Presenter: Robert Pritchard – Fixtures Secretary, Sheffield Branch.
The Thames Valley branch welcomed as its speaker for this month Robert Pritchard, a name known to many as Editor, Todays Railways (UK). Robert is also the Fixtures Secretary, Sheffield branch. The meeting was, as usual during the pandemic, a virtual one using Zoom and attended by 53 members and guests. Robert kicked off the talk by giving the audience some history of his love of the Czech Republic. His first visit was in 2011 and has visited at least once per year since. The Czech Republic and Slovakia were formed out of Czechoslovakia in 1993 and joined the EU in 2004. It has become the 5th most visited country in the EU. His interest led to the publication of Platform 5 European Handbook – Czech and Slovak Railways in 2015 which is currently being updated.
The first city to be visited during the evening was Prague (Praha). It has a tram system of some 143 km on which it operates 31 lines. The track length is 518 Km, of these 52% are segregated, 48% are street operation, it has 91% usage and in 2018 carried 373 million passengers, the average age of units 12 to 13 years and has 600 stations. The network crosses the main River Vltava 8 times, and the airport is the busiest in Europe not connected to any form of rail network, although it is understood it will be in the future. The tram system runs 05.00 to 24.00 and operates a 15-minute schedule and a 30-minute schedule between 24.00 and 05.00. in the city centre. A day ticket costs 110 CZ Crowns (approx. £3) or a 3-day ticket for 330 CZ Crowns. Richard supplemented his talk with many photographs mainly taken by himself. The photographs showed not only the various models of trams, but the liveries used. It was noted that there is very little in the way of advertising on the trams. Next was a visit to all 7 depots, the two largest, Hloobetin and Vokovice have 27 roads. These visits enabled Robert to take several photographs. Also in Prague was an interesting tram museum.
The second half of the meeting took the audience to Plzen (famous for the Pilsner brewery and the Skoda works) some 113 km west of Prague. It is the 4th largest city in the Czech Republic and has 26 km tram network taking 25 to 30 minutes to travel end to end. Unlike the trams in Prague there is a lot of advertising on the trams and the liveries are very colourful. The system has a 20-road shed. Usage during most of the year is 48 units during the peak, reducing to 33 at peak per day in August. Average distance per day is 200 km and have a top speed of 50 km per hour. The city also has a heritage fleet of 5 cars. An extension to Line 4, intended to serve the University, was opened in December 2019 having been started in August 2018.
The third and last place that Robert showed during the evening was Most a town about 77 km north west of Prague. The tram system connects the town with Litvinov, some 19 km with a journey time of 35 minutes end to end. Most has a population of 70000 whilst Litvinov population is 28000. This area is generally not on the tourist map. It is quite an industrial area, and the town was relocated because of the coal seams underneath the old town.
Robert concluded his talk with a summary of the tram systems in the Czech Republic. Prague – 143 km, Plzen – 26 km, Most – 19 km, Liberec – 21 km, Bruno (2nd City) – 70 km, Olomouc – 16 km and Ostrava (3rd City) – 56 km.