KPO: 124 million euros will be transferred from drones to trains
During the review of the National Recovery Plan (KPO), the government changed the allocation of funds among the beneficiaries. Among the losers are entities from the drone market. According to the original plan for investments in infrastructure for managing the movement of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), expansion and equipment of competence centers, including specialized training centers, control centers, etc., 164 million euros were to be allocated. During the review, the amount was reduced to just 40 million euros. The rest was transferred to investments in regional trains.
Objectives of investments in the drone sector
The government does not explain exactly what tasks in the BSP region will be allocated less money, it is only known that some pilot projects have been abandoned. Originally, the activities were to be divided into four groups: core investments for the U-space environment (integration of manned and unmanned aviation), projects supporting the development of large-scale advanced UAV flights and development-supporting activities, such as building a UAV technology park and projects Market stimulation, including flyers. The fourth group was supposed to be the implementation of systems in public order services. During the review of the KPO, the government decided, among other things, that it would be best to combine the various services into one to carry out in parallel the launch of competency centers by the Polish Air Navigation Services Agency (PANSA). The first will be ready in the first quarter of 2025. It will be the place for the initial implementation and testing of flight management programs, which will then also move to other centers. The construction of two more has been postponed to the third quarter of 2025, and there will be ten of them in total.
Little time to invest
Specialists who monitor the preparations for the implementation of BSP projects together with the KPO are reluctant to speak officially. One of our commentators believes that the chance to invest the originally specified amount in the program is small, because so far the projects have not been implemented, and the deadline for their implementation is already in 2026. He also claims that the decision to reduce subsidies is a consequence of the incompetence of officials to run software development projects in the air vehicle sector without pilot. He also points out that the government has not yet prepared a development program for the drone market and infrastructure. He can’t spend money without it. It is also worth noting that the development of the UAV market development program, as a milestone, was originally provided in the KPO.
– The money from the KPO was to be used to build systems integrating UAVs with manned flight, that is, to create a complete environment for large-scale UAV operations, arranging tens of thousands of flights per day throughout Poland. This money was also used to create a common hub for all services dealing with security in the state, such as PANSA, the army, police, border guards, municipal guards, firefighters and rescue facilities. The money has also been used to build critical infrastructure protection systems (with radars that detect enemy drones). There was also a group for the development of the drone industry, that is, startups that build drones, enumerating a specialist in this field.
According to our information, the limitation of funding for this type of mission is, among other things, the result of the recent debate in the government and its affiliated institutions about the division of powers between the civil and military sectors and between government agencies and local government airports. Representatives of civilian government institutions claim that they have no competence in the field of military or intelligence and local government projects. The topic of competency division also often appears in articles about the possible purchase of an anti-drone system by PANSA, which we also write about.
Instead of 70 trains, we will buy 71 trains
Government officials decided to allocate funds from the Bill Settlement Payment (BSP) sector of the railways, more precisely – to purchase trains for regional traffic. Originally, the support for this purpose amounted to 482.5 million euros, and 124 million euros came from the drone projects.
An increase in funds for the purchase of rolling stock is a positive sign for the railway industry. Unfortunately, due to high inflation and an increase in the price of raw materials, this will not translate into a much larger number of trains – says Jacob Majewski, President of the ProKolej Foundation.
Government officials estimated that production costs for the trains had increased by about 20 percent, so the originally available pool of funds could only buy 56 vehicles instead of the originally planned 70. Shifts in the KPO will allow the previous plan to be implemented with a slight hill – in total, the money is enough for 71 vehicles. But at the same time, government officials decided to abandon the reimbursable financing, which was supposed to amount to 500 million euros. They claim that there is no interest in this form of financing purchases. Meanwhile, in March of this year, Artur Martyniuk, the former head of the state-owned company Polregio, said in PB that he was very interested in financing investments with KPO loans, because there would be less competition for them than support. Michai Beam, an expert at the Sobieski Institute, expects that part of the subsidy will be used by the beneficiaries to pay off the commercial loans they took out for the trains they had already purchased. Jakub Majewski hopes that the EU Transport Enterprise Center’s ongoing competition to fund the purchase of trains for local carriers will be repeated after the pool is increased. This will be an opportunity to make adjustments. ProKolej has raised a number of objections to the standards applied in the pending proceedings, for example the preference for short electric cars. In her opinion, the requirements on the efficiency of vehicles purchased from KPO subsidies should also be tightened.
Railroad vs. Road
Representatives of the railway industry are happy to raise funds for the purchase of trains. However, they are unhappy with the government’s intention to delay the introduction of the toll collection system for truck traffic on national roads, originally scheduled for the first quarter of 2023, by more than a year. The extension of the toll system aims to improve the competitiveness of the railways. The government explains the postponement, the need to transport a large amount of grain in transit from Ukraine and the obstacles arising from the election calendar.
- Experience so far shows that grain transported from Ukraine by truck does not always reach the destination declared in the transport documents, and sometimes it is not known where it went. In the case of deliveries to ports and transit, rail transport has been shown to be more reliable, says Jacob Majewski.