It could be dug into the country for the first time in 2025. Preparatory work is currently underway to document a zoning decision at the regional level. One of the first sections should connect Prague with Brno in less than an hour.
“The high-speed line (VRT) will be the backbone of ecological public transport. You will not transport passengers so kindly in any other way, “says Švehlík about the project, which they have previously compared with the megalomaniac plans of the so-called” Zeman Canal “.
The head of the high-speed line preparation department estimated the costs at 500 to 700 billion crowns. According to him, the price should not climb to the trillion crowns mentioned by the Pirates, because the current calculations already contain a 30% reserve.
When and where will the first high-speed line in the Czech Republic stand?
In the first wave there are several sections: the section Prague – Běchovice – Poříčany, the next is the Moravian Gate, ie Svinov – Prosenice, and then in South Moravia it is the section Modřice – Šakvice. We are preparing these constructions so that we can start construction in 2025.
Is the project still to be approved at the level of the government or the Chamber of Deputies?
The decisive factor is the territorial development policy, which is approved by the government. The government’s high-speed rail development program was approved in 2017. Following the decision on the feasibility study, which is currently crucial, the follow-up processes, which have already been decided by the government, will run.
A change in the principles of regional territorial development is also important now. The feasibility study has been approved on the Prague – Dresden line and we are now preparing an accompanying feasibility study report for the Prague – Brno – Břeclav and Brno – Přerov – Ostrava lines for the Ministry of Transport. I would expect approval in May or June. The conclusions are binding for us.
How much will the construction of high-speed lines in the Czech Republic cost?
We calculate investment costs, including a reserve of 500 to 600 billion crowns for the entire network. We will keep refining it. The cost of each stage is in the tens of billions.
Is it realistic to fit into several years old calculations when we have a pandemic here and, in addition, construction work prices have risen? Pirates object that VRT will cost 1 to 1.5 trillion crowns.
We continuously adjust the calculations. Some movement in long costs occurs, but the calculations do not go to blood. They contain a reserve of at least 30 percent, which should also cover inflation. He has been working with an economic evaluation for thirty years. From the EU’s point of view, we need to get three percent of the internal rate of return, but our projects have 7-11 percent.
If the Czechia’s rating deteriorates, which may be due to enormous indebtedness, interest rates on government bonds may rise. Is this possibility envisaged?
The economic consideration is very complex. We are now talking about the investment costs of construction work. Demonstration studies are quite detailed and various crisis scenarios are part of each economic balance sheet. Of course, the question is how to respond to a pandemic, which I hope will be here for a limited time.
Another 600 billion crowns, which are being talked about, is a huge amount…
This is already a calculation, including the included reserves. But it is constantly being adjusted. Let’s talk about 600 billion, for example, but we can range from 500 to 700 billion crowns. I do not think that high-speed lines will cost a trillion crowns.
The majority will be paid by Czech citizens, because the European Union covers a maximum of 11 percent. Will we have to?
This is absolutely not a question for the Railway Administration. We fulfill the assignment, which is defined by a government decision. We know from feasibility studies that VRT brings broad economic benefits.
It is very beneficial for the regions. It is not a railway project, but a project of the whole Czech Republic, to which local development is linked. The track will increase the mobility of the population. It’s about technology and education. It is a complex task for the Czechia.
A pandemic is changing trends in travel. Meetings and business meetings have moved into the virtual world. Is it expected to update according to new developments?
There is a transport model that shows the sensitivity to a drop in passengers, and a reserve is taken into account here. It is not based on optimistic scenarios, but it is expected that with a decline in transport demand. There is no model that counts on a pandemic for twenty or thirty years.
Assume that VRT will be used by 130,000 passengers a day. However, the VRTáci association named that it would have to travel 4.4 trips per capita per year, but the surrounding countries have a much worse balance – every German rides in energy once a year by express train, in France the average is 1.6 rides.
Be aware that there are 60,000 trips a day between Prague and Brno alone. We communicate very intensively with colleagues from France, Germany, Britain and we know from them that each model has in fact been surpassed. There will be an unprecedented reduction in travel time.
You can get from Prague to Brno in an hour, you are in Jihlava in half an hour. The experience is clear. All it takes is a well-built transport model and the right tariff is applied, the passenger is larger than the model predicts. We follow a very conservative model.
However, they themselves assume that the track will benefit mainly 5.5 million people within driving distance. You may not need another five million high-speed lines.
I can’t agree. 5.5 million people have a station within twenty minutes by car. Others have it on, but that doesn’t mean it’s not for them.
A lot of people will definitely not use it. Why should they pay from their taxes the route that the state budget draws in the amount of around 20 billion crowns a year will arrive twenty-five years?
VRT will be the backbone of ecological public transport. You will not transport passengers gently in any other way. Travel time from Prague to Brno will be reduced to less than one hour. And all the experience of Europe, which is a great impetus for the development of the territory. It brought economic benefits to London and Paris. For example, we have calculated that the number of job opportunities in Jihlava will increase.
