Officials approve return of trams running up Wenceslas Square

Wenceslas Square, photo: Štěpánka Budková

After an absence of nearly 40 years, trams are set to again run up and down Prague’s Wenceslas Square. The city council have just approved a plan for a tram connection between existing tracks on Vinohradská Street and those crossing the lower half of the city’s main boulevard. If everything goes according to plan, trams could return to Wenceslas Square as soon as 2022.

Wenceslas Square,  photo: Štěpánka Budková
For almost a century, trams ran between the middle of Wenceslas Square and the National Museum at the top. Tram services were discontinued in December 1980, but in 2005, a plan winning a competition for the redesign of the square envisaged their return. The project by Cigler Marani Architects has been delayed for years, but the recently elected city council has now taken steps to finally set it in motion.

Deputy Mayor for transport Adam Scheinherr says trams on Wenceslas Square should take the strain off other parts of the city’s transport network:

“At the moment, there is just one line passing through the city centre, and there are around 169 trams passing the line each day. The network is very crowded and when there are traffic jams or accidents, it can cause delays in the entire system.

“And second, we think that trams are important from the urban point of view in revitalising Wenceslas Square. This is why we decided that after 38 years we would like to return them there.”

At a meeting on Monday, the city council commissioned the transport authority to design a track study from the National Museum to Vodičkova Street. Tracks extending from Vinohradská Street past the National Museum were already planned during the renovation of the historical building.

The construction itself could start in two years’ time, but there are still some technical obstacles to deal with, explains Mr Scheinherr:

Wenceslas Square in 1972,  photo: archive of the Prague Public Transport Company
“The trams will be passing the Museum Metro station so we have to figure out how to reinforce the ceiling of the metro station so that the weight of the trams doesn’t affect it in any way.

“Of course there are discussions with architects whether the tram should run through the centre of the square or whether there should be some space in between for the pedestrians. But I would say the discussions are going well and we will find some compromise solution both from the urban and traffic point of view.”

The return of the trams is just one step in a complex transformation of Wenceslas Square. The winning plan of the Cigler Marani Architects from 2005 also envisages a traffic-free zone with more greenery, more space for pedestrians and a wider promenade.

Another line running from Vinohradská Street past Prague’s Main Train Station is also planned for a later date. However, the process is likely to be more complicated, since it requires a change in the zoning plan.