Prague investigates making Vltava a working waterway again

Vltava in Prague, photo: Ondřej Tomšů

At the moment the Vltava river in Prague is mainly used by tourists but the state waterways authority and city council are looking seriously at the possibility of making it once again a working waterway that could ease traffic and noise in the centre.

Vltava in Prague,  photo: Ondřej Tomšů
A customs house near the centre of Prague just below Vyšehrad has been turned into a museum recalling the time when the banks of the Vltava river at Prague were the scene of bustling activity as barges and ships were loaded and unloaded.

The customs house was mainly used for charges on the rafts of wood brought down the river but all sorts of other heavy materials, such as for building were taken by barge as well. The era of river transport began to disappear at the end of the 19th century but Prague is now exploring its revival in the wake of similar moves by other major cities such as Paris and Brussels.

The state agency for water transport and Prague city authorities are now looking keenly into the possibility of renewing water transport in a big way as a means of solving some of the capital’s logistical problems in a more environmental way.

Lubomír Fojtů,  photo: Czech Television
Lubomír Fojtů is the director of the state waterways agency and explained how the so-called citylogistika project is being prepared.

"It is actually in the very early stages. We have started discussing this topic with the City of Prague. Mr [Petr] Dolínek, and we visited the city of Paris together to see how it works three. In Paris, this project is already working and now we are at the point of making a feasibility study for Prague. The feasibility study should be finished in September of this year."

One of the major aspects to be looked at is how to establish warehouse and access points for lorries so that they can bring or take away goods carried by water into the city centre. It’s estimated that every ship of just over 1000 tonnes would need around 42 lorries to serve them for every trip. Some of the main materials that could be brought in are building materials with building waste and various other rubbish shipped out of the centre.

With the face of Prague’s riverfront already transformed mainly for use by tourists, another basic question is how tourism and transport use can co-exist side by side. Here, the waterways authority is looking to take a page out of the book of Paris and introduce a sort of time sharing for use of the embankments.

Vltava embankment,  photo: Annette Kraus
"The logistical works in the morning are ours so that the banks during the tourist times are available for them. We think that we will do this in a similar way."

The idea of using the Vltava more has been floated as Prague city authorities are involved in a clash with the Central Bohemia region surrounding the capital and transport ministry following its move to ban the biggest lorries from using parts of the ring road around the city to prevent them coming in. The region warns the move, if approved, will create chaos.