Poland has a good road and rail network, although its density varies across regions. Although the country had 251,004 kilometers (156,000 miles) of paved roads by 1999, these proved insufficient to cope with the explosion of car ownership and trucks in the country. The number of vehicles traveling on Polish roads increased to 13.2 million between 1990 and 1999, a growth of 47 percent (76 percent for passenger cars). The dated infrastructure is being modernized, but is not keeping pace with the acceleration in road traffic. Because of its location and topography Poland serves as a major route between western and eastern European countries. In recent years, trucks have become major carriers of goods from France, the Netherlands, Germany and other EU members, through Poland to Russia, Belarus, Lithuania, and Ukraine.
New multi-lane limited access highways are under construction across Poland and will increase the efficiency of the transport system. The construction of the limited access highway linking Berlin with the Polish capital, Warsaw, and extending to the border with Belarus, has been given priority. In southern Poland, a similar highway will link the western border with Germany through the city of Wroclaw in the Silesian region, and Cracow to the eastern border with Ukraine. A north-south link between Gdansk and the southern border crossings into the Czech Republic and Slovakia is also planned.
By 1999, Poland had 230,087 kilometers (143,000 miles) of well-developed railroad networks. With the increasing competition from buses and trucks, many unprofitable rail routes (12.7 percent between 1990 and 1999) have been closed. The state-owned railroad monopoly is being privatized, and the modernization of major railway lines undertaken in recent years has begun to reap benefits in shortened travel time. With the price of gasoline increasing, railways are once again becoming a competitive mode of passenger transport.
Poland has several well-known seaports. Starting from the northwest corner, the ports of Szczecin and Swinoujscie handle cargo, including coal exports and imports of fertilizer. The smaller ports of Kolobrzeg and Ustka mostly serve fishing fleets and coastal shipping, and handle cargo originating from, and destined for, other Baltic Sea ports. Further east, several small ports are used by fishermen and recreational sailors. Gdansk is the largest seaport. In 1999, 18.8 million tons of cargo—37 percent of all Polish cargo both incoming and outgoing—was loaded or unloaded at Gdansk. Next to Gdansk is Gdynia, Poland's youngest port, which was built as a matter of economic necessity in the 1920s. It handles various cargoes, including container shipping. East of Gdansk, the port of Elblag can only be accessed by a narrow strait belonging to Russia, and ships bound for Elblag can only pass through without delay by negotiated agreement with the Russians.
Several major rivers, including the Vistula, Oder, Warta, and Notec, are used for barge navigation. The total length of rivers and channels suitable for barge navigation was 3,813 kilometers (2,370 miles) in 1999. Through its system of channels and rivers, Poland is linked with the inland waterways of Western Europe. The economic importance of the west-east barge traffic is small because it cannot compete effectively with truck and rail shipments. However, the north-south barge traffic is competitive, plying goods between Poland's southern industrial towns and farms and the Baltic ports of Szczecin, Swinoujscie, and Gdansk.
|Country||Newspapers||Radios||TV Sets a||Cable subscribers a||Mobile Phones a||Fax Machines a||Personal Computers a||Internet Hosts b||Internet Users b|
|a Data are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.|
|b Data are from the Internet Software Consortium ( http://www.isc.org ) and are per 10,000 people.|
|SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.|
Warsaw's Okecie airport is the largest in Poland. All major European air carriers operate services to Warsaw, while the Polish national airline, Lot, connects the capital with many cities in Europe, North America, the Middle East, and Asia. Airports in Gdansk, Poznan, and Cracow also offer international connections. Airports of domestic importance are located in Szczecin, Katowice, and Wroclaw.
About 95 percent of the country's electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels. Public opposition in the early 1990s put an end to the construction of a proposed nuclear power plant in Zarnowiec, which was converted to conventional fuels instead. Hydroelectric power is also generated, mostly in southern Poland, where the mountainous topography offers opportunities to construct dams. Since much of the country's terrain consists of open plains, there is some expectation of being able to harness wind power in the future. In 1999, Poland generated a total of 134.351 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy, enough to meet domestic needs and export demand.
The country operates a very well-established postal service with 8,380 post offices in 1999, 58.8 percent of them located in rural areas. There is no weekend mail delivery, but many post offices in towns stay open in the evening and large cities typically have one 24-hour post office. Nearly 26,000 mailmen are employed in the daily delivery of mail. Courier services are provided by the post office and by private companies, which include branches of international couriers DHL and Federal Express.
Telecommunications services are undergoing rapid modernization. After years of neglect, new switchboards are constantly being installed and the number of telephone subscribers has increased substantially. The nation has enthusiastically adopted wireless communications and cellular phones, with the number of wire telephone subscribers exceeding 10 million in 1999 (more than treble the figure in 1990), while cellphone users increased from 75,000 in 1995 to almost 4 million in 1999.