Will water trams one day crisscross the Vltava River?

Photo: Kristýna Maková

A candidate for the post of mayor for Prague 5, the Czech News Agency reported this week, has come forward with a novel idea to try and improve public transport in the congested city centre: water trams which would cross from one side of the Vltava River to the other, stopping off at several points. The proposal is reportedly being taken seriously by city’s transit authority.

Photo: Kristýna Maková
Water trams are used in other European cities such as Marseille, Krakow, and Geneva, could the same become a reality in the Czech capital? The proposal currently being put forward aims to tackle traffic and transit in the congested city centre head on: proposing boats to take travelers to various points along the city’s banks. Long before the first boats hit the river, if such a proposal were passed, the city would have to renovate existing infrastructure or create new areas whole, namely docks where boats would unload, take on passengers, and park.

Twenty-three spots along the banks have reportedly already been singled out for potential use. According to the Czech News Agency, stops would be connected with existing bicycle routes to further improve travel across the city. Water trams could be a distinct and pleasant alternative to their street-level namesakes, which often remain stuck at peak times, for example, on bridges where cars often block available space. A case in point is at least one bridge across the Vltava, joining the areas of Smíchov and Prague 2, which routinely at the beginning or end of the work week can be ‘impossible’ to cross.

The head of the Prague Transit Authority, Jaroslav Ďuriš, has so far welcomed the plan, saying the idea could work within the broader transit service. At the same time, he stressed, any such proposal will have to go through the lengthy process of approval by City Hall. The Prague Steamboat Company, meanwhile, has seen similar proposals before saying in the past such plans fell through because they did not connect water transport with transit services on land. The company’s chairman, Jan Hamza, told ČTK he was not yet familiar with the newest proposal. The Prague Steamboat Company currently operates two regular lines on the river, aside from cruises up and down the Vltava: Prague-Slapy (which has been running since 1865) and a route from the city centre to the Prague Zoo in Troja.