:::: MENU ::::
Posts tagged with: Rail Travel

Now Dresden-Wrocław trains are cancelled for good – third piece of bad news for PL-DE rail this winter alone

Following the end of the Berlin – Wrocław EC Wawel (early December 2014), Frankfurt(Oder) – Poznań RegionalExpress trains (end December 2014), we now have the news that Dresden – Wrocław RegionalExpress trains will cease at the end of February 2015. News of this cancellation can be found here in Polish (Google translated), and from the rail company here (Google translated). Currently it seems there are no plans to make things connect at Görlitz to allow passengers to change trains there – the Polish news story makes reference to passengers needing to take a bus instead. The reason given for the cancellation is inadequate funding on the Polish side.

This leaves Poland – Germany rail connections in a very sorry state indeed, and Wrocław now has no rail connection at all with Germany. The southern part of the Poland – Germany border is especially badly served.

Here is the map of rail connections between the two countries from the end of February 2015 (click to enlarge):

Continue Reading

The tricks of EU cross-border rail – Berlin-Bruxelles-St Gallen-Berlin

I have just completed the booking of the tickets for a rail trip in April, just under 3 months ahead of my departure. Booking the trip required so many tricks and odd tactics that I’m writing this blog about it, in the hope that others can learn from it, and perhaps politicians could act to help solve the chaos? Anyway, I’m not holding my breath on the latter, but if you’re keen on the former, here goes.

My itinerary:
1. Berlin – Brussels, any time on Friday 10th April 2015
2. Brussels – St Gallen, any time on Wednesday 15th April 2015
3. St Gallen – Berlin, departing after 1400 on Thursday 16th April 2015
Cheap tickets in Germany are available 92 days ahead of travel, and in France 3 or 4 months. So this timing is good to be able to get low cost tickets.

My criteria:
Only trains. No buses. Tickets as cheap as possible, and tickets that cannot be exchanged or refunded are OK. Willing to take a slightly longer journey, or change more times, if it saves money. Reservations on all trains except in Switzerland (where I’ve never had to stand, and hence never reserve).

My cards:
A Deutsche Bahn BahnCard 25 (saves 25% on any DB ticket, has RailPlus for 25% savings internationally (although this didn’t help here), and gives free local transport sometimes in Germany (see below) – card costs €62 / year, and allows collection of points with bahn.bonus comfort), and a Thalys TheCard loyalty card (no saving on ticket – earns points).

1. Berlin – Brussels
There are essentially three ways to do this trip.
a. Berlin – Köln DB ICE, and Köln – Bruxelles DB ICE
b. Berlin – Essen DB ICE, and Essen – Bruxelles Thalys (or the same, changing in Köln rather than Essen)
c. Berlin – Düsseldorf DB ICE or IC, and Düsseldorf – Bruxelles in a DB IC Bus
Option a. is the easiest to book – it can be done end to end with DB on DB’s website, but for 10th April the cheapest ticket is €59,20 single (€79 without a BahnCard), departing at 0647. You need to add €4,50 for a seat reservation, and €2.25 (1/4 of a 4-Fahrten-Karte) for a BVG ticket to get to Berlin Hbf to the price of this ticket, giving a total price of €65,95.

Option b., with a change in Essen, does not even show up on DB’s website, and Thalys tickets cannot be booked on DB’s website at all, although Thalys trains are still listed in DB’s timetable. Doing a search for each leg of the trip gives me a 0647 departure from Berlin, arriving Essen at 1034, and leaving at 1124 on a Thalys and arriving at Bruxelles-Midi at 1432 – note this trip is just less than an hour longer than with the DB ICE option a. However the Berlin-Essen ticket is just €21,75 (+€4,50 reservation), and this includes a free connection in the Berlin public transport to get me to the station with the CityTicket option. This is really silly – a Berlin-Essen ticket has CityTicket included, but a Berlin-Brussels ticket does not. The Essen-Bruxelles Thalys ticket was only €19, booked from Thalys TheCard website so I earn points. Total price: €45,25 – this is the one I booked.

If I’d followed DB’s suggestion and changed in Köln onto the Thalys instead, the cost would have been €56,25 + €4,50 for Berlin-Köln (0746 departure from Berlin), and €19 for the Thalys from Köln to Brussels – €79,75 in total.

Option c. I eliminated as I refuse to take buses, but it is the cheapest – just €29,15 for the ticket, €4,50 for a reservation, and €2,25 to get to Berlin station with the BVG – €35,90 total.