If Jihlava is to become, with exaggeration, the suburbs of Prague and Brno, as you claim, an outflow of people to work in big cities can be expected.
That’s right, but look for a city in the Czech Republic that operates to commute to strong centers. There are cities where people live, one family member works and makes more money in a big city, but spends in the place of residence for craftsmen, restaurants, etc. This is how it works in London, for example.
Do you expect benefits mainly from national transport?
The vast majority of passengers will travel domestic. But there are also very strong ties abroad, for example thanks to the connection Prague – Ústí nad Labem – Dresden or from Prague to Wroclaw. The Czechia is the heart of Central European VRT. When we build the planned constructions, connected to Germany and Austria, the line will connect Berlin with Vienna via the Czechia in four hours.
The numbers from the feasibility studies are an order of magnitude lower. Of course, the fields will be occupied, but not on such a scale. The corridor must undergo a change in the principles of territorial development, which addresses the impact on the sustainable development of the territory. We want to proceed as sensitively as possible.
What will cover the costs of operation and maintenance of lines? Just from the tickets? How expensive will the fares be?
We assume that most trains are from state orders. There is a tariff. To put it simply, it is the current fare plus inflation in the coming years. Some of the trains will be commercial.
The state may switch from an order to a concession, but then it would be true that most trains have a standard fare that is no different from today. Maintenance will be paid primarily for travel charges.
In Germany, mainly other high-speed lines are used in renovated lines and corridors. Why is it different in the Czech Republic, moreover, when we have such dense buildings here?
It’s not true. In Europe, most high-speed lines are made up of completely new structures. Lines for trains with a speed of 250 every hour cannot be built in the corridors of current lines, because they must have much smaller turning radii.
Austria is based on the modernization of the current lines, there are reasons for this. For example, the existing network does not meet the needs of freight transport in mountainous terrain.
How will VRT increase freight transport capacity in the Czech Republic?
The capacity for freight transport on the existing line network will be freed up. The railway system in the country is very successful. The number of passengers is constantly growing, and interest in suburban transport is growing. For example, half of the people who go to Prague use the train.
The network of high-speed railways can also use freight transport, such as postal trains, but it is mainly about freeing up capacity on the existing line.
The mayors receive complaints that surveyors survey the land without prior notice. What is your reporting obligation to contractors?
The terrain is currently not measured for construction, but for background materials for documentation for the zoning decision. The mapping is much wider than where the track will be located. A kilometer-wide strip of territory is mapped, mostly with the help of drones and partly measured in the field. It affects thousands of owners.
The Land Surveying Act, which geodetic companies fill publicly with the notice board of the municipality concerned, speaks about the reporting obligation. Linear law applies to other types of surveys that are much more invasive. The construction of the railway itself takes 30 to 40 meters.
For example, near Kounice, where the tunnel was originally supposed to be, but there will be four tracks next to each other on an eight-meter embankment in the field. And the track is said to be much wider, around 60 meters.
Yes, the Elbe section is exceptional, in some parts it is four-track, two high-speed lines are collected. But it is the only such section. The specific occupation, the height of the embankments and the majority must be drawn in the documentation for the zoning decision and must be commented on by those affected.
Will any houses or the whole village fall due to VRT?
Certainly not the whole village. Several demolitions are potentially identified, often not permanently inhabited houses. The specific numbers will become clear when the documentation for the zoning decision is drawn.
We can probably talk about dozens of houses that are being demolished throughout the system. Dozens that will generate demolition units. We are not in conflict with built-up areas on our routes.
What compensation is envisaged for a municipality that VRT cuts off logistics from water sources or their deteriorating quality of life and reduces the value of assets?
Your question goes beyond the Railway Administration. Within the EIA, we must comply with noise limits, minimize the impact on the water regime, etc. This is our task.
Critics of the Central Bohemian VRT will be warned of a possible collision of the line with the Vrchlice drinking water reservoir in the Kutná Hora region. Do you already have an opinion on the Elbe River Basin regarding the impacts of constructions on the waterworks?
We have already started consultations with the Elbe River Basin, but for which we must follow more detailed documentation.
What if it is negative?
In principle, this is not possible, but I am convinced that in successive work it will be technically solvable conditions, as well as noise protection.
In the case of Švihov, it is forbidden to place any building in the zone of the tank. There is no such thing here. I do not assume that the opinion will ruin the plans for the northern variant of the section Prague – Brno – Břeclav. Hydrogeological surveys will give us a closer answer.
Is fencing planned for game along the entire length of the track?
Yes, it will be fenced everywhere for traffic safety. In places where information is important for landscape access in terms of cycle paths, roads, pilgrimage routes or animal crossings, this will be ensured, for example, overpasses and underpasses.