A history of Subway construction:
- 1925 - the city authorities of Warsaw adopt the resolution in favor of a design of an underground railway (Metropolitain),
- 1927 - a draft plan of directions of the subway lines is approved; the first geological research works began,
- 1938 - the Office of Underground Railway Study and Design is established,
- 1939 - WW II interrupts all the design and preparatory works,
- 1950 - the government of Polish People's Republic (PRL) passes the resolution about the construction of subway in Warsaw,
- 1951 - the construction of a deep subway begins,
- 1953 - the project is reduced to the experimental segment,
- 1957 - works definitively interrupted,
- 1974 - research work continued until this year,
- 1975 - brief preliminary designs for the first line of subway in Warsaw are completed,
- 1982 - Resolution No. 266/82, in reference to the construction of the 1st line of the Warsaw Subway, is adopted by the Council of Ministers,
- 1983 - Subway Construction General Management is established to perform the duties of the Investor and General Contractor,
- 1983 - on 15th April the first steel pile is driven into the ground at the subway excavations,
- 1985 - the construction of the tunnel begins: the underground method is applied with the use of underground drilling disks.
- 1986 - verification of the range of investment and its financial input; change of the completion date of the project,
- 1987 - changes in the project financing system; the State budget is no longer the only source of financing for the construction,
- 1989 - a change of priorities; a decision is taken not to construct the A12 Pl. Konstytucji Station and A16 Muranów Station as the first priority,
- 1990 - 10 subway cars donated by the Soviet Union as a gift,
- 1990 - the city authorities decrease the speed and the range of the construction of the subway due to financial difficulties,
- 1994 - the subway purchases 32 Russian-made cars,
- 1995 - the 1st 11km section of the subway from Kabaty Station to Politechnika Station put in operation,
- 1998 - the next 1.5km section of the subway to Centrum Station opens that year,
- 2000 - a delivery of the first part of 4 modern six-car units (24 cars together) produced by Alstom,
- 2001 - 1.7km section of the subway to the Ratusz Station at Bankowy Sq. comes into operation.
The first construction plans of the Warsaw Subway were considered 70 years ago. The project was based on the idea of the construction of two crossing lines. The first one was along the north-south routes of heavy traffic, connecting Unii Lubelskiej Sq. and Muranów. The second one, along the east-west direction, was linking Wola and Praga. In 1927, geological drillings took place. This stage was followed by the project design to run a subway tunnel under the railway diametral tunnel, which was just under construction at that time, and to connect a subway station with the Central Railway Station. Since the project cost was beyond the city's own financial resources, the talks began with the representatives of the Western financial centres of their possible involvement in the investment.
The economic and financial crisis of the 1930s slowed down the negotiations. The studies over the subway project were revived in 1938. President Starzyński established the Office of Underground Railway Study and Design. It began to update the plans made several years before. A new project featured a city network of the total length of 46km; and the investment was to be completed in stages over the next 35 years. It was assumed that the subway lines would run under, over and on the ground according to local conditions.
Significant progress was made till September 1939. A completed portion of the design included a general plan of the subway, a profile of two lines and plans of intersections of the tunnel with the water supply and sewage systems. The preliminary engineering was completed regarding calculations of the tunnel construction and vehicle gauge. The initial estimate of cost was also established. A major part of these materials disappeared during the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. During the war, 80% of buildings and constructions of the state capital were destroyed. However, the idea of underground transportation was not forgotten.
The project was revived as early as in 1945 and involved a fast, light railway system connecting northern and southern outskirts (Młociny and Służew) with the centre of Warsaw. Along the east-west axis, it would have run from Wola, across the city centre, to Gocław and Wawer. The total length was to be 64km, including 26km in a shallow tunnel. The design of the details of the project continued till the end of the 1940s.
In 1950, the government decided of the construction of a deep subway. The State Company “Metroproject” was established. It developed a conceptual design of the subway lines (on the left side of Warsaw) along the north-south and east-west axes. Unfortunately, the military reasons and geopolitics proved to be more important than transportation needs of the city. As the first priority, drilling of a deep tunnel under the bottom of the Vistula River began. The width of the tunnel was to be sufficient for the running of regular railway cars. In 1953, after 3 years, the construction was interrupted. It proved to be too difficult, and, most importantly, too expensive. The Main Office for the Control of the Press, Publications & Public Performances stopped any publications that referred to the subway construction.
The ephemeral hopes were revived with the investment boom of the 1970s, and there was some return to the subway idea. Old documentation of the shallow subway was “dusted off” and tech-economic preliminary designs were prepared. Unfortunately, the car-and-roads lobby proved to be stronger, and there was no money left for the subway. In the early 1980s it was possible to consider the issue more calmly. Some statements appeared indicating that even intensive road development and individual car ownership would not solve the transportation problems of Warsaw. Some arguments and reasons were put forward supporting needs for development of public transport including construction of a subway.
