The View East

Central and Eastern Europe, Past and Present.

Communist Czechoslovakia Planned Construction of Underground Tunnel.

For decades, thousands of Czechs seeking a traditional summer holiday have left their landlocked central European country each year and travelled to the Adriatic coast, one of their favoured holiday destinations, in search of sun, sea and sand. Now, in a story that could have come straight from the pages of a Cold War spy novel, or from the plot of a James Bond movie, documents have come to light showing that thirty four years ago, officials in communist Czechoslovakia proposed the construction of an underground tunnel directly linking Czechoslovakia to the Adriatic coast, and the creation of an artificial island which would have enabled Czechoslovakia to acquire their very own coastline.

_45768007_czech_tunnel1305_09

The route of the proposed underground tunnel, stretching 410 km (255 miles) from communist era Czechoslovakia to the Adriatic Coast. Map courtesy of the BBC website (http://www.bbc.co.uk)

The plans for this project, drawn up by a team of engineers led by Professor Karel Zlabek at Prague Technical University in 1975, reveal detailed proposals for the construction of a 410 km (255 mile) long underground rail link in a tunnel stretching from the town of České Budějovice in southern Czechoslovakia (modern day Czech Republic), running underneath Austria and the former Yugoslavia, to the port of Koper (in modern day Slovenia). The tunnel would be used to transport both people (largely tourists) and goods exported between Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia on high-speed trains with an estimated journey time of around two hours, considerably shorter than the traditional overland routes. In typical communist-style planning, nothing was to be wasted, with proposals that the earth excavated from the building of the tunnel could be used to construct an artificial island just off the North Adriatic Coast, belonging to Czechoslovakia and containing the first ever Czech port, to be named ‘Adriaport’.

Ultimately however, the project was considered to be ‘feasible but unrealistic’ partly due to the high expense involved, but largely because of the political divides that existed in cold war Europe, meaning it was unlikely that the Austrian authorities would allow their communist neighbours to construct a tunnel running underneath their country, which could prove a potential security risk.  Earlier this week, Jiri Svoboda, head of the underground construction department at Pragoprojekt (and an expert on tunnels) was interviewed on Radio Prague in relation to the tunnel project and was quoted as saying:

The men who designed it were thinking very realistically (but) it was terribly expensive. At that time there was the iron curtain and so the project also wasn’t realised for political reasons … it was utopian in terms of the political situation but in terms of ‘realisability’ it wasn’t.

Given the subsequent success of UK-French collaboration over the ‘Chunnel’ rail link running underneath the English Channel and the eradication of internal borders to encourage increasing fluidity of movement of goods and people within post-cold war Europe and particularly within the EU zone, is there now a possibility that this communist-era project could become a reality in the future?

May 16, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: