Prague ‘Blanka’ tunnel at least Kč 10 bln over budget

Mayor Svoboda says the Blanka road tunnel will cost at least Kč 10 billion more than planned; the completion date is now uncertain

Tom Jones 29.7.2011

Ex-Prague mayor Pavel Bém attending a ceremony to mark the beginning of drilling on a section of the Blanka Tunnel, which is now over budget and behind schedule foto: © ČTKČeská pozice

Ex-Prague mayor Pavel Bém attending a ceremony to mark the beginning of drilling on a section of the Blanka Tunnel, which is now over budget and behind schedule

Speaking on television on Sunday, Prague’s new mayor Bohuslav Svoboda (Civic Democrats, ODS) revealed that the Blanka road tunnel — the largest current public works project in the capital — will cost at least Kč 35 billion and will not be finished on schedule. Svoboda’s predecessor, Pavel Bém, had assured the public that the project would not cost more than Kč 25 billion and be finished in November 2011.

Svoboda, who has been in the job for almost three months, revealed in an interview with Czech Television host Václav Moravec on Sunday that the overall cost of the Blanka road tunnel is set to rise by Kč 10 billion. He added that the city administration does not have the funds to finance the extra costs, which will probably mean that the “tempo of work will have to be decreased.”

In a subsequent interview with the server iHNed.cz, Svoboda said that the contract concluded with Metrostav — the developer building the tunnel complex — by the previous administration “is so badly written” that the company can simply inform the administration of extra work and material costs which the city is obliged to accept.

“In Prague 6, they’re building a different by-pass than was planned, and they’re building a bridge across the river that costs Kč 1.2 billion as opposed to Kč 400 million,” Svoboda said of Metrostav’s explanation for the significant rise in the cost of the project.

On Monday morning, Karel Březina (ČSSD), first deputy major of Prague for transportation, said the large rise in the costs of the project was revealed during an analysis of transport spending that he had ordered.    

“When I found out about the figures, I was very shocked because I was still under the impression of what we had been told by former mayor Pavel Bem, that ‘everything is as it should be, construction is going to plan and according to the contract,’” Březina told Czech Television.      

Explaining the rise in costs in more detail, Březina said extra work and building expenses would cost Kč 6.5 billion, while valorization factors, namely inflation, would cost an extra Kč 3.5 billion. Asked whether that second figure quoted by Březina was correct, Metrostav spokesman František Polák told Czech Position, “I can’t say for sure; I’m not an economist.”

Polák said the main reason for the rise in cost was extra work commissioned by the Prague administration, including additional requirements for the planned bridge between the Holešovice and Troja districts, such as bicycle lanes.

According to Metrostav’s spokesman, the only delay in the project was caused by complications with planning permission for a section of the tunnel that runs under the old perimeter walls of Prague Castle, as a result of which the project’s completion date was pushed back from November 2011 to December 2012. “We have the technical capacity to complete the project by that time,” Polák said, adding that everything now depends on the further financing of the project. Sections of the Blanka tunnel complex have collapsed three times during construction, causing craters in the surface above.

Both Svoboda and Březina said that they intend to negotiate with developer Metrostav to seek a reduction in the extra costs and to ascertain whether additional features in the project, reportedly added following the issue of the tender, are absolutely necessary.  At the same time, the Prague administration must agree with the developer on a timetable for the financing of the project. Until an agreement is reached, a new completion date cannot be set.

Sections of the Blanka tunnel complex have collapsed three times during construction, causing craters in the surface above; in the Stromovka Park in May and October 2008, and in July 2010 right next to the Ministry of Culture. Remarkably, nobody was injured during the collapses.

The Mining Institute fined Metrostav Kč 1 million for the collapse next to the Ministry of Culture after concluding that the company had drilled the tunnel too fast without implementing all technical requirements. Metrostav also paid the Prague administration Kč 6.5 million in damages in an out-of-court settlement.

When finished, the 6.3 kilometer tunnel complex will be the longest road tunnel in the Czech Republic.