Group says threatened Prague rail bridge can continue in present form

Prague’s Vyšehrad Railway Bridge

Debate is still going on over whether to knock down Prague’s Vyšehrad Railway Bridge. Some interested parties say it may only remain in place if it is expanded from the current two tracks to three. However, the group Nebourat (Don’t Demolish) on Wednesday presented data on the bridge’s capacity that they say proves even that change is unneeded. I spoke to Nebourat’s Pavel Štorch, who is a Green Party politician.

Pavel Štorch | Photo: Green Party

“The owner of the bridge, Správa železnic, the Rail Network Administration, is pushing forward with its plan to demolish the bridge.

“What we have shown is that this decision isn’t fact-based. Because one of the most important claims, that there would be a capacity problem and a third track needs to be installed, isn’t necessary.”

If that’s the case, why are they pushing for the demolition of the bridge, if it can continue to be used in its current form?

“If you are the owner of an old house, you can have two attitudes toward this house. Either you are tired of all the repairs and all these discussions with the heritage protection agencies, or you are the proud owner of this beautiful piece of history and you are trying to use the commercial potential it has in its particular place, to renew it.”

Do you and your group think that the Ministry of Transport will use the pretext, in your view, of the need for a third track to knock the bridge down?

The Vyšehrad Railway Bridge | Photo: Radio Prague International

“I don’t think it’s solely a question for the Ministry of Transport, because we are in the most heritage-protected, specific area of the whole Czech Republic, in the very centre of Prague, which is one of the biggest UNESCO reserves in the whole world.

“I think what is needed is a round table where the municipality of Prague, the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Culture sit down together and search for a solution.”

What do you say to the suggestion that the bridge was deliberately allowed to fall into a state of great disrepair simply as a pretext to removing it?

“I think we have hundreds of examples where heritage-protected objects are severely neglected by private investors. But this is an example where the owner is a state authority.

“And there are huge flows of money into the renewal of the railway infrastructure, as an environmentally positive solution.”

In a video you showed before your presentation a couple of celebrities compare the bridge to the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Isn’t that a bit of an exaggeration?

“It’s definitely a bit of an exaggeration. But for me personally, it’s much more interesting.

“What we have is a riveted structure which is used in Paris just for tourism – so it’s what we have in Prague with the Charles Bridge.

“But what we claim is we can have here [in Prague] a riveted structure which can stay in service for railway service – and be a beautiful part of the city.”

Celebrities demand the preservation of the Vyšehrad Railway Bridge in this video.