In January 1982, Wojciech Jaruzelski announced in the Parliament the decision of starting the construction of the first subway line in Warsaw next year. 15th April 1983 was a closing date of many years of failures, setbacks and lost chances. That same day was the symbolic date of driving in the first pile of the slot lining wall into the ground. In spite of the official and spontaneous support, the beginning of construction was not easy. For the building engineers, the government resolution was only wishful thinking. The ministers listed in the document had practically nothing at their disposal - neither equipment and materials, nor contractor companies. Operations were limited to the national market and the economies and markets of Eastern European countries associated in the RWPG - the Council for Mutual Economic Aid. The prevailing economic structure was that of exchange of goods. The determination and strong will of the design engineers and investors were recognized and admired by local and overseas transportation circles.
During excavation, construction methods were fully mastered and continuously modified to adapt them to the conditions of the ground in Warsaw. This refers to protection methods of excavation walls by means of the so-called Berliner wall, and also to the technology of driving piles and pulling them out. The same refers to the construction technology of cavity walls. At first, those walls were used as lining walls only, and later as construction walls. Another area of similar developments was the application of injected anchor technology. It replaced stretcher bars in excavation. It was the first time in the country that this technology was applied on a large scale. The technique used in this application had changed from a simple wire technique of a relatively low carrying capacity to a rope lay of greater strength and durability. Subway facilities and equipment applied and installed are also a success of the engineering groups and teams participating in the project. Very often Polish requirements and standards were higher than in other countries of the RWPG bloc. The situation put some pressure on the Polish industry and resulted in a number of new products manufactured locally: traction dry-type transformers, fireproof insulation power cables, new type of switchboards and switchboxes, DC current limiting circuit breakers for rated currents of high value, modern equipment for train traffic control. The production developments and success were achieved in spite of the highly unfavorable situation of the imposed limitations of the 1990s regarding the financing and raw materials. These achievements would not have been possible if not for the understanding and support of research institutes, design offices and production plants.
Before the dramatic changes in Poland's political and social system, the subway construction was in a genuinely difficult situation. The investment was placed in the central group of state expenditures. As the state budget suffered continuous problems at that time, it was the group of central investments where financial reserves were sought to support the budget. The subway was considered a long-time investment, which by its nature would not generate any increase of industrial product in the future. Hence, the subway lobby was rather slim among the financial oligarchy. As a result of such a political situation, from 1985 amounts allocated for the subway in the state budget were significantly lower than the initial financial schedule.
It was in the same year, 1985, that the official (the government's) announcement extended the construction cycle of the 1st line by two years and the first segment by one year. In the following years the situation was similar. The allocated amounts were lower then those from financial documentation formerly planned. In fact, it was done behind closed doors, and was not even followed by any changes to the timetable of the construction schedule. At the same time, markets of goods and services were getting tighter in the country and the whole Eastern European system of RWPG. The necessary elements, components and any materials were very difficult to obtain. The finances allocated in the state budget for construction were by no means sufficient. The General Management of Subway Construction ran into debts and liabilities to contractor companies were increasing. Lack of financial perspectives for the future influenced a general reshuffling of the subway plans. The construction north of Nowowiejska Street was stopped. The available resources and means were moved towards finishing the 1st segment of the subway i.e. Kabaty - Politechnika. As a consequence of these changes, the agreements with contractor companies had to be renegotiated and updated. Some construction sites were temporarily closed. The General Management of Subway Construction was reorganized and more than 100 people lost their jobs. It was clear that the date of opening of the 1st line of the subway would be significantly delayed.
Changes in the political, economic and social system were followed by healthy changes in the building and construction business. Thanks to the increasing numbers of constructors on the market, selection became possible. Contractors less reliable technically and financially had their agreements terminated. The words "general contractor" regained their proper meaning and power. Changes were also made in the field of materials and equipment delivery. From that moment on, it was the duty of the contractor to supervise machinery and equipment. At the same time, the way to the latest world technologies opened up. Systems formerly desired and necessary in operation, which were not available on the RWPG markets, were introduced and brought in. Those worth mentioning include fire-protection alarm system, wireless radio-communication system, electric power control system, CCTV system and public address (PA) system. According to the agreement between Polish People's Republic (PRL) and the Soviet Union, signed by the governments, railway rolling stock for the subway line was to be made in the USSR. For the operation of the 1st line, 90 cars, including cab cars and coach cars, were required. They were supposed to be a gift for Warsaw. From this number 10 cars were delivered at the turn of 1989/1990. The rest of the gift was recalled and cancelled due to the collapse and disintegration of the Soviet Union.
