A Tale of Three Stations

Poland | September, 2013 - The country was at the geo-political heart of the 2nd World War, with German invasion followed by Soviet occupation during the Cold War years. Every country around it also suffered, and it would take 50 years to reassert and rebuild a stable continent.

In the modern era, with funding as one of the EU's latest members, Poland is investing heavily in its public transport, and Renkus-Heinz digitally steerable systems are a key part of the audio solution in three of the country's major train stations.

Poland joined the EU in the latter's bold expansion in 2004. Lech Walesa, the charismatic politician, trade-union organizer and human-rights activist helped change the political face of Europe as co-founder of the Soviet bloc's first independent trade union, Solidarity (Solidarnosc). It stood, symbolically and physically, against repression at the gates of the Gdansk shipyards. Walesa won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983 and served as President of Poland between 1990 and 1995. That, and what has followed, has been an extraordinary and often controversial story.

In a blend of astute government and a common purpose in working with the EU, Poland secured large grants from Brussels – money it invested in major public projects to refresh the country's infrastructure. And while the spirit remains the same, the new look of the land today is remarkable.

Western Europe-standard motorways now link Poland's major cities, where slow old roads were the norm a few years ago. The country feels prouder than ever of itself and while the haunting memories are beginning to fade, a new generation takes over in a brighter fiscal and cultural climate. Shell- and bullet-holed buildings are still in plain view and much is still to be done, but this beautiful land is regenerating in fast forward mode.

A tour of three cities came courtesy of Technical Director Lukasz Tobola and his colleague, Sales Manager Robert Zielony, from Renkus-Heinz distributors and system integrators M.Ostrowski sp.j. The tour took in a Mazovia (Warsaw area), Silesian (south Poland) and Lower Silesia (Wroclaw) landscape bathed in warm spring light after a long, cold winter. Soft sprinkles of meadow flowers and poppies lit the lush green fields.

Three main train stations, each a key part of the country's updated rail infrastructure that has seen much of its technical network brought up to contemporary standards, are Warsaw East, Wroclaw and Katowice. Once ageing architectural icons, all are now technological marvels, incorporating full international health and safety standards. There are both internal and international trains with links to the Europe-wide high-speed network, and many ‘hub' stations have now been redeveloped to include shopping malls. A major part of this is the installation of PA/VA systems which accompany video screens displaying train arrival and departure details.

M.Ostrowski sp.j., has been contracted to provide audio solutions for Warsaw East, Wroclaw, and Katowice stations. In each, while the architecture and loudspeaker locations details differ, the overall concept has been the same. Renkus-Heinz Iconyx digital beam steering arrays, networked over CobraNet via a redundant fiber optical network and controlled by RHAON, complement digital signage in the most acoustically difficult areas of huge booking halls, shopping malls and platform spaces.

Warsaw (East) train station is a hub station, with many lines interconnecting locally and internationally. One of the city's main rail interchanges, feeding Warsaw Central station, its huge, glass-walled airport style building never boasted user friendly acoustics, but M.Ostrowski's solution changed all that. STRABAG company was the General Contractor and SYGNITY company was the subcontractor.

This was a common theme of the three contracts, in which measurable acoustical intelligibility was the most important aspect of the audio installations in large, hard surfaced halls. Passengers, finally, would be able to hear announcements in complete clarity, thanks to Iconyx technology's exceptional STI delivery.

The fully networked design includes a very impressive text-to-voice simulation for regular train announcements, with each station also having manual override in case of train delays. The main hall, a glorious sunlit space where digital signage is flanked by four IC16-R arrays, delivers the essential visual and audio information.

The smaller area for local trains is covered by three Renkus-Heinz IC8 units, while 13 SG61-2Rs and three SG612S-2Rs cover the restaurant area. System distribution is handled by a Yamaha DME64 with CobraNet card, an HP ProCurve and a DME8oC Yamaha CobraNet to analogue output converter. Commissioning was the work of Jim Mobley from Renkus-Heinz and M. Ostrowski's Michal Poplawski.

The second station is Wroclaw Glówny (main train station), a 15,000 sq m project that restored this 150 year old monument in grand style. In this stunning building upper-level multiple train platforms reside under a classic curved roof. The refurbishment won the 2012 RICS [Royal Institute of Charted Surveyors] Regeneration Award. The new €78m passenger concourse and shopping mall on the lower level has a series of 10 Iconyx IC8-R loudspeakers, plus a pair of IC16-Rs that (almost invisibly) flank giant digital video displays in stereo pairs. In this typically reverberant space, the announcements' calmness verges on the uncanny. Here, the general contractor was Budimex, the installations supplier, TKTelekom and the audio installations subcontractor M.Ostrowski in cooperation with Tommex Zebrowscy Sp. J.

Along with ceiling speakers suspended above the platforms the rest of the list is largely as at Warsaw – a DME64 processor with CobraNet and analogue input/output cards, while the Yamaha processor is fed from APS APROSYS input modules. Again an electronic text-to-speech simulator serves the audio information for passengers.

The third installation is the train station in Katowice in Silesia, Poland, a part-private/part-government financed project, which features 10 IC16/8-Rs, with Dynacord P64 distribution and a Yamaha DME8oC CobraNet-to-analogue converter. An HP ProCurve serves part of the system's redundant Ethernet network distribution. The general contractor for this project was STRABAG, the installations supplier TKTelekom and the commissioning was done by M.Ostrowski.

Lukasz Tobola comments: "The results of the speech intelligibility were more or less [STI] 0.57-0.59, in a hall that is quite complicated acoustically because of several non-absorbent materials on the walls and the ceiling. Yet when we use the Iconyx we can, even if the acoustics are bad, provide good speech intelligibility."

Asked about the reaction from the train company and station managers about the audio quality, he replies: "Yes; they are very satisfied with the quality of sound, and with the excellent speech intelligibility. And that combination, I think, is the main feature that puts us on a higher level than other popular evacuation loudspeakers." He adds the systems had been presented as EASE models showing both coverage and STI patterns.

M.Ostrowski sp.j., which last year celebrated 20 years in business and employs over 40 staff, distributes many leading professional brands and boasts the biggest internet-based music store in Poland. Its audio department, with a team of Masters' degree-level qualified electro-acoustics engineers, provides a combination of system design, supply and installation through to final commissioning. The final touch is a fully equipped service department.

Adds Tobola: "The company is growing steadily, and new contracts for top clients like these are cementing our reputation as the top systems integrator in Poland."