Prague's Railway Bridge may be torn down

A survey shows the century-old landmark steel structure is beyond repair

The railway bridge connecting Výtoň and Smíchov is likely to be to torn down and replaced with a copy. The Railway Infrastructure Administration (SŽDC) says a new study shows the steel bridge, built in built in 1901, is not in a condition that can be repaired.

The bridge is a protected landmark but in an unsafe condition. Despite being over 100 years old, the bridge does not have an official name is generally called the Railway Bridge (Železniční most).

But replacing it with a copy faces opposition form both preservationists, who want the old one to be saved, and urban planners who want a larger and more modern bridge.

In order for the bridge to be torn down, the SŽDC must first obtain the removal of the monument protection status. The Ministry of Culture decides on the status. City Hall conservationists and the National Heritage Institute (NPÚ) also express their opinions. The NPÚ declined to comment on the issue.

Because of this procedure, the SŽDC cannot give any timeline for the project or a budget.

“The existing steel structure is virtually irreparable for the future operation of rail transport,” railroad spokeswoman Kateřina Šubová said, according to daily Mladá fronta Dnes (MfD). She added that repairs or replacement cannot be postponed longer due to the condition.

The two pedestrian walkways are already closed due to their poor condition and are being repaired. One should reopen in September and the other sometime in 2019.

The study showed at least two-thirds of the bridge would have to be replaced, but this would extend its lifetime by only 30 years. Building a copy would extend its life to the end of the century. The existing foundations and pillars can be repaired and reused for the copy.

“We are reviewing the option of replacing the existing design with a new one. It would be as close as possible to the existing one and preserve the original historical character,” Šubová told MfD.

There was some discussion on the past of widening the bridge to three tracks, but that is not now being considered by the SŽDC as keeping two tracks will be easier to accomplish. In the future, another parallel railway bridge could be built to increase capacity.

The Prague Institute of Planning and Development (IPR) prefers three tracks to allow for increased capacity and avoid congestion. The city hopes to use more trains in public transport in the long term to reduce the number of commuter cars in the city.

Architectural experts say the bridge is an example of type of construction that is no longer done, and a modern replica would not preserve its actual character unless it was made with the same steel and rivet technology.

The experts also say the bridge has not been properly maintained. The SŽDC, however, denies that.

One of the architects of the bridge is František Prášil, who worked on the Petřín lookout tower and the construction of the Industrial Palace at Výstaviště.

The collapse of the pedestrian bridge at Troja in December 2017 brought attention to the condition of Prague's bridges. Many were found to be in poor condition. Aside from the railway bridge, there is also a controversy over whether to rebuild or replace the Libeň Bridge (Libeňský most), which faces some of the same issues as preservationists want the original preserved, and urban planners want it replaced with a more modern structure using just the original pillars.

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