Prague’s Vršovice and Strašnice neighborhoods to get their own 'New York Highline'

A section of unused railway to become a linear park for pedestrians, cyclists and skaters.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 30.11.2020 15:04 (updated on 30.11.2020)

A four-kilometer-long Railway Promenade between Prague’s Vršovice and Strašnice neighborhoods is planned along the former the Benešov line railway corridor. It should open in 2024.

The promenade will be surrounded by a linear park, connected by three new bridges and new places for leisure, recreation and culture. People can look forward to a continuous park between the existing natural areas and other locations in the Prague districts 2, 4, 10 and 15. Existing trees, meadows, lawns and the central vegetation zone of the promenade will be protected. New trees will be planted at the promenade’s access and rest areas.

“We will get new barrier-free places for meetings and for social and cultural activities for everyone, regardless of age and agility. It will offer Praguers plenty of space for walking, cycling or skating. It's a win-win for everyone,” Prague Deputy Mayor Adam Scheinherr (Praha sobě) said in press release.

Route of the planned Railway Promenade.
Route of the planned Railway Promenade. (image: Tomáš Cach, Terra Florida, Petr Tej)

“We will preserve something from every period of railway history for future generations. Along the way, original parts of the track, lighting towers, sleeper cars and traffic lights will be on display,” Scheinherr said.

A stone underpass from the 19th century, a riveted bridge from 1918, a footbridge at the Strašnice train stop from the 1930s and part of the platform from the second half of the 20th century will remain along the promenade route.

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“We have brought together inspirations from the New York High Line and Paris’s Promenade plantée with Dutch bicycle highways and German city parks created from railway brownfields. Prague will again have one more unique element in the world,” Scheinherr said.

Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib (Pirates) added that it was not intended as a tourist attraction but for city residents. “We certainly do not want the promenade to cause gentrification of the surroundings, as has happened elsewhere in the world (reducing accessibility and increasing the price). That is why our promenade should primarily serve Praguers,” he said on Facebook.

The railway promenade will become the green motorless backbone of Vršovice and Strašnice, according to City Hall. A four-meter-wide belt will be divided into two lanes for cyclists and skaters in both directions. Another lane for pedestrians will be 3.2 meters wide and will be separated from cyclists by a green belt, paving or the original rail track, depending on the location. The outer edges will have a parallel network of unpaved footpaths.

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The larger recreation places include an area at the Strašnice stop and a location near Eden, which has the potential to become similar to the Karlín’s Přístav 18600.

Scheinherr said the city has finished the concept for the documentation for the zoning decision. “The plan is to obtain a zoning decision next year and a building permit in 2022. Then a competition for a construction contractor will start. In 2024 at the latest, Praguers should be able to start using the green motorless backbone in Prague 10,” Scheinherr said.

Prague Deputy Mayor Petr Hlaváček (United Force for Prague) said the project combines respect for the historical footprint of the original railway with contemporary public space architecture. “It will undoubtedly become the new backbone of public life in the city district and a popular destination for Praguers, which is why with some exaggeration we call it the ‘New Prague High Line,’” he said.

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“The promenade route also leads through an area where we expect new construction. I hope that the quality brought by the Railway Promenade will be reflected in future projects in its vicinity, and that the city's investment in public space will set a quality standard for the reclamation of adjacent brownfields and the transformation of the district,” he said.

Prague 10 Mayor Renata Chmelová (VLASTA) said the park would benefit the district. “In addition to improving permeability, we will get new and much-needed places for meeting and spending free time in nature, which our city district lacks so much in these locations,” she said.

The railway promenade will be built on the double-track Benešov line, which, after 150 years, will end its operation in December due to the relocation and modernization of the line.

The first stage will be construction of the main part of the promenade between U Seřadiště and Dolínecká streets, together with access points and selected adjoining areas of the linear park.

The next stages include a direct connection to the Vršovice railway station and implementation of other parts of the linear park. The plan is being prepared through the Technical Road Administration (TSK).

The main architect, event coordinator and co-author of the promenade concept is architect and traffic urban planner Tomáš Cach. The co-authors of the concept and the authors of the landscape architecture design are Lucie Vogelová, Zuzana Štemberová and Markéta Mádrová from landscape architecture studio Terra Florida. The footbridges are designed by architect and bridge engineer Petr Tej.

“The promenade should look generous, calm and minimalist, intuitive and clear in terms of orientation. The morphology and materials should be contemporary and at the same time refer to the railway past — the basic materials are light concrete, rusty colored asphalt, gravel and corroded steel. The promenade’s public lighting is placed on overhangs between poles so they frame the free space of the promenade and its continuous flow,” Cach said.

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Terra Florida’s Vogelová and Štemberová said everything is designed with an emphasis on natural values and sustainability. “In the linear park, space is left for nature in natural forms. The existing landscape elements are complemented by new ones to form an interconnected system of urban landscape,” they said.

The plan includes the renovation of a historic bridge and three new footbridges. "The footbridges are strung like beads on a thread on the railway promenade route. Their morphology is minimalist. … The surface of the footbridge structure is made of patinated steel,” Tej said.