Right, so that’s part 1 of the trip complete – booked for a low price, but with two separate tickets off two separate websites, and using a connection that is not even listed in DB’s timetable.

2. Brussels – St Gallen
Here the routing is easier, because there is essentially only one way to do this trip – Bruxelles-Paris with Thalys, Paris-Zürich with TGV Lyria, and Zürich-St Gallen with SBB/CFF. The problem however is the trip is in three countries, one of them not in the European Union. Oh, and the Swiss Franc has just appreciated 20% this week…

Searching DB’s timetable throws up an immediate problem. Thalys arrives at Paris Gare du Nord, and the TGV departs from Gare de Lyon – 2 stops on the RER. But DB adds 70 minutes for this transfer – too much. So I took matters in my own hands, and found a Thalys that arrives 45 minutes before the TGV leaves. So my route is: Thalys Bruxelles-Midi 1013 – Paris Nord 1138, Paris Lyon 1223 – Zürich HB 1626, Zürich HB 1639 – St Gallen 1753.

The question then is how to book all of this. Neither Thalys nor Capitaine Train (dedicated French rail booking site) could give a combined price even Bruxelles-Paris-Zürich, let alone as far as St Gallen. Loco2 could give a price for the whole trip but this price – £66,50 (roughly €87,00) seemed high. SBB could give a price for Paris-St Gallen, but this too – CHF 59,00 (or approx €59,00) was costly. It turns out that both SBB and Loco2 were suffering because of the price for only the Zürich-St Gallen part, and were using a standard price of CHF 30,00 for this – more than the price for Paris-Zürich!

So undeterred I set out to find prices for each leg separately – €22,00 for Bruxelles-Paris on the Thalys TheCard site, €25,00 for Paris-Zürich with Capitaine Train (sorry Loco2 – here your £25.00 had a very uncompetitive exchange rate!), and – best of all – €14,20 for Zürich HB-St Gallen with Deutsche Bahn. Here I used by DB rail trick (fully documented here) to book Zürich HB-St Gallen-Kempten (Allgäu) (first station to which SparPreis works – doesn’t work at Lindau Hbf), with an interim stop of 80 mins in St Gallen to make sure it booked me on the 1639 departure from Zürich. This gives a total price of €61,20, and I simply will not take the St Gallen-Kempten(Allgäu) part.

Note also that none of these connections contains the Paris Gare du Nord – Paris Gare de Lyon transit ticket. I have some old carnet tickets left over from a previous trip to Paris – so €1,41 for that trip (1/10 of a carnet), giving me a complete cost of €62,61.

So that’s part 2 complete. Part 3 should be easy…?

3. St Gallen – Berlin
This part is easier than the other two as it can all be booked, in all cases, off the DB website. But the question then arises: what route to take in order to get the cheapest ticket – remember also leaving after 1400. DB gives two main options – departing at 1419 and changing at Buchloe, Augsburg and Göttingen, with a journey time of 9 hours 7 minutes, and a price of €29,20 (+ €4,50 reservation), or two changes at Memmingen and Ulm and a longer journey time of 10 hours 12 minutes, but for €89,20 (+ €4,50 reservation)! Plus both of these routes have tight connections onto RegionalExpress trains, that aren’t super comfortable services either.

This is where DB’s “Zwischenhaltestelle” (interim stop) option comes in. I’d noticed the destination of the train from St Gallen was München, so I put München Hbf as the interim stop and, hey presto, 2 changes, 10 hours 12 minutes journey time, no regional trains involved, and €29,20 (+ €4,50 reservation) for the whole lot. Add the €2,25 BVG ticket when arriving in Berlin and it makes €35,95.

So there you go – Berlin – Brussels – St Gallen – Berlin, with comfortable trains, for €143,81. With 6 tickets requiring 6 separate bookings on 3 websites (3 DB, 2 Thalys TheCard, 1 Capitaine Train), and 3 local public transport tickets.

The value of a BahnCard 25
For this trip, my BahnCard saved me money as follows:
€2,25 for the trip with the BVG to Berlin Hbf from home
€29 (standard) – €21,25 (reduced) = €7,25 for Berlin-Essen
€19 (standard) – €14,20 (reduced) = €4,80 for Zürich-St Gallen
€39 (standard) – €29,20 (reduced) = €9,80 for St Gallen-München
That’s a saving of €24,10, and 74 bahn.bonus points earned towards further benefits. Make 3 long trips a year somewhere in Germany and the BahnCard 25 pays for itself.

