The tender to build the new track between Rokycany and Plzeň in western Bohemia is being billed as the country’s largest rail infrastructure project in 20 years. Originally, the complete project was forecast to cost around Kč 10 billion, but the Railway Infrastructure Administration (SŽDC) says it now expects offers even lower than Kč 7.5 billion. The new track will, however, only cut the journey time between Prague and Plzeň by six minutes.
The SŽDC — the state agency under the jurisdiction of the Transport Ministry that owns and operates the country’s rail network — says it expects to choose a winning offer to build around 11 kilometers of track, renovate another 10 kilometers, and build a four-kilometer tunnel between Rokycany and Plzeň, by the end of May.
Longest tunnel for EU vision
Work on the modernization must commence by the end of the summer in order for the Czech Republic not to forego EU funding for the project“The need for complete modernization stems from the [EU] vision for transport corridors dating back to the 1990s, which has still not been fulfilled,” Transport Ministry spokesman Martin Novák told Czech Television’s news channel ČT24. The stretch to be modernized lies on the Nuremburg–Prague–Vienna–Sofia–Athens high-speed corridor envisaged by the EU.
On the same route within the Czech Republic, the stretch of line between Beroun, around 30 kilometers southwest of Prague, and the Czech capital also requires modernization but no timetable has been set for the works.
In 2015, trains will be able to travel at speeds up to 160 kilometers per hour along the completed Rokycany–Plzeň stretch. The difference to passengers will be slight, Novák said, with journey times expected to be cut by five to six minutes.
“The current section between Rokycany and Plzeň will be shortened by 6 kilometers and a new section of the route will pass through a new four-kilometer of tunnel,” SŽDC spokesman Pavel Halla was cited by ČT24 as saying. The new tunnel will be the longest in the Czech Republic.
With Czech spending of EU funds coming under increasingly close scrutiny by the European Commission, the SŽDC is keen to stress that everything will be done to prevent conditions conducive for corrupt practices. “We are counting on a multi-level inspection mechanism. Apart from the Supreme Audit Office (NKÚ) and the Anti-Monopoly Office (ÚOHS), the European Commission will also carefully monitor how the money from the Cohesion Fund is spent. Therefore, we are not worried about any dubious practices,” Halla said.
The SŽDC spokesman said that the tender commission that will select the winning bid will also serve to apprehend any potential corrupt schemes thanks to lawyers representing the Transport Ministry and SŽDC sitting on the commission. “We consider this to be an important anti-corruption element,” Halla said.
The state agency also says the tender rules stipulate that the contractor must complete the majority of work using their own resources as opposed to hiring subcontractors, which should reduce the potential for corruption, the prospect of delays or a rise in costs.
The SŽDC and Transport Ministry have essentially issued the tender in the twelfth hour: work on the modernization must commence by the end of the summer in order for the Czech Republic not to forego EU funding for the project.