All change for Czech railway infrastructure

Posted: 30 July 2007 | | No comments yet

The Czech Republic owns one of the densest railway networks in Europe. The total length of lines is approximately 9,500km and the Czech territory represents an area of ca 79,000km2. Geographical location of our republic within the centre of Europe is convenient as regards to the most significant transit directions.

The Czech Republic owns one of the densest railway networks in Europe. The total length of lines is approximately 9,500km and the Czech territory represents an area of ca 79,000km2. Geographical location of our republic within the centre of Europe is convenient as regards to the most significant transit directions.

The Czech Republic owns one of the densest railway networks in Europe. The total length of lines is approximately 9,500km and the Czech territory represents an area of ca 79,000km2. Geographical location of our republic within the centre of Europe is convenient as regards to the most significant transit directions.

Two international railway corridors run through the Czech Republic. One of them is the Pan-European Corridor No. IV, sometimes described as the E Corridor for the north-south direction from northern seaports to the east and south of Europe. The other Pan-European Corridor is the VI Corridor, for the north-south direction, currently being one of the crucial directions for the freight transit transport via the Czech territory. These corridors together with other two national railway corridors symbolize an imaginary backbone of our railway network. The Czech railway provides both an internal linkage of big cities and an international connection to the network of European railways.

In recent years, there have been fundamental reforms within the Czech railway system. Not only has the ownership structure radically changed, but also the corridor and local lines are being continuously modernised. Railway network access liberalisation brings new carriers and results in an expanded circle of offered services. Everybody involved in the operation, development and modernisation of the Czech Railway is aiming to put the railway transport in a respectable position within the transport system of the Czech Republic and the whole of Europe.

Czech railway transformation

Czech railway transport has a long history. The first railway (even though horse-driven) ran from Ceske Budejovice to Austrian Linec and was operational in 1828. The first steam railway of Ferdinand the Emperor in the section Vienna–Breclav–Brno has been operated here since 1839. The second half of the 20th century saw a period of stagnation, with minimum investments in railway infrastructure and in train sets. Political changes after 1989 allowed new projects to be implemented within the railway transport, especially big modernisation projects since the mid-90s.

By the end of 2002, there was one railway company in the Czech Republic – Czech Railways. Pursuant to the Transformation Act, two successor organisations were established as of 1st January 2003 – the Railway Infrastructure Administration (SZDC) and the Czech Railways joint-stock company (CD). The new relationship structure within the railway system, in particular between SZDC and CD was based on a French model.

SZDC has the function of a rail owner who is obliged to provide operability, i.e. maintenance and repairs, operation of the railway infrastructure and its modernisation, thus creating the best possible non-discriminatory conditions for all carriers on the network. SZDC is also a path capacity allocator. CD is a rail transport operator and it still remains the biggest national carrier.

Within the transformation, the railway property was also reallocated. SZDC took over all assets representing the railway infrastructure, as generally defined by the EU legislation. It includes railway superstructure and substructure, bridges, tunnels, signaling devices, overhead and feeding installations. The grounds in railway stations and station buildings are still owned by Czech Railways, as well as all mobile means, i.e. locomotives and cars for passenger and freight transport, depot facilities and car shops, movable and immovable assets necessary for repairing and maintaining the railway infrastructure.

Shortly after adopting the Transformation Act, it turned out that the relations regulated by the transformation had not always been 100% functional. This fact became most obvious in the effect of investor-engineering services related to investment implementation within the modernisation and development of the railway infrastructure. At first, these services were provided for SZDC by Czech Railways, joint-stock company, through its three organisational units – Civil Engineering Administrations in Prague, Pilsen and Olomouc. As of 1 January 2004, these units were transferred from CD to SZDC. In addition to these units, also specialists needed for the concept, strategy and development of the railway infrastructure, legislation, regulation work and defining technical parameters left CD for SZDC. At present, SZDC meets these basic functions with its own capacities.