In view of this, steps were taken to buy the rolling stock. The invitation of tenders was sent to rolling stock manufacturers in the country and abroad, and a dozen or so offers were received. Finally, a decision was taken to purchase 32 cars from St. Petersburg. The city authorities of Warsaw were guided in its move by the fact that it was the only manufacturer who fulfilled the conditions of time and price. The cars were to be delivered early enough for the subway to open the line according to the planned timetable. The price was corresponding with the city financial means (the government refused any financial support from the state central budget for the rolling stock).
The cars were delivered to Warsaw in 1994. They differ from the serial production of the manufacturer by their atoxic and incombustible parts. The manufacturing process followed the requirements of the Polish Standards for railway rolling stock. Production was closely controlled in its interstages by Polish railway engineering staff. The purchased stock did not match the world technological solutions of that time, however, it was fully operational, adjusted to requirements of transportation in Warsaw and in compliance with the modern safety rules.
Shortly after the beginning of the construction, some preparations to the subway operation were started. Considering Poland's lack of experience in the matter, the first step was collecting foreign literature, documents and materials from other enterprises of city transportation, and organizing short courses mainly in Leningrad, Budapest and Prague. Some thought was given to the labour market in Warsaw. For the future needs of the subway, decisions were taken to organize a special educational system going back to square one. At the secondary level, special classes with subjects related to the subway began in high schools. Some contacts were also established with universities. On the whole, in the years 1985-1990 “ "subway"” classes were operated in five groups of Warsaw schools, offering vocational training. The most important was the Railway High School offering courses for future train drivers and specialists in traffic safety systems. Unfortunately, this well-organized action was unexpectedly ended. The subway was opened four years later than initially planned, and the whole system of training had to be closed down. Staffing was conducted through publicly advertised action. The idea of employment in the subway was popular and attracted candidates like a magnet. For a number of weeks, corridors of the subway office building were full of people. One of the assumed selection principles was young age of candidates, and from among the young ones, those with certificates of technical schools or trade schools of the fields useful to subway. Many candidates resigned, disappointed either by the salaries offered (below the expectations) or by the strict conditions of a job related to timetable and railway discipline.
Finally, at the end of 1994, the first segment of the subway was ready to open for a full operation. Trains started to run according to a regular timetable, though without passengers. Before inaugurating a normal operation of the 1st segment with passengers, the subway had to complete some additional tasks. The additional requirements originated from three changes in the different legal and organization systems. On 1st January 1995 new rules and regulations of the Building Act came into force. According to them, it was necessary to obtain legal approval for the use of new buildings or structures. Reorganization of building supervision services also took place at this time. And finally, there were instructions from some of the state and civil service offices responsible for safety. Certainly some fires and acts of terrorism in the subways of several cities across the world had some influence on the additional requirements. Finally, on 7th April 1995, the first regular train ran along the subway 1st segment.
On 17th June 1996, the City Council of the National Capital City of Warsaw passed the resolution to continue the extension of the Warsaw Subway 1st line from A13 Centrum Station to A23 Młociny Station. On 8th October 1996, the Municipal Government of the National Capital City Warsaw passed another resolution. The approval was given to the construction timetable of the new section of the Warsaw Subway 1st line, from A13 Centrum Station to A23 Młociny Station. A year later, on 27th October 1997, the City Council of the NCC Warsaw approved a development and investment plan of the NCC Warsaw for the years 1997-2001. The plan indicated sums of money assigned for each year covered. For the subway construction, financial input from the state budget was also included. During recent years, the state financial support for subway construction has been decreasing significantly. It is hard to predict what funds the government will allocate for the investments in Warsaw. The decrease of the state budget funds results in a dramatic financial situation of the construction progress of the Warsaw Subway 1st line. It is not possible to maintain a rhythmic construction cycle, to optimize the investment and to stick to the planned timetable of a section completion.
A new section under construction, north of the A13 Centrum Station to A15 Ratusz Station has been designed using the experience collected during the construction and operation of the existing line. There is a change of methods for more modern ones. Easy access to new technologies and techniques makes the construction of the subway north of the A13 Centrum Station more affordable than the previous sections. The length of the stations has been decreased from 300m to 156m with all the required technological and operational functions maintained. For the Świętokrzyska and Ratusz Stations, the contractors were selected by tender. The Alstom Company has provided new cars for the subway operation. Preparations are underway for the construction of the subway section to A18 Plac Wilsona Station. The last section of the subway 1st line on the grounds of Warsaw Bielany Commune is at the level of preliminary engineering and legal arrangements.