After 46 years Prague has a regular trolleybus line again

From the beginning of July, passengers using Prague public transport can take advantage of the regular operation of the trolleybus line No. 58 on the Palmovka (Metro B) - Letňany (Metro C) section. Passengers will take a ride in the Škoda 30Tr vehicle with cca. an hour interval. The Prague Public Transit Company (DPP) has commenced this regular traffic as a follow-up to the successful testing of the in-motion charging system, which had been undertaken since October 2017 using two different vehicles. Prague will have again its regular trolleybus line since 1972.

The operation of trolleybuses in Prague commenced on the 28th August 1936, as the first in Czechoslovakia. Trolleybuses were cruising the streets of Prague for 36 years and gained many supporters. "The operation of trolleybuses ceased in Prague in 1972. Later considerations about their reintroduction at the beginning of the 1990’s were out of order due to the financial demands, with the priority being metro construction, or at least limited development of the tram network.

The main impetus for the return of trolleybuses to Prague streets was the development and significant improvement of traction batteries during the last decade. The combination of proven trolleybus technology and modern batteries reduces the scope and cost of the trolley infrastructure and, on the contrary, offers better conditions for the dimensioning and charging of batteries than for conventional electric buses.

"The in-motion recharging system of the battery trolleybus has proved to be successful during the trial operation. Thanks to the traction batteries, the Škoda 30Tr vehicle can also be operated without the overhead contact line. The battery trolleybus is charged in-motion from the overhead line in Prosecká Street, while the opportunity charging system is utilised during breaks in the Palmovka turning loop. The commencement of the operation of line 58 clearly indicates that we are succeeding in introducing green transport into the Czech metropolis,” states Martin Gillar, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors of DPP, adding that in accordance with Czech legislation, line 58 has been introduced as a trolleybus line, although the overhead line comprises only cca. 15 per cent of the entire route. Even prior to the commencement of the trial operation, a very important legislative preparation phase took place, since under the Czech legislation the system of in-motion dynamic charging falls under the scope of the Railway Act and in terms of the legislation it is therefore a trolleybus railway and the operation of trolleybus transport. Accordingly, since October 2017 DPP has also become a trolleybus traffic operator.

The Palmovka – Letňany test section was selected for several reasons. There is a distinct and long climb on this route (in Prosecká Street), which is common for many bus lines in Prague. Thanks to this, DPP can reliably test all the parameters and limits of technology in typical Prague conditions. Another reason is contact with the tram power infrastructure at two locations on the route, which enables DPP to take advantage of power synergies. Last but not least, there are bus garages in Klíčov near this section, which minimises the handling kilometres from/to the garage.

DPP has already been currently preparing the future expansion of the battery trolleybus to include additional sections for the full coverage of line No. 140, i.e. Palmovka – Čakovice – Miškovice, with the anticipated deployment of articulated vehicles.

The objective of the long-term tests is the practical verification of the possibilities and parameters of the in-motion charging technology, which appears to be promising in regard to the electrification of over-utilised backbone bus lines. DPP would thereby significantly augmented green transport in the territory of Prague. The electrification process and its target range are not yet fixed and will depend on the further development of technologies (especially in terms of batteries), the financial balance of the individual projects and, last but not least, the subsidy and tax support for electromobility.