Reconstruction of D1 highway hits snag

Photo: Daniel Burda

Just two months after it was launched the reconstruction of the country’s main highway, linking the Prague and Brno, has hit a snag. Work on a nine-kilometer stretch of the road has ground to a halt due to what the firm undertaking the reconstruction describes as “unexpected problems”.

Photo: Daniel Burda
The reconstruction of the country’s D1 highway was launched with fanfare two months ago with promises that the long-neglected motorway would be brought to European standards and would moreover remain open to traffic throughout its four-year reconstruction. Just a fortnight ago TV crews were out in force to document the beautifully-orchestrated demolition of six bridges overnight. Now television reporters are hard put to find any sign of work underway, despite the fact that road signs claim otherwise and drivers moving along the incriminated one-lane stretch are forced to slow down to 80 km per hour.

“It’s not looking good at all. The road is a mess, they’ve clearly started reconstruction work but now there is no sign of work activity anywhere.”

Photo: Czech Television
Work on a nine-kilometer stretch of the highway ground to a halt ten days ago after it emerged that that the highway was in a far worse condition than previously thought. The firm undertaking the renovation says this will mean a great deal of extra work and is asking the investor – the Czech Road and Motorway Directorate - to cover the additional costs which could mean hundreds of millions of crowns. Experts say the assessment of the state of the highway was clearly inadequate and failed to reveal the extent of the damage. Jan Valentin is a road expert from the Czech Technical University in Prague.

“The Road and Motorway Directorate commissioned an assessment, but they were clearly concerned about the need to save money so that the project fell short of what such a reconstruction would normally require.”

The reconstruction of this nine-kilometer stretch of the road alone was estimated at 600 million crowns which road experts consider to be suspiciously low. David Cermak, the general director of the Road and Motorway Directorate, says that while the institution accepts the blame for the inadequate assessment they had no choice but to grant the tender to the firm offering the lowest bid. And regardless of the additional costs which now seem unavoidable, the directorate will demand fines, if reconstruction work is not finished on schedule.

David Čermák,  photo: Czech Television
“Under the contract signed between the Road and Motorway Directorate and the respective construction firm the work along this particular stretch of the highway was to have been concluded in 62 weeks. Every additional day over that deadline will cost them 1 million crowns in penalties.”

Luckily contracts on repair-work along individual stretches of the highway are being signed as work progresses so that the Road Directorate can learn from its mistakes. Right now it is drafting tenders on the modernization of three out of seven more stretches of the highway where work is due to begin next year.