Prague votes to preserve original look of historical railway bridge

The riveted bridge structure, one of the most recognizable landmarks in the capital, is a protected piece of technical heritage. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 24.03.2023 09:59:00 (updated on 24.03.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

The Prague municipal government wants the historical railway bridge that crosses the Vltava river near Výton to be renovated in its present shape. The City Assembly yesterday rejected the previously proposed replacement of the bridge with a new one.

Both the city’s governing coalition and opposition parties supported the preservation of the riveted bridge structure, which is protected technical heritage.

But ultimately, the final decision on the shape of the bridge rests with the Transport Ministry, the Railway Administration (SŽ), the Culture Ministry, and the state heritage protection authorities. The resolution passed by the Prague Assembly is largely symbolic.

In the resolution passed yesterday, the City Assembly agreed with the need to add a third track to the bridge's current two and called for the quickest possible renovation that would preserve “the character, mass, and spirit” of the riveted arch structure as much as possible.

Vyšehrad seen through the railway bridge. Photo: Raymond Johnston
Vyšehrad seen through the railway bridge. Photo: Raymond Johnston

Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda said the bridge has exceptional architectural value, and he is glad that preservation had support across the political spectrum. “The renovation will undoubtedly be demanding and technologically complex, but due to the improvement of railway connections in this part of the metropolis, it is inevitable,” he said in a press release.

He said he believes a suitable solution will be found and that he met with Transport Minister Martin Kupka on Wednesday to offer to organize a professional seminar to resolve the issue. Kupka previously said he wants a definitive decision by the end of the year.

Deputy Mayor Jiří Pospíšil, responsible for heritage preservation, said the city should find out whether UNESCO has an opinion. “It would be extremely undesirable if Prague were threatened with being removed from the UNESCO list because of a clumsy decision,” he said. The center of Prague has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992, but has been threatened with removal in the past.

New designs met with widespread criticism

The Railway Administration (SŽ) presented the results of an international architectural competition for the new bridge's design late last year. The winning project would preserve only the lower part of the bridge including the pillars, and the riveted upper structure would be replaced by a new one.

Winning design for the railway bridge at Výton. Photo: Railway Administration.
Winning design for the railway bridge at Výton. Photo: Railway Administration.

The new designs were met with a wave of criticism, even making some international headlines.

The original railway bridge at Výtoň was put into operation on Aug. 15, 1872. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, it was replaced with a new bridge, which has been in operation since. Experts said the bridge structure is a significant piece of technical heritage in the Prague urban conservation reserve. The SŽ in the past unsuccessfully sought the withdrawal of the bridge's heritage protection status.

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