Rail traffic disrupted by breakdown as Ukrainian refugees pour in

WARSAW (Reuters) – Rail traffic was disrupted in Poland on Thursday by a breakdown in the traffic control system that would affect other countries, according to the Polish government, which is coping with an influx of Ukrainian refugees on trains at the same time.

Polish Infrastructure Minister Andrzej Adamczyk said identical problems in traffic control systems, made by a branch of French train maker Alstom, have also been reported in India, Singapore and possibly Pakistan.

“The cause (of the outage) is still being determined,” the minister wrote on Twitter.

“(Railway operator) PKP PLK is working tirelessly to minimize the effects of the outage, which affected around 80% of rail traffic in Poland,” he added.

Alstom’s managing director for Poland, Slawomir Cyza, told Reuters the outage was linked to a problem with data coding.

“Alstom is aware of a time formatting error which currently affects the availability of the rail network, and therefore rail transport in Poland,” he said, adding that passenger safety was not compromised and that the company had implemented a plan to restore traffic.

Nearly two million people have fled Ukraine to seek refuge in Poland since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24. The network, which offers free train tickets to refugees, has become an essential means of transport for those visiting friends or family in the country.

“With regard to the transport of refugees, which has been the main task of the railway network over the past few days, we are fully coordinating the process with the Minister of Infrastructure (…) so that the process is not stopped and can be carried out as far as possible,” Miroslaw Skubiszynski, deputy director general of PKP PLK, told the press.

The traffic control failure affected almost the entire country, 820 kilometers of track, he added.

(Report Pawel Florkiewicz, Karol Badohal and Piotr Lipinski, written by Alan Charlish; French version Dagmarah Mackos)

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