Modernising Prague’s tram infrastructure

31 August 2017  •  Author(s): Miroslav Penc, Head of Tram Infrastructure Unit from the Prague Public Transit Company

With over 340km of track, modernising Prague’s tram infrastructure is a big job. Here, Miroslav Penc, Head of Tram Infrastructure Unit from the Prague Public Transit Company, outlines some of the work being done to improve Prague’s tram tracks and upgrade the network’s signalling system, all without inconveniencing passengers or adding to the programme’s budget.

Modernising Prague’s tram infrastructure

Prague’s tram (or light rail) network has been in operation since 1875, and throughout that time has gradually expanded into its current 142km double track network. With tracks in depots included, its length is 340km of single track in total and it has 940 switches. Owing to last year’s economic growth, the number of trams in operation during the morning peak exceeds 400, which is the highest number in the European Union.

All of this use results in track deterioration. Key factors in the deterioration of tracks include its construction method, its age (including superstructure), the weight and power of the vehicles on the track, and the level of tram and other vehicle traffic.

Over the past 10 years it has been necessary to improve the condition of Prague’s track as it was in rather bad condition due, in part, to the delivery of many low floor vehicles. These vehicles have been equipped with more power to provide good acceleration on gradients over 7% and they weigh more due to the technology involved in low floor vehicles.

As part of Prague’s track infrastructure renovation programme, the BKV system (also known as the Nikex system) – which is track construction using block rails with concrete plates – has been replaced by the construction method of using standard sleeper tracks (both with grooved and vignole rails) and slab track. A sleeper track is generally used on separated right-of-way open or grassed track, while slab track is mainly used as an on-street track form covered with asphalt layers.

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