Highway construction far behind schedule

The pace has not picked up significantly since the economic downturn

The building of the Czech motorway network is behind schedule, and it most likely will not be finished by the projected deadline unless significant changes are made. The Transport Ministry is hoping legal changes will speed up the process.

For the Czech Republic to complete the motorway network by 2050, some 25 kilometers of motorways would have to be opened annually, according to the Supreme Audit Office (NKÚ). The actual pace for the past five years has been 16 kilometers being opened per year.

Motorway construction has been slow between 2013 and ’2017 and will not speed up much in the years to come, according to an inspection by the NKÚ.

According to conditions at the time of the inspection, an average of 17 kilometers per year could open between 2018 and 2020. “Thus, the pace of construction is not sufficient to complete a 2,073 kilometer motorway network by 2050,” the NKÚ warned in its report.

“The road network was originally supposed to be completed in 2010. The Ministry of Transport has shifted [the deadline] several times, and it is now set to 2050. However, the current pace of construction is not enough to achieve this goal," NKÚ spokesman Václav Kešner. Said, according to media reports.

The Transport Ministry reported on its website that it has prepared an amendment to the building law to accelerate construction. Transport Minister Dan Ťok (for ANO) said the preparation process is unnecessarily long and drawn out. He took over the ministry in November 2014 and remains in office, at least until a new cabinet is formed.

The incoming government of Andrej Babis (ANO) government in a program statement has promised to launch 110 kilometers of new highways within four years, annually 27.5 kilometers. But red tape makes this difficult.

Expansion of the motorway network, according to Minister Ťok, has been delayed to slowdowns during the Petr Nečas (ODS) government from 2010 to ’13. During this time, few roadway projects were launched due to the economic downturn. Before the slowdown, between 2006 and 2010, some 56 kilometers of motorways were able to open on average each year.

Since taking over the Transport Ministry in 2014, Ťok has concentrated on preparing and launching new projects.

In 2017, the construction of just two new sections of the D6 motorway in Karlovy Vary and the extension of the D48 motorway were launched, which was still less than what had been planned.

Spokesman Kešner said that the average time from the obtaining of the consent for the environmental impact assessment (EIA), until the building permit was issued, is an average of 13 years. An example is the construction of the D1 highway from Říkovice to Přerov, where the EIA was issued in 2000 but the property settlement has not yet been completed.

The Ministry of Transport intends to accelerate the construction by an amendment to the Building Act, which is currently being discussed by the committees in the Chamber of Deputies. One change is a pre-emption that would allow construction to begin before the land under the motorway is purchased or expropriated.

Territorial management would also be carried out by one specialized office in each region. The proposal also includes a priority list of motorways and railways that could be accelerated.

There has been some improvement, though, according to the NKÚ.

Highway construction costs have decreased by 55 percent. “The construction of 1 kilometer of a freeway cost an average of Kč 152 million between 2013 and 2017. This is about Kč 190 million less than it was between 2008 and 2012,” the NKÚ spokesman Kešner said.

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