These prices do not cover local transport to my final destinations in either Brussels or St Gallen – I do not know these yet, so cannot calculate them. In Brussels the cost of a single on the STIB network is €1,25 (1/10 of a 10 journey pass on a MOBIB card).

If something goes wrong (the Bruxelles-Paris is delayed, meaning I miss my Paris-Zürich train), I am not sure how I am covered – although both of those tickets are separately covered by CIV.

Creative Commons Images from Flickr
ICE2 by kaffeeeinstein, taken July 31 2009
Thalys by Lars Steffens, taken May 30 2013
Thalys PBKA by Darkroom Daze, taken April 2 2013
TGV Lyria 206 by Nik Morris, taken September 2 2013
Re 460 by Gerard – Nicolas Mannes, taken June 2 2011
EuroCity München by netzroot, taken April 26 2014
ICE 2 by TrainPhotography.de, taken on February 8 2014
ICE Göttingen by Michael Day, taken on June 20 2008

So you want the cheapest Barcelona-Paris rail ticket? Complex


I have started to plan a journey for late spring 2015, and one part of it will be a Barcelona-Paris TGV trip. How, I wonder, do I get the cheapest tickets on this service?

For a start the tickets I need are not yet available – FR-ES TGV and AVE services have a 120 day rolling booking horizon, while connecting TGVs in France have a 3 month horizon.

But anyway, to the ticket booking… Continue Reading

Frankfurt(Oder) – Poznań regional trains axed from 1st January 2015


Following my post about the final EC Wawel, and the funding absurdity for PKP’s new high speed trains in Poland, here’s yet more bad news when it comes to Germany-Poland rail connections – the two daily regional trains each way in each direction between Frankfurt(Oder) and Poznań will not run from 1st January 2015, stopping only 5 months after they were first re-instated with some fanfare. Die Welt reported about the new train, and the German Foreign Ministry welcomed the establishment of the new connection.

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 11.25.46News about the cut can be found (in German) in the DBV’s newsletter here, and this relates to a DB Regio press release about the closure that can be found here. This is the vital section:

Mit Bedauern hat DB Regio Nordost die Entscheidung der PKP PR zur Kenntnis genommen, die erst im August 2014 eingeführte Verbindung zwischen Frankfurt (Oder) und Poznan zum 31. Dezember dieses Jahres einzustellen, da die Leistungen auf der polnischen Seite nicht finanziert sind.

Basically the Poles don’t want to run the service, and hence it will be axed. 4 EuroCity trains each way each day will continue to link Frankfurt(Oder) and Poznań, but those have limited stops along the way.

The problem – alluded to in the DBV press release – relates at least in part to the available rolling stock. The new service used DB 646 class DMUs for the connection, despite the fact that the line between Frankfurt(Oder) and Poznań is electrified the whole way.

The problem of course is in the detail – German signalling, and 15kV electrification for the short run to the marshalling yard just to the west of the river bridge, and Polish signalling and 3kV electrification for the main part of the route on the Polish side. The only passenger locomotives approved for through working are PKP’s Class 370 designed for express passenger trains, and even those require a change of driver at the border, and there are not enough of them to put them into service on regional trains. Neither PKP nor DB owns regional EMUs capable of running on the other side of the border.

As if this were not enough, funding for the Dresden-Wroclaw regional services are only guaranteed until February 2015, according to World Car Free Network (point 7 in close here).

So much for improving German-Polish relations across the border! When it comes to railway services, things go from bad to worse it seems.

How €93 million of EU money prevents Polish trains being used EU-wide

16036201402_1dc0cb950b_hPolish Railways PKP has just launched its Pendolino EIC Premium service – a fleet of brand new, 250km/h capable Alstom trains that connect Gdansk, Warsaw, Wroclaw, Katowice and Krakow. The trains are the first capable of speeds greater than 200km/h in central and eastern Europe, and were hence launched with some fanfare. Alstom even has a swanky video about them here.

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 16.48.23Yet one frame of the video, shown here, caught my eye “Ready to cross the borders” it says, and the technical specification of the trains means they could run on German, Czech and Slovak electrification systems as well as Poland’s. But a line in Railway Gazette’s story about the launch caught my eye:

However, certification for international operation is not seen as a priority, as the trains are restricted to domestic services for an initial 10 years under the terms of a grant from the EU Cohesion Fund which covered 22% of the project cost.

Could this, I wonder, really be true? EU money obliging PKP to use the trains only on national routes? Isn’t that contrary to all of what the EU stands for, trying to foster cross-border cooperation?

