Poland's planned new hub is what NATO needs in terms of military mobility and what the European Union has in mind when discussing military mobility, General Ben Hodges, former commander of US ground forces in Europe, stated for Polish Press Agency. Events beyond our eastern border show that these words are even more relevant today.
The Solidarity Transport Hub is not just an airport – it is Poland’s new transport system, at the centre of which there will be located a hub between Warsaw and Łódź. Its most important premise assumes the integration of air, rail and road transport. As part of this project, the Solidarity Airport will be built at a distance of 37 km west of Warsaw, within an area of approx. 40 km2; in the first phase, it will have the capacity of 40 million passengers per year.
The STH will also include rail investments: a transport hub at the airport and a network of new high-speed lines nearly 2,000 km long. They will shorten a travel between Warsaw and the largest Polish cities to no more than 2.5 hours.
Dual use – more than one purpose
Solidarity Airport is planned as a civil airport, but it will also have an additional role: it will increase the security of Poland and Central and Eastern Europe. In times of armed conflict, airports – including civilian ones – are sometimes used for the transfer of military units, equipment, goods or humanitarian aid and also by supporting forces as well as rapid reaction forces.
In military terminology, this mechanism is called ‘dual use’, which means dual purpose infrastructure. This way it can be used by NATO forces whenever necessary.
We need depth and redundancy in transportation infrastructure. The STH project will add a capability and capacity that no other node in Poland (or elsewhere in Eastern Europe) can match
In case of a threat of aggression against Poland or the Baltic countries, the airport could be used by heavy transport aircraft carrying troops from the American continent and Western European along with heavy combat equipment
A significant advantage of STH will also be intermodality and an excellent connection of the airport with every part of Poland and countries all over Europe, especially its central and eastern part. The Solidarity Transport Hub will be part of a rail hub at the centre of a new 1981 km long network. The airport’s location near the A2 motorway and halfway between Warsaw and Łódź will also provide convenient integration with the road network.
Thanks to these elements, it will be possible to reload equipment or goods onto rail or road transport in no time. This way it will be possible to move people or cargo efficiently from the centre of Poland to any part of Europe.
The STH, despite the nature of a civilian investment, also has a significant impact on the level of defense of our country. Of course, it will not be a military base, but an extremely important point on NATO’s eastern flank – If only because of the significant increase in the so-called military mobility
Key element of the eastern flank
Many experts say that Poland needs an airport with high capacity, capable of operating 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, adapted to handle cargo (goods), connected to motorways and the rail network – in other words, just like the planned Solidarity Transport Hub. Such infrastructure will contribute to increased operational mobility on NATO’s eastern flank.
The current political and military situation in the vicinity of NATO’s eastern flank and the war in Ukraine actually confirm the validity of the decisions taken by the Polish state authorities in this regard. The implementation of this project must take into account the need to provide it with anti-missile and anti-aircraft defence, both in peacetime and in wartime, as the airport will become a facility of strategic importance from the point of view of benefits for the economy and defence of the Polish state. In addition, the airport will also play a strategic role for our allies in the event of need for a quick transfer of NATO forces to the eastern flank
Investment needed urgently
The STH company, which is set up to carry out this investment, has been consulting with the Polish military on the assumed parameters and design data for the new airport and railway lines since 2019. This is happening consistently even now, e.g. as part of the development of the airport master plan or feasibility studies for the STH hub and the “railway spokes”, i.e. the railway lines to be built as part of STH.
The Solidarity Airport and STH railway investments can be compared to the human heart and circulatory system. Efficient blood circulation not only enables us to function fruitfully in everyday life, but can even determine our survival in crisis situations. Due to its place on the map, the Republic of Poland has already been predestined to be one of the main European hubs and the EU’s gateway to the East for people and goods in times of peace.
Now, even more so, as a result of the Russian attack on Ukraine, the most important streams of people, military equipment and aid for the Ukrainian population are merging in Poland. On this occasion, we gather invaluable experience in the field of ensuring and securing logistics in crisis situations, or even situations close to an armed conflict. It becomes obvious that we need the most efficient transport system that will function smoothly in all the most demanding situations. At the same time, we need to properly secure this new bloodstream of our economy against attacks by our enemies. The heart of the Polish transport system must never stop working
According to forecasts prepared by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the assumed annual capacity of the first stage of the Solidarity Transport Hub – in the so-called base scenario – should amount to 40 million passengers per year. The forecasts have been adjusted for the COVID-19 effect, the negative effects of which – as indicated by the forecasts – should be overcome in 2024. According to IATA, this is when the aviation market is expected to return to its pre-pandemic condition.
Because of the events we are witnessing: the pandemic, the Russian aggression against Ukraine and all other unforeseen circumstances, this project is included in the priorities of the Polish state. It will be a signal to the world that large aircraft and large cargoes can come to our region. Bearing in mind all our today’s talks, especially the security of Poland, this is an investment needed urgently