UNESCO calls for preservation of historic Výton railway bridge

The Czech Railway Administration hopes to completely redesign the bridge, whereas UNESCO believes it is too culturally significant to change.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 07.06.2023 07:30:00 (updated on 06.06.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

The UNESCO World Heritage Center has written to the Ministry of Culture asking for Prague’s historical Výton railway bridge to be preserved. The 19th-century bridge that carries two rail tracks and is one of Prague’s most recognizable landmarks may get a total redesign by the Railway Administration (SŽ). 

Too much history to tear down

An announcement in 2022 that showed the planned, brand-new design received widespread criticism for being at odds with the area’s look. The new bridge, which will have three tracks, would also reduce noise, carry more weight, and ostensibly be safer.

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

UNESCO believes that the bridge is an important part of Prague’s panorama, also pointing to the fact that it is declared a cultural monument of Czechia and that Prague itself is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The letter, signed by the head of the UNESCO World Heritage Center Lazare Assomo, explains that the design of the new bridge lacks the elegance and sophistication of the current one.

Should it stay?

Over 15,000 people have also signed a petition that criticizes the proposed redesign. According to those who hope to preserve the bridge, the repair of the railway tracks on the bridge is possible without totally altering its structure and look.

The Czech National Committee of the International Council on Monuments and Sites also says that the bridge is repairable and its preservation in its current form should be a priority due to its value.

The Prague municipal government also supports the preservation of the bridge’s current look. However, the city does not decide the fate of the railway bridge, which belongs to the SŽ.

Or should it go?

Not everyone believes the current bridge should stay, however. Jiří Kolísk, director of the Klokner Institute of Czech Technical University, says that reconstruction maintaining the bridge’s current appearance while ensuring it would deal with increased traffic loads is “unfeasible.”

Others say that the bridge is in such poor condition that its reconstruction would be long, even more expensive than a replacement, and its lifespan would be significantly shorter than a new bridge. 

Civic initiative group Výtoň 21, which campaigns for a new bridge, similarly said that the 152-year-old bridge is not fit for current use. 

"When a train passes on Výton, an earthquake occurs"

Jiří Grund of Výtoň 21

The SŽ similarly says that a replacement is essential, and has in the past attempted to remove the bridge’s culturally protected status to guarantee its replacement. Czechia Minister of Transport Martin Kupka has said he wants a final decision to be made by the end of 2023.

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