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Needs British Vehicles
UNDER the Polish three-year plan of reconstruction, roads and road transport are given an important place by the Government, but do not enjoy priority of funds or materials.
Prolonged fighting on Polish territory brought tremendous devastation of road surfaces and bridges, and since the end of the war .there has been acontinued shortage of building materials, machinery and all kinds of labour, skilled and unskilled. Substantial work has been done in patching up the main communication routes, but the general network of highways is still much below Western European level.
Extra Road Mileage
The acquisition of a large slice of former German territory has brought Poland a new problem. Long-distance and international traffic, combined with the autostradas which have to be kept in repair, mean that Poland will now have to expand her small civil-engineering industry and vehicle building and repair industry. It is estimated that the country will be operating 350,000 motor vehicles by 1956. The 20,000 extra all-weather road miles acquired since 1939 bring the total now to 59,000.
Last year, about 2,000 miles of highway were reconstructed and 13 miles of completely new road built. About 13,000 yds. of all types of bridge were reconstructed, the Government reducing its capital investment plan by 30 per cent.
In pre-war Poland there was roughly one car for each 1,000 inhabitants, and in the whole country there were only 1,200 agricultural tractors—one machine for each 49,000 acres of arable land. The sole source of Poland's domestic supply of motor vehicles in 1939 was one factory employing 51)00 workers and .operating 1,200 machine tools. The annual production of cars and lorries came to 5,500.
That factory was not responsible for the whole job of turning out these vehicles, but was supported by numerous sub-contractors employing another 5,000 people. Imports of vehicles averaged only 6,000 annually in the immediate pre-war years.
The 18,000 miles of bus routes were served by 972 buses, and most of these were of the small owner driven type. There is now a movement to increase the use of motor vehicles in the country, but because of the late delivery dates quoted by British concerns, the first orders for trolleybuses were given to the Vetra organization, of Paris. The price of each unit was just under £6,000. There is room for 25 sitting passengers and 40 standing. Apart from these Vetra vehicles, Warsaw Corporation negotiated the purchase of 40 French Chausson buses powered by Panhard oil engines, at £3,000 each.
Britain did, of course, receive an early post-war order from Poland. It was given to Leyland Motors, Ltd., in 1946, and was for 100 bus chassis. Under the 1948 credits the Polish (jovernment Purchasing Commission has a contract with Leyland Motors, Ltd., for 100 8-ft. wide 125 b.h.p. oil-engined single-decker bus chassis, which will operate as "road trains," drawing trailers. This order is valued at approximately E200,000, on a credit basis in accordance with the terms of the Polish-British Trade Agreement.
Leyland buses used in South Poland before the war have now been converted from petrol to oil operation. "
With the order for the chassis came one for garage and servicing equipment, such as welding apparatus, electric drills, floor cranes, valverefacing machines, testing equipment for multi-holed fuel injectors and air compressors. This equipment is in use and giving satisfaction.
High Rate of Waste
At present there is a great number of ex-enemy vehicles being run in Poland. These are almost worn out, and the fact that servicing of most vehicles is done largely by imperfectly trained personnel—with a serious shortage of spare parts— means that 40 per cent. of vehicles in Poland are always under repair.
The figures for motor . vehicles registered in Poland are: 34,000 lorries, 52,000 cars and 13,000 motorcycles. In addition, there are quite a few U.N.R.R.A. lorries still to be registered, some new war-surplus property recently delivered, and numerous cars awaiting petrol allocations. The number of farm tractors has jumped to 9,000, of which nearly a third is out of order. The State motor industry is planning to build 200 lorries, 1,200 tractors and 4,000 two-stroke motor cycles this year. Next year these figures -will be stepped up by about a third, except in the case of lorries, for which 3,000 is the target. To bring the number of motor vehicles up to the required level, Poland will have to import this year and next 20,000 lorries, 10,000 cars, 3,000 motorcycles and 2,000 agricultural tractors. Here is a chance for British concerns, whose products enjoy the best reputation in Poland.
The network of service stations in Poland consists of nine State-owned repair and maintenance workshops, with 80 subsidiary service stations working with the larger units. There are also municipal and co-operative enterprises and many less efficient small private garages and workshops. Spares usually have to be recovered from scrap or produced individually.
Vehicles Badly Used Ill-usage has brought many of the English and American ex-army lorries into their present bad state of repair. Thousands were converted into local buses simply by bolting two wooden forms to the chassis, thus providing accommodation for 10 passengers. Poland was desperately short of transport, so the " buses " had to carry 40 and more passengers, and there were no grumbles.
The very elements are against road communication. The winters are severe, with temperatures dropping to 60 and more degrees below freezing; whilst in spring, when the snow melts and the rains come, the resulting inud on country roads is a nightmare.
There are few steep gradients in Poland, but floods are prevalent in
• the east, and many a vehicle becomes stuck in the sand, which is the usual surface for roads in that area. Drivers earn every penny of their average of £4 a week (with a buying power of about 30s.).
There are still a few political bandits, who roam the roads—especially those leading through forests— and hold up lorries and cars. In all, driving through Poland can be a hazardous experience.