The sad answer is yes, this is indeed true, but the story is a little more complicated than Railway Gazette explains.

€93 million was indeed granted to PKP IC for the purchase of the 20 Alstom trains, contributing 22% of the purchase cost of the 20 trains and the maintenance depot. However EU Cohesion Funds are normally allocated only for infrastructure, or for regional rolling stock. These PKP trains were to be deployed on long distance InterCity routes. This meant that the €93 million Cohesion Fund grant (from DG REGIO) was classed as State Aid by the European Commission’s DG Competition, as explained in DG Competition’s press release here.

This press release led me in turn to the competition case that can be found here, and specifically this PDF that explains the Commission’s reasoning. The important paragraph is this one:

  1. The Commission considers that, because of the targeted nature of the investment aid, the aid does not compromise the effective opening of the international passenger transport market and cabotage following the entry into force of the third railway package.

Basically DG Competition is arguing that if these trains were deployed on international routes, the state subsidy for their purchase would distort the international railway market that is theoretically open to competition. Deploy them in Poland, where the argument about territorial cohesion can be applied to justify the grant, and this is OK. Of course there is currently not a single long distance international line to or from Poland where there is any competition in passenger rail.

So there you have it. The European Union, as a criterion for granting Poland €93 million for new high speed trains, prevents these trains being used internationally. This comes of course at the same time as Berlin – Wroclaw cross border services have been axed, and the EU is funding ghost airports in Poland.

I despair.

(oh, and as if that were not absurd enough, the new trains don’t even have wifi!)

A rail postcard from Forst (Lausitz)


Dear Violeta*,

I’m a regular long distance rail traveller, and when things used to go wrong with EU-wide rail I would write postcards here on my blog to your predecessor, Siim Kallas. You can find old postcards from Hendaye, Göteborg and Liège. This is my first postcard to you, but I fear it will be one of many.

wreath-smallToday I was at Forst (Lausitz), on the German-Polish border. This was a sad, and very special trip, for it was the very last ever departure of the EuroCity “Wawel” train between Berlin and Wrocław (Breslau). Trains have been running between those cities for 161 years, or about 50000 days, but today was the last one. A wreath was laid at the station in Cottbus to commemorate the final departure, and a saxophonist played a lonesome tune on the platform.

Berlin and Wrocław were, of course, previously in the same country, and indeed it took less than four hours between them in the 1930s. If today they were still in the same country I rather suspect the service between the two would not be axed.

How does that make you feel as the European Commissioner responsible for transport?

The EU is supposed to make Europe grow together, not apart. But now all the passengers on this connection will have is a poxy bus. I cannot imagine anyone ever laying a wreath to mourn the final departure of a bus.

The final train was, I suppose, fittingly depressing. Two carriages were missing from the train, and the heating and doors were broken on one of the other carriages. The train left Berlin 15 minutes late.

European rail of course cannot go on like this – if rail is to be viable it needs to build on the joy and comfort of the train, and focus on passenger comfort. The bus that will replace the train has on board wifi, but very few EU-wide rail services do.

What, I wonder, are you doing about this as Commissioner?

Some low-cost changes to infrastructure could improve things a lot at the German-Poland border, as Michael Cramer MEP explains (PDF here) – have you made the case for this to Mr Juncker in for his €315bn investment package?

Anyway, until next time, have a good weekend and safe travels. There are people out there that want EU-wide rail to work, and we’re hope you do too!

* – Violeta Bulc is European Commissioner for Transport. More about her here. Photos from the last trip on EuroCity Wawel can be found on Flickr here.

Building an organisation to defend EU-wide rail

NightTrainsThe Vindobona EuroCity train has been connecting Berlin with Vienna daily since 1957. But from mid-December this year the route will cease to exist. This service that operated across the Iron Curtain is being seen off by liberalisation and the profit drive of EU railways. The Paris – Berlin night train, the only direct train between the EU’s two founding powers, will be axed at the same time. The Copenhagen Night Train runs for the last time this month. Philip Oltermann tells the story of the decline in The Guardian here.

The story about why this is happening is a complicated one, but at its core is the change in the nature of Europe’s railways – from being public services with a public ethos, to competitive, profit making businesses. The EU itself is behind this change, forcing railways to separate their networks from their operations to try to promote competition. This change has worked to a certain extent for rail freight, but when it comes to passengers it means long distance services that run only a couple of times a day, and are borderline profitable, become too complicated and cumbersome to operate and are cut from the timetables. Track access charges – i.e. the cost to a rail company to run a service on a neighbouring country’s tracks – are often cited as the reason.

