A plan from Czech railways to replace the emblematic landmark with a modern structure is facing an impassioned backlash.
Last November, the Railway Administration (Správa železnic) announced that the old steel bridge going from Výton to Smíchov will be discarded.
Designed by František Prášil, a Czech engineer of the late Habsburg era, the bridge was built in 1901 and spans the Vltava river, carrying mainline trains between Prague and other European cities, including Munich.
The plan is for it to be replaced by a new white bridge, which is planned to be wider and include one additional track, sparking controversy. The Guardian is writing about the demolition of the bridge and the opposition that has mobilized itself.
Richard Biegel the chairman of the Club for Old Prague preservation group had a similar observation, claiming that “It’s (the bridge) something emblematic for Prague.”
“The importance of the bridge for Prague is like that of the Eiffel tower for Paris. It’s also important as a marker of the period of the industrial revolution in the city.” Moreover, the bridge is a UNESCO World Heritage site, further cementing its importance as part of the cityscape.
Nevertheless, Jan Nevola, a spokesperson for the Railway Administration, said that a new bridge was needed because renovating the existing one was unrealistic. “Its condition is so bad that it would essentially be a replica made up of more than 60% new parts” Jan said. “At the same time this approach is much more costly, will not allow an increase in traffic, and would only extend the lifetime by several decades,” he adds.
Despite the seemingly hesitant Railway Administration, the Ministry of Culture claims that the reconstruction of the bridge is possible. The Railway Administration has acted accordingly. It launched an architectural competition and left the architects to deal with it in their own way. They could choose between reconstruction of the bridge or new construction.
The potential removal of the bridge has stirred much controversy and emotions have transformed to actions.
A petition has gathered close to 9000 signatures by the second half of January. Furthermore, it is not just people that are discontent with the possible removal of the bridge, but also Prague’s administration.
Adam Scheinherr, Prague’s deputy mayor responsible for the city’s transport infrastructure and cultural landmarks, said: “What’s most important about the bridge is that it belongs to the panorama of Prague, and the people of Prague cannot imagine the city without it. When you see movies set in Prague, the railway bridge is nearly always there.”
While many post-industrial revolution structures may not be the most beautiful parts of Prague, they are nonetheless part of its rich architectural history.
One must remember that even the Eiffel Tower was once considered an eyesore in Paris.