A new regional and suburban railway operator in Poland, Łódź Agglomeration Railways (ŁKA), has started operations on June 15.
ŁKA will be connecting cities and towns of Łódź agglomeration, situated in central Poland, 130km south-west of Warsaw. 20 new Stadler FLIRT 3 EMUs, which are for the first time in action on Polish railways, and a number of modernized Polish EN57 will be carrying passengers from Łódz to Koluszki, Kutno, Łowicz, Sieradz and on the Łódź Widzew - Łódź Kaliska line. The project, worth €72m and with 50% co-financing from the European Union funds, has encompassed revitalization of the main railway lines, modernization and constructing of new train stops, setting up a new depot and maintenance centre near the Łódź Widzew station, purchasing of new rolling stock and building new nearby bus stops, bike and P+R facilities for better integration of the local bus and tram transport.
Ticketing-wise, ŁKA will be honouring all the basic-tariff single and seasonal tickets issued by another local RSR operator, national Przewozy Regionalne (PR; operating the REGIO trains). Yet the agreement between two carriers remains complex, with numerous exceptions and special rules, particularly regarding special offers and discounts. Also, some ŁKA tickets won't be sell in the PR ticket offices, while no tickets bought by internet, smartphone, from the train conductor or ticketing machines will be honoured by one another. Notwithstanding this fact, the pricing offered by both companies will remain comparable for the most of the journeys.
Worth noting is that although the main idea behind the ŁKA project is the mobility integration and interoperability within the agglomeration area of Łódź, the main competition is coming from private bus operators, running parallel routes to the ones served by ŁKA. The biggest private bus carriers in the region, like Speed Travel or Kris Tour, have been regularly increasing their offering to and from the most of the local destinations, winning new clients and building on the weakening position of the only hitherto regional rail operator, PR.
The route network of the Łódź Agglomeration Railways (ŁKA):