carriage has a reduced seating capacity of 56.

For Polish rail operator PKP Intercity, their IC/EIC fleet is made up of rolling stock that is either new or has been refurbished through an extensive investment programme. EIC trains require a compulsory seat reservation supplement. A First Class ticket entitles passengers to a hot or cold drink (coffee, tea, mineral water or juice) and a sweet snack, while passengers with a Second Class ticket may get a bottle of mineral water. EIC trains also have cars with facilities for the disabled and places dedicated to transport bikes or skis.

The Restaurant Car Onboard EuroCity 55

There is probably nothing more fulfilling during a journey than having a relaxing meal in the dining car, followed by dessert and washing it all down with an aromatic espresso.

The restaurant car onboard EC 55, like other long-distance trains with restaurants cars in the PKP Intercity fleet, is staffed by WARS. Due to its symbiotic relationship with state railway company PKP Intercity, WARS is one of the few Polish companies with almost full brand recognition in Poland.

Besides being a catering company that services PKP Intercity trains, WARS also has three restaurants in Warsaw. In their restaurants, they have an extensive menu with a wide range of healthy dishes.

On PKP Intercity trains with a restaurant car, WARS has a mobile application for passengers to make food and beverage orders at their seat. When the order is successfully completed, WARS service personnel will deliver the food and/or beverage to the passenger’s seat. However, I did not test out this application as I felt more comfortable dining in the restaurant car.

A vent by the window lets out hot air to warm the carriage. There is also a shelf which allows for small items to be stored overhead.

Fold-down seats were set up in a 2-1 configuration (with seats facing each other) in the restaurant car, and I found the seats to be well-padded. There was also an antimacassar placed on every seat, which gave a really premium feel to the WARS restaurant car.

Table service comes as standard in the restaurant car. The carriage was well-lit and heated, and it was listed as wagon number 271 on this train.

With only about an hour and thirty minutes of travelling time, I needed to place my order quickly to enjoy a good dinner before reaching Gdańsk.

Dinner in the WARS Restaurant Car

The service attendant approached me with the WARS menu. Thinking that I did not have enough time, I decided to forgo appetisers and the salad course. I eventually went for a bottle of Lipton peach tea, a mushroom soup (which happened to be the “soup of the day”), Polish pierogi (dumplings made with cottage cheese, potatoes, and spices), and a szarlotka (a traditional Polish apple pie) for dessert.

A white table cloth and a set of cutlery were promptly laid before me, and my first course of soup and drink was served to me within ten minutes.

The soup was served piping hot from the kitchen in the restaurant car. It was drizzled with truffle oil and chives.

The truffle oil really gave a kick to the soup, and it was a nice counterbalance to the earthy, umami flavour of the mushrooms.

Bread was not offered to go with the soup, but I was not keen on having that anyway.

My Polish pierogi was served right after I finished my bowl of soup. It was drizzled with caramelised onions and bits of bacon. Pierogi is a staple of the Polish diet, and is considered to be the national dish of Poland.

While the portion was not big, the dumplings were full of flavour and the cheese melted in my mouth. It was wonderfully soft and warm. To say that this taste was impressionable is an understatement. I savoured every single bite.

This szarlotka, or Polish apple pie, was the apple of my eye. Or, at least, for the short period of time before I devoured it.

By the time I was done with the dumplings, my excitement for dessert was visceral and palpable.

While warm apple pie is truly the stuff of dreams, the szarlotka was served cold. Nevertheless, the caramelised apples had an incredibly harmonious blend of sweet, tangy, and crunchy. The top and base crusts of the pie retained its flaky texture, and it was not as brittle as I initially thought.

I have a sweet tooth, and stuff like this is right up my alley.

By the time I was done with my szarlotka, I had roughly twenty minutes left in the journey. With time to spare, I decided to wash down my meal with a good cup of coffee. It was probably a bad idea to down an expresso this far late in the evening and risk rolling around in bed awake for most of the night, but I ordered a caffè latte macchiato. It came with a biscuit and a stick of sugar, and cost about ten Polish złoty (around 3 Singapore dollars).