Why then is no-one acting to save these services, and to offer passengers an alternative to flying?

My conversations with policy makers in Brussels tend to come up with the rather bland “There’s no political will to fix this” as an answer. I take this as shorthand for “No-one has lobbied me about this issue.” Rail companies and manufacturers do lobby a lot, but passengers do not.

The organisation that should work on this issue is the European Passengers’ Federation. The problem is that they have a single member of staff, based in Gent, and they do not seem to actually campaign. Other organisations I have contacted or investigated have no transport policy person (Friends of the Earth EU, Greenpeace EU), do not deal with modal shift to rail (Transport & Environment), do not deal with rail consumer rights (BEUC), or care about EU wide issues but not about rail (European Movement FR and DE).

The challenge then is to actually build an organisation, or build a position within an organisation, to be able to work on this issue. I can do what I can as an individual rail traveller using my blog and Twitter to inform people about what is happening, and to pester them about it, but I cannot myself be an organisation that lobbies and campaigns.

The very minimum that has to be sorted out in EU-wide rail for the next five years is:

  1. Complete transparency of track access charges, for all routes, in an open data format. If these charges are indeed the reason cross border services are axed, then we need to know how high the charges are. Partial systems like RNE CIS exist, but as track operators are either public bodies or monopolies full access to all charging information is vital.
  2. An EU-wide timetable system. Deutsche Bahn’s Reiseauskunft is the de facto EU-wide timetable, but it is only as good as the data that national operators give it. Italian regional trains are, for example, missing from it, and it also now prioritises DB’s bus services rather than competitors rail services. If you run a train on a track in the EU then the timetable for that train must be made available for all, 3 months ahead of the train’s departure.
  3. Full ticketing information for all services, with APIs. If I want to book Amsterdam to Warsaw, or Frankfurt to Kosice, I should be able to get one price from a single website, and for that to include all reduced price tickets. No such website currently exists (despite the efforts of Loco2, Capitaine Train and others), as railways do not systematically make ticket data available in the same way as airlines do. Some trains – like DB’s CNL Night Trains – cannot be booked at all through third party websites. So if you run a train on track in the EU you have to make all ticket data for it available for third parties to use, to allow end-to-end ticket booking to be possible. Make trains as easy to book as flights!
  4. Clear rules for what happens when there is a delay. If the train run by one company is delayed, meaning you miss a connection onto a different company’s service, what happens? If it’s a High Speed Train in the Railteam network you should be OK, but if it is not, and especially if you had to book two separate tickets due to the lack of proper booking websites (see point 3 above) you can easily be stuck.

Beyond that there are more complicated issues that will actually require some money to fix, or deal with competition between rail and other transport means. These are:

  1. Introduce cross border services where tracks exist but services do not. At borders like Ventimiglia, Port Bou, Hendaye and Villa Opicina no through services run, and even changing at the border is complicated due to timetables that are not aligned, or regional services that stop a few kilometres from the border. The EU needs to make a systematic analysis of every cross border line, ranking each, and moving towards the idea of a European core network of passenger services, with stipulations of how often regional and long distance services should run.
  2. Rebuild 15 cross border lines. Michael Cramer, the German Green MEP, has listed 15 cross border lines that once existed [PDF here], but no longer do, and require only minimal investments to re-open. EU Regional Funds could be used for this purpose, but only of course if services will run! (see point 1)
  3. Examine competition between transport modes. Rail operators – not least in Germany – have long complained that VAT on rail tickets (and not on airfares), coupled with high track access charges, are killing services, especially after the deregulation of the long distance bus market in Germany (see more on InterConnex axing services here). Fair competition when it comes to taxation rates, and access to infrastructure, would be a good start.

This is how a sort of manifesto for EU rail passengers could look for the next 5 years, with pressure applied systematically to new Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc, and MEPs in the Transport Committee.

Now I just need to find the right person or organisation to make all of this happen…

Graphic by Jon Worth. Copenhagen, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome refers to night trains. Wroclaw and Vienna refers to day trains. Made with Creative Commons images – DSC01196 by taschenschieber, TrenHotel Chamartín by VivirElTren.es, Maarsbergen 1778 CNL 404473 uit Kopenhagen by Rob Dammers, PKP Cargo SU46-037 / 5 630 013 in Cottbus by Tegeler and BB 36007 Fr B It & Rame Thello entière by 8Uhr.

