Construction starts on Prague’s first trolleybus line in half a century

2022 will be a turning point of bus transportation, with the launch of trolleybuses, electric buses, and possibly testing of a hydrogen bus.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 11.01.2022 15:34 (updated on 11.01.2022) Reading time: 3 minutes

Construction has started on the first new trolleybus line for Prague. When completed, there will be almost 14 kilometers of overhead cables running from Palmovka through Prosek and Letňany to Čakovice-Miškovice to provide power for the city’s first regular trolleybus service in half a century.

Work began Jan. 10 at Letňany and should take 10 months to complete. The Prague Public Transit Company (DPP) expects to put the first trolleybuses into trial operation during October this year. It will be the first trolleybus serving Letňany since 1954.

DPP started its preparation for the trolleybus line in the spring of 2018. At the beginning of March last year, it obtained a final building permit for construction. Following this, last April DPP launched a public tender for the purchase of 15 battery-powered articulated trolleybuses for this line and in July announced a tender for the contractor for the construction. The total cost of electrifying the route is almost CZK 284 million.

DPP technical director Jan Šurovský said that the start of construction marked the real return of trolleybuses to Prague in an upgraded form.

“I am glad that in this case, we have been able to learn from history and instead of canceling tram and trolleybus services, which happened under the previous regime or is still sometimes happening in some cities today, we are going in the opposite direction. We are reintroducing trolleybuses in Prague and expanding the tram network,” he said.

Trolleybus line No. 58 will cover approximately 50 percent of the route of the current bus line No. 140.

This route is just the first of seven trolleybus routes that are currently planned, including two trolleybus routes to Václav Havel Airport Prague and another linking Karlovo náměstí and Strahov Stadium.

As part of the work, new technology will be put into the former trolleybus substation in Příborská Street in Letňany, so that after more than 55 years it will return to its original purpose pf powering trolleybuses.

"With the electrification of line No. 140, we are correcting a mistake made 50 years ago by the communist administration of Prague, when trolleybus operation in Prague ceased,” Prague Deputy Mayor Adam Scheinherr, who is responsible for transportation and also chairman of the DPP Supervisory Board, said.

Trolleybus service in Prague began in 1936 and reached its peak in 1959. The last route shut down on Oct. 16, 1972.

“We will replace the diesel buses with emission-free battery-powered articulated trolleybuses. We are improving the environment and also improving passenger comfort because the trolleybuses offer a smoother and quieter ride,” Scheinherr said.

The project will also not create excess visual pollution. Existing light poles will be replaced with ones that also support the new overhead lines, so a second set of new poles won’t be needed.

Prague Deputy Mayor Petr Hlubuček, responsible for infrastructure and a member of the DPP Supervisory Board, said the return of trolleybuses reduces emissions in public transport and fulfills Prague's climate plan.

“Internal combustion engines in transport are one of the biggest environmental polluters and cause a range of respiratory diseases. By 2030, at least 75 percent of the DPP bus fleet will be replaced by clean vehicles: emission-free electric buses, battery trolleybuses, and low-emission buses,” he said.

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Petr Witowski, chairman of the board and CEO of DPP, said this year will be a turning point for Prague’s bus service. In addition to the trolleybus, in a few days, DPP will start the operation of its first electric buses on lines 154 and 213. By the end of January, he hopes to announce a supplier for the trolleybuses for line 58 as well as for one of the trolleybus lines to Prague Airport. DPP also plans to test a hydrogen bus in Prague this year.

“We are only at the beginning. A lot of work awaits us and our successors on electrification projects for other bus lines,” he said.

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