Blanka tunnel to go at least 10 billion crowns over budget

08-02-2011

It was not that long ago that previous leadership at Prague City Hall assured the public that the massive Blanka tunnel under construction in the capital would be finished on time and within its 26 billion crown budget. So it must have been a rude awakening, for those at City Hall now – including new Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda – to learn nothing could be further from the truth. The 6.3 kilometre Blanka, leading from Holešovice through Hradčany, will cost at least 10 billion crowns more than previously expected. What is more, its completion is now likely to go heavily over schedule.

Photo: Blanka tunnel information centerPhoto: Blanka tunnel information center Representatives at City Hall can’t be happy over the revelation that Blanka tunnel – a massive structure connecting major parts of the city – will cost nowhere near its original price and will likely go over schedule by years. Originally, the project was to have been completed by November 2011 and the bill was 26.9 billion. Now things look very different, above all a good deal more expensive. On Sunday, here’s what Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda had to say:

“The cost of Blanka is going up by roughly 10 billion crowns, a huge sum, and we have to analyse how this happened. We are analysing the original plans to find out where costs went up and why and to what extent they are justified. We have to also meet with the developer to discuss the whole problem. The jump from the original cost is so high that there is no way the city can pay it.”

Bohuslav Svoboda, photo: CTKBohuslav Svoboda, photo: CTK One solution, Mayor Svoboda said, would be to scratch some areas of the project, but afterwards he admitted in a subsequent interview that the city’s contract with developer Metrostav was so poorly written it essentially gave the company a free hand in adding extra work and costs. Among the 50 or so items in the construction project which have boosted the bill considerably? New broader sidewalks (59 million), tram route renovation (18 million) and the lion’s share: boosts in the cost of engineering work and materials: reinforced concrete construction (an additional 529 million) and the boring of the tunnel itself (an extra 737 million), according to Czech TV.

However, it is not only the cost but the manner in which the details were uncovered that appear shocking: apparently they were found only in recent analysis commissioned by Deputy Mayor Karel Březina. Otherwise, presumably, the gross overspending would have remained unknown and the mayor said on Monday that clearly the control mechanisms in the case of the Blanka project had failed. On the other hand, no one having a clear idea seems almost hard to believe – not least those in the former leadership. Politician Tomáš Hudeček from political party TOP 09 said that it must have been known long in advance that the budget had grown.

City Hall now is now in a tricky position: negotiation with Metrostav of where things will go from here: so far the developer, not surprisingly, has insisted it will be paid for work completed. But the city needs some kind of a compromise solution or it will spend an additional 19 billion crowns or so to the 19 already paid. One possibility to help reduce the costs, the mayor suggested, was for the work to be stretched out over a longer period to give the city time to foot the bill. Under such a scenario it’s possible that drivers may only use Blanka tunnel for the first time in 2014.

08-02-2011