Non-Schengen compliant border control between Rzepin and Frankfurt (Oder), 11th March 2014, 2156

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 01.40.243 police officers or border guards, 2 Polish and 1 German as far as I could tell (the one who spoke to me was Polish) boarded train EC 40, the Warszawa – Berlin express, at Rzepin on 11th March 2014. I was in the front carriage of the train, where the officers boarded. A few minutes after the train departed Rzepin the police passed through the train, and the following conversation followed when I was approached by the officer. This is the word for word transcript of the conversation:

Border Guard (BG): (says something in Polish)

Jon (J): Sorry I don’t speak Polish

BG: Polish border guard. I would like to see your ID or passport.

J: It’s an identity check or a border control?

BG: No it’s not a border control

J: (I get my wallet and take out my German driving license)

BG: It’s not enough. It’s a driving license. Your ID or passport.

J: Could you tell me why that’s not enough?

BG: Because the driving license does not allow you to cross the border

J: But this is an identity check not a border control?

BG: It’s not a border control.

J: So you’re demanding the document from me…

BG: I’m not demanding you. The law says that in order to cross the border which you are going to cross…

J: So it IS a border control

BG: No it is not a border control. It is an identity control.

J: So hence my driving license is OK.

BG: You need to show what you need to cross the border.

J: Sorry. That is a contradiction. That is a border control.

BG: It isn’t.

J: (I show him my passport)

BG: When you are going from France to Great Britain they do the same as here.

J: Yes, I know, I teach European law, that’s why I am asking you.

BG: European law says exactly what I told you.

J: No it doesn’t.

BG: You better read… (Border Guard walks off)

So what is going on here?

The official had no obvious emblems on his clothing, so I cannot confirm whether he was indeed a policeman or border guard. His jacket was obscured by a yellow high visibility vest. However he introduced himself with the words “Polish border guard”.

Border controls are not allowed in Schengen, and ID checks in border areas are regulated by Article 21 of the Schengen borders code:

Article 21
Checks within the territory

The abolition of border control at internal borders shall not affect:

(a) the exercise of police powers by the competent authorities of the Member States under national law, insofar as the exercise of those powers does not have an effect equivalent to border checks; that shall also apply in border areas. Within the meaning of the first sentence, the exercise of police powers may not, in particular, be considered equivalent to the exercise of border checks when the police measures:

(i) do not have border control as an objective,
(ii) are based on general police information and experience regarding possible threats to public security and aim, in particular, to combat cross-border crime,
(iii) are devised and executed in a manner clearly distinct from systematic checks on persons at the external borders,
(iv) are carried out on the basis of spot-checks;

The check to which I was subjected clearly breaches (iii) – the officer introduced himself as a border guard, and talked about “the border you are going to cross” as if this were central to the control he was about to carry out. The guard is right that I do need more than a driving license to cross the border, but he also has no right to demand that from me as he is only conducting an identity check.

The further question then arises: if this were simply an identity check, and not a border control, what are the ID requirements for non-Poles in Poland. The law regulating this is here (in Polish). The important part of this is § 4, Google translated as follows:

§ 4 The officer determined the identity of the person legitymowanej based on:
1) ID card;
2) passport;
3) foreign identity document;
4) else establish a reliable instrument equipped with a photograph and indicating the number or series;
5) statements of another person, whose identity was determined on the basis of the documents referred to in paragraphs 1-4.

So what is my German-issued photocard driving license? Is that covered by 4) or not? If so then the correct procedure would have been similar to the Puttgarden experience where the official could have checked my identity on the basis of the driving license alone, and would have no right to demand to see my passport.

Anyway, I will submit an official complain to the European Commission about this to test what is happening here. If you’ve managed to read this far then you might also be interested in similar stories from St Jean de Maurienne and Padborg, and the website dedicated this this issue – FreeMovement.net

[UPDATE, 12.3.2014 at 0200]
Since publishing the original blog entry, I have been sent the link to the Polish law covering the border guard rules. PDF here. The rules there are rather similar to the law above that applies to the police – again Google Translated:

§ 4 The officer determined that the person identity legitimacy reformed on the basis of:
1) the identity card;
2) passport document,
3) the travel document;
4) any other niebudzacego doubt a document bearing a photograph-and assigned a number or series;
5) benefits a person who the officer is known to the person;
6) benefits of another person, whose identity it was-cond breakthrough was determined in a way, about whom referred to in paragraphs 1-5.