A bumpy ride: Czech road conditions worse than in some African nations

Czech motorways are worse than those in countries like Burundi and Swaziland, with developments lagging behind EU neighbors.

 William Nattrass

Written by William Nattrass
Published on 06.09.2021 13:00 (updated on 06.09.2021)

A trip to Prague is a popular part of a European road trip, but recent studies suggest the Czech Republic may be best avoided for those who care about their car. Czech roads are among the worst in Europe and are of a lower quality than the roads in many African nations, according to research conducted by the World Economic Forum, the Association for Infrastructure Development and The Global Economy online portal.

With multiple studies showing a worrying deterioration in the quality of Czech roads compared to other countries around the world, it is clear that the Czech Republic’s long-term struggle to catch up with western European infrastructure is far from over.

The latest ranking by The Global Economy shows the Czech Republic in 76th place in the world when it comes to road and motorway infrastructure. This is a steep decline from the high of 50th place achieved in 2006. The Czech Republic now has the fifth-worst roads in the EU, behind all three of the country’s Visegrád Four allies Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. Czech roads are also worse than those of African nations such as Burundi and Swaziland according to the ranking.

The deteriorating state of Czech roads is set to be compounded by a reduction in money for road projects from EU funds. Many regions throughout the Czech Republic are now complaining about a lack of funds for maintaining roads and building new ones.

“Originally, we planned the reconstruction of more roads than will be possible due to the reduction in the allocation of funds. We will therefore have to seek out other financial sources or limit the implementation of planned investment projects, which it will not be possible to pay for from EU subsidies,” Martin Volf, from the Ústi nad Labem governor’s office, told Ekonomický Deník.

The Czech Republic’s lack of investment into road infrastructure contrasts with redoubled efforts in other countries. The roads of Poland, which used to be ridiculed by Czech drivers, are now way above those of their neighbor, in 57th place. The Czech Republic is meanwhile being overtaken by non-European countries and now has roads of a similar quality to those in Iran and Botswana.

In the last ten years, the Czech motorway network has grown by only 12 percent. In Poland, the motorway network has almost tripled in size in the same period. Road construction has also been far greater in Hungary and Slovakia. In 2010, investment into roads accounted for about one percent of Czech GDP; today, it is only 0.6 percent.

Experts warn that ambitious road construction plans will not be possible without clearly defined priorities and secured long-term financing. “Significant year-on-year fluctuations in the budget of the State Fund for Transport Infrastructure, based on an unmonitored long-term concept, are particularly problematic,” said the authors of a study by the Association for Infrastructure Development.

Public-private partnerships, in which road projects are undertaken by state bodies together with private companies, are being touted as a possible solution to the Czech Republic’s stagnating infrastructure developments. Yet whatever the funding model, it is clear that significant work needs to be done to halt the Czech Republic’s dramatic slide down the global rankings of road quality.

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