Petřín cable car to be renovated with a new track and modern cabin design

The existing system has an estimated five years of service left and requires heavy maintenance.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 06.01.2021 13:11 (updated on 06.01.2021)

The cable car line that goes up Prague’s Petřín Hill be be renovated and new cabins will be purchased, the Prague Public Transit Company (DPP) announced in a press release. The existing infrastructure has a maximum of four to five year of service left.

This year, Prague City Hall and DPP plan to announce a design competition for the new look of the cars. Results should be known by the end of this year. The first passengers could take the modernized cable car on Petřín at the earliest at the end of 2023. The new cars should have lifespan of 30 years.

The estimated costs of the track renovation and the purchase of new cars are approximately CZK 210 million. As part of the project, preparation for barrier-free access to the cable car is planned.

The current track and both cabins date to the first half of the 1980s. The chassis frames are even older. They were manufactured in 1931 and were also refurbished in the first half of the 1980s The manufacturer estimated their service life at about 20 years.

DPP repaired bridge supports in 1996, built a new bridge and Nebozízek station between 2015 and 2016 due to the poor condition of the original structure. The gradually deteriorating technical condition of the line due to poor quality subsoil and non-functional drainage was confirmed in 2018 by a diagnostic study.

“One of the most attractive tourist icons in Prague and the whole Czech Republic deserves not only a unified, but a distinctive design, which we can best ensure with a design competition. I also expect to increase the capacity of cars,” Prague Deputy Mayor Adam Scheinherr (Praha sobě), who is also chairman of the DPP supervisory board, said.

He added that the modernization of the cable car, like other transport infrastructure in Prague, was unfortunately postponed until the latest possible date as the service life is running out.

“It is also an opportunity to influence the new look of the cars, so we plan to announce a design competition for it. We cannot influence the basic technical parameters of the cabins, but potential manufacturers offer the possibility of individual design of front parts, interior or windows and, of course, color,” Scheinherr said.

New cabins will take a year and a half to build and test

Jan Šurovský, DPP board member and technical director for surfaces, said that this year the cable car to Petřín will celebrate 130 years since it started operating.

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“It had to be interrupted twice in history, shortly after the founding of Czechoslovakia and in the 1960s. We do not want to allow another interruption of its operation, except for the required time to renovate the track and test new cars,” he said. Petřín’s slope is slipping and the cabins have a twisted frame, he added.

Production of new cars, including testing, will take about a year and a half. The renovation of the track will take about six to eight months, during which the cable car will not run.

“We assume that it could be built in 2023 and the first passengers could ride the new cars on the renovated line to Petřín at the earliest at the end of 2023,” he said.

“We take this project as a symbolic gift for the 130th anniversary of the cable car to Petřín, so that it can perfectly serve passengers for other at least 30 years,” Šurovský added.

Track renovation and the purchase of new cabins will enable a more modern emergency brake system. Water drainage from the track will be improved. Regular maintenance will be reduced, which will mean financial savings as well as less time out of operation.

The cable car was built to take people to the Petřín Tower

The construction of the Petřín cable car began in 1890. The main reason was to transport passengers to the newly built Petřín Tower. The cable car began to serve the public on July 25, 1891. The length of the track was 396.5 meters and the capacity was 50 people.

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The operation was interrupted at the beginning of World War I. Despite efforts to restore continuous operation in the following years, the cable car was in use sporadically. Due to the post-war economic situation the operation of the cable car ended in 1920.

Operation resumed in 1932 to transport people to the Sokol Rally at Strahov Stadium. The length of the track was extended to 511 meters and the transport capacity increased to 105 people.

The cable car was modernized and the drive was electrified. The operation of the cable car ended in 1965 with bad weather. Accumulated groundwater under the track formed a cavern, and part of the track fell by about 20 cm. During the preparations for the track repairs in 1967, the entire Petřín slope became waterlogged and there was a landslide. Service was again interrupted.

The main reason for reopening the cable car was the organization of the Spartakiad in 1985, also at Strahov Stadium. Operation began in June 1985 on a newly built track with refurbished cars. The cable car was included in the Prague public transport system.

Since 1985, DPP has carried more than 55.5 million passengers by cable car on Petřín. In 2019, there were 2,230,373 passengers, a record number for its entire existence. The cable car to Petřín is the second-most visited attraction in the Czech Republic. It is more busy during April to October, when it carries an average of 250,000 passengers a month. In the winter season, the average is 120,000 passengers a month.