While I cannot remember the exact cost for the other items I ordered, I did recall that my three-course meal with two beverages was affordably priced and of incredible value considering that this was in a restaurant car onboard a train. My credit card was also accepted for payment. Although one is not obliged to tip, it may be better to present a card for payment as compared to cash in Europe to avoid awkwardness.

I noticed that WARS catering places an emphasis on the freshness and quality of its local ingredients. I was pleasantly surprised at the affordable prices and the excellent service in the dining car. This was clearly not in the service category of Wedgwood bone china and Lalique crystalware, but, hey, at the very least, the soup, main course, and dessert were served in ceramic plates and metal cutlery was offered — this appeared to give a high standard dining experience as compared to bento box-type meals served in disposable receptacles with single-use plastic spoons and forks.

RailTravel Station has also previously reported on the standard of catering by WARS, and you may browse this article for more information (for this previous trip report, the restaurant car was attached to the Paris-Moscow train operated by Russian rail operator RZD).

Arriving at Gdańsk Główny

In the last few minutes of the journey, between Tczew and Gdańsk, the train reached its maximum operating speed of 160km/h along Polish line 9. EuroCity 55 pulled into Gdańsk Główny for an on-time arrival, negating the two minute delay incurred earlier during the trip.

This restaurant car type, the PKPIC WRmnouz, is primarily attached to trains plying international routes.
The restaurant car seats 42 passengers in a comfortable three-abreast configuration. With seats facing each other, this allows for couples and families (of up to four) to dine together.
Timetables and train compositions are provided for every train that stops at this platform at Gdańsk Główny.

I disembarked from the train onto a sheltered platform at Gdańsk Główny. There were a considerable amount of passengers from the other carriages who also left the train at Gdańsk Główny.

Gdańsk Główny was undergoing renovation works and there were significant scaffolding and boards all around. As I walked to the exit of the station, EuroCity 55, the Berlin-Gdynia-Express, began to pull out of the station. The train would next stop at Gdańsk Wrzeszcz, Gdańsk Oliwa, Sopot, and terminate at the final station of this route — Gdynia Główna.

Summary

This journey on EuroCity 55, the Berlin-Gdynia-Express, gave me a good opportunity to review Polish rail operator PKP Intercity and WARS’ service offering onboard one of their international lines, albeit on a domestic sector. For the price of 42 Polish złoty, this trip covered 160 kilometres in about one and a half hours, giving it a cost per kilometre of 0.2625 Polish złoty (approximately 9.5 Singapore cents per kilometre). Considering that this was a last-minute ticket purchase at the ticket office in Bydgoszcz Główna, it was excellent value for money. It also saved me the trouble of having to find a place to eat in Gdańsk as I dined in the train’s restaurant car.

I have to admit, before boarding the train, I had my reservations about the food served in dining cars. Flavourless, overpriced, and poor service were the three things people usually talk about when eating pre-packaged, reheated food on-the-go, but WARS really impressed me. It could hold its own against some stuff that were being served in decent restaurants at downtown Polish cities. The service standard, food, and cleanliness of the WARS restaurant car were truly impeccable.

Trains, such as the EuroCity 55, provide a competitive alternative to flights in Europe.

Train stations in Europe are mostly located in the city centre, while the local airport may be some distance away from the city. The fact that there were no non-stop flights between Berlin and Gdańsk in 2019 shows that travellers may prefer a six-hour train journey between the two cities as compared to a flight by a legacy or low cost airline. In Poland, there is also no minimum check-in time at train stations (unlike taking an aeroplane) and security formalities are non-existent.

Flixbus, a low cost bus operator, also services the Bydgoszcz to Gdańsk route, but rail service is considerably faster and provides a much more comfortable experience.

For short to medium-distance travel in Europe, taking a train is the way to go. It is the future of sustainable mobility, and with more and more trains offering the transport of bicycles onboard, door-to-door journeys in Europe will be cleaner and greener. You will minimise your carbon footprint, and it is a more rewarding, low-stress alternative to flying.

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