I believe that the transformation of our railway system has not been fully completed yet. Another step will be the currently anticipated change of relations between SZDC and CD. Following this change, the function of the rail operator will be transferred from CD to SZDC. Nowadays, management and maintenance of the railway infrastructure is contractually provided by 13 executive units of Czech Railways for SZDC – infrastructure administrations in individual regions of the Czech Republic. These units are expected to become part of SZDC in the future. Also, the personnel involved in developing timetables should go over to SZDC. Telecommunication assets and the property on which the railway infrastructure is located and which are still owned by CD, are expected to be transferred as well. This legally and legislatively complex process is to be implemented during 2008.

Transit railway corridors – infrastructure for Czech and European railway transport

The Czech Republic lies in the centre of Europe, which makes it a natural crossroads of the trans-European railway lines. The following two Pan-European Corridors run through the Czech Republic:

  • IV Pan-European Corridor
    This Corridor runs from the state border with Germany via Decin, Prague, Ceska Trebova, Brno and Breclav to the state border with Austria identical with our I Transit National Railway Corridor.
  • VI Pan-European Corridor
    This Corridor runs from the state border with Austria via Breclav, Prerov, Ostrava to the border with Poland identical with our II Transit National Railway Corridor.

Other two national railway corridors III and IV were included among the lines of priority European interest by the European Commission in 2005.

In the 1990s, the Czech Government adopted a resolution on the modernisation of I Transit Railway Corridor (TZK) and this launched the era of corridor lines modernisation in the Czech Republic. It was followed by the construction of II TZK, and later even by III TZK (state border with Germany, Pilsen, Prague, Olomouc, Ostrava, border with Slovakia) and by IV TÎK (state border with Germany, Decin, Prague, Ceske Budejovice, Horni Dvoriste, border with Austria). Corridor modernisation and optimisation have been under way in the Czech Republic for more than ten years. It is undoubtedly the biggest railway event and the most significant investment in railway infrastructure in the last hundred years. The extent of the construction has an impact on the life of cities and urban areas through which the corridors pass, on comfort of the passengers as well as on working conditions of railway personnel. This is the reason it has attracted so much attention for the public and news media.

A modern state should clearly define its transport policy. The Czech railway in previous decades, practically since the early 40s, has suffered from a lack of necessary financial means, its development has been neglected and its importance underrated. Modernization of high-quality railway corridors, its connection with neighbouring countries and guarantee of parameters complying with international needs by maintaining a reasonable volume of investment – that is the way to enhance the competitiveness of the railway transport. Certainly it is possible to have discussions on individual parameters, in particular on track speeds. Our corridor reconstruction does not involve building high-speed lines in completely new tracks, but mainly putting the current lines in a condition which now represents a common European standard.

The corridors interconnect the Czech railway network and the lines of the most significant European arterial railways with a view to maintaining/increasing the volume of transportation by rail. The corridors offer a high-quality and comfortable roadway, speed enhancement resulting in shorter traveling time and also allow operation of units with tilting boxes. Last but not least, it results in corridor modernisation, enhancement of passenger safety and railway operation. All new stops and stations are equipped with raised platforms and subways with barrier-free access. Although the railway transport is a transport mode with the least negative impact on the environment, we build anti-noise walls and other precautions along modernized lines – e.g. a flexible rail fixture reduces the noise near the railway to the minimum in compliance with strict requirements of European sanitary standards.

Completion of railway corridor modernisation in the Czech Republic is anticipated by 2016. Simultaneously with the corridor modernisation, there is also modernisation of individual railway junctions, urgent reconstruction of other lines, signaling device, electrification of selected lines and further investment in the railway infrastructure.

Railway junctions

As a follow-up to the modernisation of the transit railway corridors, there is modernisation of crucial railway junctions under way. Transit through the railway junctions of Decin, Chocen and Bohumin has been completed. Constructions of transits through the railway junctions of Usti nad Labem, Kolin and Breclav are being implemented. Surely, the most significant reconstruction of a railway junction is the modernisation of the railway network on the territory of the capital of Prague, the so-called ‘New Link’. It involves interconnection of the most important Prague stations, enhancement of speed and traffic-carrying capacity. At the same time, Prague will get much better connected to the transit national railway corridors. This construction includes two entirely new double-track tunnels, a number of flyovers and grade separation. Within this railway investment action, there will be a complex improvement of the road transport situation in our capital – e.g. by eliminating level crossings etc. This year, modernisation of a railway junction in the second largest city of the Czech Republic – Brno – is to be started.


