Government approves high-speed rail

Laws will need to be changed to implementation

The Czech government approved support for high-speed railway lines. The project material was submitted by Transport Minister Dan Ťok (for ANO). The network of rails connecting to neighboring countries should cost Kč 650 billions.

The proposed routes will connect the Czech Republic to Germany via Dresden in the northwest and via Domažlice in the southwest.

The route from Dresden will go through Prague and Brno to Břeclav, where there are options to continue to Vienna or Bratislava. The last links under consideration will go from Brno to Katowice and from Prague to Wrocław.

But the first part of the tracks aren't expected to be finished before 2035. When work will begin so far cannot be predicted. The next step is to prepare draft legislation to presented to the Parliament. Under current legislation it could take more than 10 years to start construction on the project.

Minister Ťok is preparing new legislation that would significantly speed up the process. The legislation will be dealt with by the Cabinet until the Oct. 20–21 elections.

On the German side, the tracks will go from Berlin to Dresden. Progress is expected to faster on the German side of the project. To meet up with those tracks, priority will be given to the Dresden to Prague link. After that the Prague to Brno link will be made.

Fares for the trains are not expected to be subsidized by the state, and it should not be higher than standard fares.

The ministry called a tender for a study on high speed rail three times in the past two years, only to cancel it each time. Finally the ministry conducted its own survey. The documentation lacks an analysis of economic benefits. Further research will have to be done on that and also on the environmental impact.

The plan does not call for high speed rail along the entire route. Some sections of tracks and tunnels will not be upgraded do reduce the cost of the plan. This was to make it more likely that the plan would qualify for EU subsidies.

Land from thousands of owners still needs to be acquired for the project.

For journeys of less than 700 kilometers, high-speed rail can be faster than air travel, and more convenient as the trains go directly to the city center. Prague to Berlin is only 280 kilometers, for example.

The Czech Republic has had Pendolino trains capable of traveling at above-average speed on existing tracks since 2005, though these are not high-speed trains in the classical sense. The trains have been approved for use in Slovakia and briefly had a route to Austria, but never were approved to go to Germany. Currently there are routes from Prague to Olomouc, Ostrava, Mariánské Lázně, Plzeň, Poprad and Košice.

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