Prague City Hall makes a U-turn, agrees on plans for a second airport runway

The Prague Assembly voted in favor of a parallel runway, it is called for accelerated construction of the railway to the airport

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 18.12.2020 10:55 (updated on 18.12.2020)

In a turnabout, Prague City Hall has agreed to the construction of a parallel runway at Vácvlav Havel Airport.

The City Assembly supported a proposal by Deputy Mayor Petr Hlaváček (United Force for Prague / TOP 09) that repealed the City Council’s recently adopted opposing opinion.

The Assembly also approved a change to the zoning plan that would allow construction. The discussion lasted about three hours, with organizers of a petition againt the runway participating.

The change of the city's position was supported by TOP 09, which is part of the United Force for Prague group in the city’s ruling coalition, as well as the opposition Civic Democrats (ODS) and ANO.

Opposing the runway were the Pirates, Prague Sobě, and Independents and Mayors (STAN), all part of the city’s ruling coalition.

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The City Assembly has 65 members and includes the ruling coalition as well as opposition parties. The City Council, which had recently voted to oppose the runway, has 11 members representing just the ruling coalition

Prague Airport (Letiště Praha), the state company that operates Vácvlav Havel Airport, said the construction of a new parallel runway that would replace the current transverse runway should enable the strengthening of peak traffic from 2027. Opponents pointed out environmental impacts as well as problems related overtourism.

The resolution adopted by the Assembly calls for accelerated construction of the railway to the airport, among other stipulations. The airport would also close from midnight to 5:30 a.m. after the new runway opens.

Hlaváček said the new runway should not increase the total capacity of the airport, which is now limited to 21 million passengers per year, but should allow the handling of more aircraft at the peak morning and evening times.

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Václav Havel Airport handled approximately 17 million passengers in 2019, before the corona crisis impacted on air travel. 

Deputy Mayor Petr Hlubuček (United Force for Prague / STAN), who is also the mayor of Prague’s Lysolaje district, opposed the runway and said the documentation for the construction was not based on current data. Lysolaje is one of the city districts near the airport that would be affected by the new runway.

The environmental impact assessment uses data from 2005 and the construction plan is 50 years old. He also said the plan does not take into account coronavirus, which will transform air transport for some time.

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Environmental organization Arnika said the decision ran counter to Prague’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030. Other opponents to the new runway included Prague Zoo director Miroslav Bobek.

Prague Airport director Václav Řehoř said the negative impact of the new runway will only affect several thousand people, while with the abolition of the current transverse runway will stop planes flying over the city, where it now affects up to hundreds of thousands of people.

Prague Airport plans to invest approximately CZK 55 billion over the next 30 years. In addition to the construction of a new runway, it wants to expand Terminal 2, which is used for flights to the Schengen area. This should be done by 2028.

The airport has already applied for a zoning decision to build a second runway. However, this has been delayed by a district court at the request of the Nebušice and Suchdol districts. The case has been appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court.

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Václav Havel Airport Prague opened April 5, 1937, as Prague Ruzyně Airport. After former president Václav Havel died on Dec. 18, 2011, an online petition asked the government to rename it. The change took place Oct. 5, 2012, on what would have been Havel’s 76th birthday.