Warsaw

Warsaw Metro

10 Jul 2019

Metro-Morphosis


The opening of the second line of the Warsaw Metro in March 2015 is a huge accomplishment for the city and indeed the country as a whole. Although it is currently comprised of only 7 stations, it immediately connects the radically different Eastern and Western sides of the city that the Vistula and history have divided. For commuters and every-day Varsovians the second line changes their daily routine and offers much faster and more convenient connections. For tourists, it will act as a main artery as many of the city’s most interesting attractions and museums are adjacent to each sparkling new station.

The new line is truly a marvel of modern design and civil engineering. As the pictures attest, the city made a lot of bold decisions with respect to the overall architectural planning as well as the look, lighting design and even colours of each new station. The world renowned Polish artist Wojciech Fangor was tapped to design the artwork colour scheme and fonts for each station and, dare we say, the effects are truly stunning. Of course you might have a few Varsovians still grumbling about the long delays and the massive cost of the new line, but take that with a grain of salt. After all, the mere four years it took to complete this second line are a drop in the bucket compared with what it took to get the first line up and running.

Tentative construction of a Warsaw metro system first began in 1938 and was spearheaded by the forward-thinking mayor Stefan Starzyński. The line finally opened for business a whopping sixty years later in 1995! To be fair, engineers and designers had a lot to deal with in the interim, namely the ravages of the Second World War and the perils and trials of Communism. Plans for an underground system had originally been discussed as early as 1918, but the depression saw all preparations shelved. Starzyński was the first to raise the metro from the dead, and work on both the North-South and East-West lines actually began under his eye in 1938.

Originally projected to open in the mid-1940s, the outbreak of WWII put an end to those ambitions. Peacetime and then Communism brought a change in priorities. City planners were called to create a super-deep underground system, primarily to allow for swift Soviet troop movements below the city. By 1953 over 700 metres of tunnels had been carved underground but the death of Comrade Stalin saw all works abandoned. The financial woes that beset Poland over the following decades meant the citizens of Warsaw had to wait until 1984 before the government finally rubber stamped the plan to resume. The project was plagued by mismanagement and a lack of funds, so much so that at one stage drilling was progressing at a rate of only two metres per day. Finally, in 1995, the M1 line north-south line consisting of 11 stations and rolling stock donated by Russia was opened.

Today the first line of the metro spans 21 stops across the North-South axis of the capital, and it intersects the brand new East-West M2 line,  opened in 2015 and consisting of 7 stations, at the pivotal (and somewhat poetic) Świętokrzyska (Sacred Cross) station. More are currently being built on this line, with plans to have 21 by 2022, and there's talk of building more lines. The metro is definitely key to any visit in Warsaw. For now, we suggest punching your ticketing, clutching your camera and exploring the brilliant modernist underworld that is Warsaw’s second Metro line.

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