The opening of Prague’s controversial Blanka Tunnel complex was recently postponed indefinitely by Prague City Hall after it emerged that hundreds of kilometres of electric cables had been damaged by water and needed replacing. Originally, the tunnel, the longest such complex in Central Europe, was slated to open at the end of 2011. Had it opened on time, financial news website iHNed reported this week, it would have already translated into billions of savings.
The endless delay and constant pushing back of an opening date for Prague’s Blanka Tunnel, which at one point was to have been launched by a Formula 1 car maiden run, has seen the loss of more than five billion crowns in savings in the transport sector. To paraphrase a famous quote: Everything is numbers. iHNed cites EU methodology and transportation expert Milos Čízek, putting a financial figure on key factors in sustainable transport, that is, money which would have already been saved on improvements in traffic congestion, a lowering of noise pollution and a lessening of greenhouse gas emissions – had the tunnel already been opened. The estimate is those “lost” savings through the delays amount to around 1.5 billion crowns per year.
The EU methodology takes into account the current transport situation in Prague and the transformation that would result once Blanka opens, considering dozens of separate factors, not least time saved by motorists as well as delivery vans or transport trucks on route. According to the website, each hour saved through faster and more efficient transport translates into savings of 283 crowns for utility vans; for a long-haul eighteen-wheeler the amount is roughly three times higher: at 1,029 crowns.
Noise pollution also has an economic cost: 51 decibels converting into 258 crowns per person annually, while 71 decibels causes “damages” of 7,488 crowns per person. A tunnel such as Blanka, drawing traffic away from major arteries winding through residential areas, should already have “saved millions” for thousands of residents, according to iHNed. Property values could also understandably be affected if there is a drop in traffic in areas, siphoned away by the tunnel. Blanka Tunnel, unopened and unfinished, entry points closed off by corrugated panels, and overpriced according to earlier estimates, has become an eyesore for many and a subject of continuous complaint.
Recently, the city’s new mayor, Adriana Krnáčová, made headlines when she lashed out saying that the designer of the tunnel must have been an “idiot”. Since, she has called on legislators to form a parliamentary commission to conduct a thorough investigation into what she called the tunnel’s “problematic construction”.
When the tunnel finally opens, critics suggest it will be with a huge sigh of relief. They question whether anyone will still be in the mood for the accompanying fanfare such as a modern F1 race car zipping through tunnel’s depths, although in fairness, such ideas, put forward by the previous administration, are probably currently off the table.