Hlavní nádraží renovation in trouble

The Italian company will miss the deadline to finish work and may lose its lease

The further renovations of Prague's main train station Praha hlavní nádraží are now uncertain. The current owner of the building, the Railway Infrastructure Administration (SŽDC), does not want to extend the contract with the Italian firm Grandi Stazioni. The firm has long-term lease on the train station's commercial spaces in exchange for completely renovating the entire station.

So far, though, Grandi Stazioni had focused on the shops and cafes that it operates in the new part of the station. It will miss the Oct. 16 deadline to renovate the historical Fanta building, the older part of the station. The firm wants to extend the deadline by two years, to the fall of 2018. Lawyers for the SŽDC are opposed to extending the contract and say that an amendment could be in conflict with the Concessions Act.

If the contract is not extended, Grandi Stazioni says it will seek damages from the SŽDC for Kč 1.2 billion for the renovations that have already occurred and seek damages from the previous station owner, Czech Railways (ČD), for billions of crowns of lost profit as well.

Grandi Stazioni CEO Andrea Odoardi told the media that it would be an unfortunate situation if the work had to be stopped because of the start of litigation. He added that Grandi Stazioni has the intellectual property rights to the project documentation for the renovation.

SŽDC spokeswoman Kateřina Šubová said the venture with Grandi Stazioni was quite complicated. The SŽDC is looking at several possibilities to continue an amicable relationship with the Italian company, such as reaching an agreement on a termination settlement. Talks are ongoing.

Grandi Stazioni in 2002 won the contract to renovate the station and get a 30-year lease. The renovated entrance hall of the newer part of the station, with new shops, was officially opened April 14, 2011.

Praha hlavní nádraží is Grandi Stazioni's only project outside of Italy. Grandi Stazioni's Odoardi says the delays are due to the condition of the historical part of the station being much worse than anticipated. He also said that Czech Railways had caused several delays due to poor cooperation. New tenants for the space are already lined up and there will be a food court, he added. Launching litigation would be a loss for everyone involved, he said.

Praha hlavní nádraží originally opened in 1871 and was named Franz Josef Station after Franz Joseph I of Austria. It was called Wilson Station (Wilsonovo nádraží) in 1918–38 and 1945–53 after the US president Woodrow Wilson. The Art Nouveau station building, designed by Czech architect Josef Fanta, was built between 1901 and '09, replacing the original neo-Renaissance building. The interior of the historical part has a large dome decorated with Art Nouveau designs. Some of the decorations of the Fanta building are by artist Ladislav Šaloun, who made the Jan Hus memorial on Old Town Square.

The station was expanded with a new building built between 1972 and '79. It includes a metro station and a main road on the roof of the terminal. The new building was institutional in its design and does not match the historical part.

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