Corridor modernisation is intended for the speed of up to 160km/h and in terms of interoperability the technical parameters comply with the conditions of Technical Specifications of Interoperability with conventional lines. At the same time, the ERTMS system, both GSM-R system and ETCS system, is being developed in the Czech Republic. The ETCS system has been developed on the first half of I Corridor in the section of Decin – Prague – Kolin, as regards the remaining section of I Corridor (Kolin – Breclav) the system is to be completed in 2008. The same system is to be built in 2009 on II Corridor and later also on other corridors and other significant lines.

The path of I Corridor is a part of the so-called ‘corridor E’, on which the ERTMS system is built within the European Union. SZDC was pleased about the fact that the representatives of the Ministries of Transport from various countries situated on this corridor successively signed the ‘letter of intent’. This document signed by the involved countries expressed a common interest in the development of this European system. This standpoint will be a basis for discussions with the European Commission concerning the provision of necessary financial means.

Technical parameters of track circuits applied before in the Czech Republic do not allow a full-extent operation of some foreign tractive units with induction motors. It relates to the so-called electromagnetic compatibility. This problem has already been solved on the currently modernised lines. SZDC assumes that the electromagnetic compatibility will soon be solved on the early modernised lines as well.


Provision of sufficient funds is the most important step to be taken in order to successfully implement modernisation and reconstruction plans of the railway infrastructure. The following sources are available in the Czech Republic:

  1. Operation control is financed from track access charges, whereas the current costs amount to ca ?180 million per year, which is nearly €19 thousand per 1km of the line.
  2. Administration, maintenance and repairs of the railway infrastructure are covered mainly from state subsidies and partially also from track access charges. The present annual costs amount to ca €240 million., i.e. €24.5 thousand per 1km of the line, which is insufficient. With regard to the administration, maintenance and repairs of the railway infrastructure, based on SZDC calculations it would be necessary to spend 40% more financial means than today.
  3. Modernisation and development of the railway infrastructure (i.e. investment) is covered particularly from state subsidies, loans paid by the state, partially also from loans paid by SZDC and of course from EU funds. So far, financial means of €425-495 million have been spent per year, which is ca €44-52 thousand per 1km of the line. Out of this – in the budget period of 2004-2006 – approximately ?78 million was drawn upon EU funds per year. For the period of 2007 – 2013, expected sources for the railway infrastructure will amount to ca €335 million per year. In order to meet all needs of the railway infrastructure, modernisation and development would definitely require an annual amount substantially higher. This statement is undoubtedly identical with all railway administrations.


All carriers meeting the conditions set by EU legislation are allowed access to the railway infrastructure in the Czech Republic. SZDC guarantees equal and non-discriminatory treatment.

I am convinced we will succeed in reaching all objectives we had set before the transformation of the railway system in the Czech Republic and that the railway will assume a firm position in the transport system of the Czech Republic in the 21st Century. The guarantee of the success lies in the team of experienced specialists working for SZDC as well as our business partners and cooperators. It is the international cooperation that is required for a modern European railway in the future.

About the author

After graduation from the College of Transport and Communications in Zilina, Jan Komarek’s career has seen him take posts in a number of functions at the former Czechoslovak State Railways before the Republic split. Later in his career, Mr. Komarek worked for the Czech Railways, State Organisation, with the exception of 1995-1999 (employed with a private firm). In 1999, he returned to the Czech Railways, State Organisation, first in the function of a Technical Deputy Managing Director of Infrastructure Division and then he became Managing Director of this Division. On 1 January 2003, he was appointed Director General of the Railway Infrastructure Administration, State Organisation which is one of the successor organisations of the Czech Railways after its transformation.

Related organisations

Related regions

Related people

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.