The cable car on Petřín celebrates the 130th anniversary. It may stop running without reconstruction
For more than thirty-five years, the cars of the cable car on Petřín have been operating without any major repairs. But that has to change soon, because the cableway's railway body is reaching the end of its service life. According to calculations, it will last another four to five years maximum. Therefore, the City of Prague and PPT are preparing not only the reconstruction of the cable car line to Petřín, but also the purchase of brand new cars.
This year, Prague plans to announce a design competition for the new look of the cars. The first passengers could take the modernized cable car to Petřín at the earliest at the end of 2023. The estimated costs for the reconstruction of the line and the purchase of new cars are approximately 210 million CZK.
Lifespan was estimated at 20 years
It carries more than 2 million passengers a year. The current track dates from the first half of the 80s, and so do the bodies of both cars. It was built after 80% of the original track had been destroyed by massive landslides on the Petřin slope in 1967. The chassis frames are even older. They were manufactured in 1931 in the Ringhoffer factory in Prague, and refurbished in the first half of the 1980s as well. The manufacturer estimated their service life at about 20 years.
"One of the most attractive tourist icons of Prague and the whole Czech Republic deserves not a unified, but a distinctive design, which we best ensure with a design competition, from which I also expect to increase the capacity of the cars to the max in the given technical and dimensional conditions. We have to reconstruct the cable car to Petřín and buy new cars, otherwise it may happen that it will stop running within five years,"
said Adam Scheinherr, the Deputy Mayor and Chairman of the PPT Supervisory Board, noting that the basic technical parameters of the cars cannot be influenced, but potential manufacturers offer the possibility of individual design of fronts, interior or windows and, of course, color. Thanks to this, Prague will get not only new, but also unique cars of the cable car to Petřín, which can serve for at least another 30 years. At the same time, the reconstruction will enable us to carry out construction modifications to gradually give the cable car to Petřín a barrier-free access.
The operation of the cable car was already suspended twice
In 1996, PPT repaired the bridge supports, built a new bridge and the Nebozízek stop between 2015 and 2016 due to the emergency condition of the original structure from 1985. The gradually deteriorating technical condition of the line due to poor quality subsoil and non-functional drainage was confirmed in 2018 by a diagnostic study, in which experts from CTU also participated.
In July this year, the cable car to Petřín will celebrate 130 years since the start of its operation. It had to be suspended twice in history, for 12 years shortly after the founding of Czechoslovakia, and for another 20 years in the 1960s.
"We don't want to allow another suspension of its operation, except for the necessary time, during which we will reconstruct the track and test new cars. The Petřín slope is sliding, the track needs acute reconstruction within 4-5 years. The cars have a twisted frame and about the same longevity as the track. On the other hand, it doesn't make economic sense to reconstruct the track without knowing what cars will be running on it for about another 30 years,"
stated Jan Šurovský, a Member of the Board of Directors of PPT and Technical Director - Povrch (Surface).
A technical masterpiece
The base of the cable car, or the cable car drive unit, will be preserved because it is a protected national heritage. The only thing that should change is the braking system. The existing cable car to Petřín uses an emergency brake called "on the rope". However, no one has been producing this technology for several decades. Most current cableways use an emergency brake called "on the rail".
"The cable car to Petřín, which started operating in 1891, is of immense importance to us, it's a real technical masterpiece. The number of passengers, which can get up to 250,000 in the summer months, is on average over two million a year. And since the launch of the modern operation in 1985, the cable car has transported over 55 million people. That is why it is important that the reconstruction takes place to such an extent that the safe transport of people is ensured, so that the cable car can serve visitors for decades to come,"