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An outlook to future
Only a radical move shall do
Traffic significance of the D-O-E for the Czech Republic
The D-O-E waterway in the European waterway network
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An outlook to future

Experience with similar projects (particularly motorways), shows that the necessary preparation work is likely to be completed within 5 years. Construction work on Stages 1 and 1 b can therefore be launched in coming years. Some special works may be undertaken at any time previously, particularly in connection with projects for flood protection (Phase 1b) or in connection with the Bata canal reconstruction, modernization of existing hydro-technical infrastructure and maintain existing refrain from the rivers Morava and Oder and due to artificial flooding floodplain forests. New bridges crossing the waterway of the future should also be built in advance, the new highway and road projects. Bridges built in recent years, such as the motorway bridges of D47 over the Odra river or bypass of town of Uherske Hradiste over river Morava already have optimal height for water transport (at least 5.25 meters, optimally 7 meters).

Total time required to complete all phases is not explicitly stated. This period may be too long. In the early 20 century above Vodocestný law foresaw a period of 20 years to build the entire Austrian network (in which the concentration of D-0-L represent only a part). Before World War II agreement between the Czechoslovak Republic and Germany, allowed for a period of 6 years for construction related Danube-Oder. Modern technology could certainly shorten these times.

On the other hand, progress and speed of construction is closely associated with a range of financial resources and cash flow attainable. It will be necessary to design an optimal schedule, which will comply with all requirements.

Most work will be concentrated in the Czech Republic. The official position of this country is pretty crucial to the construction start date. From this perspective, can play a role in these facts:

1. Czech Republic is a signatory of AGN Agreement (UNECE). Is prepared to implement the merger of DOE, which is in accordance with this agreement - the DOE is one of the important missing links in the European network.

2. All planning documents in the Czech Republic, calculated with the route links DOL. This means that its implementation can be started immediately.

3. Government Decree No. 635/1996 the Minister of Transport to enter into negotiations with the relevant departments in neighboring states to prepare for stage 1a and 1b.

4. Government resolution No. 929 of 20 July 2009 requires the Minister of Transport, in cooperation with the Minister of Foreign Affairs examined the international level, the need průplavního links DOL, and to discuss corridor průplavního conjunction with DOE signatories AGN (UN / ECE), the Accession Treaty, the TEN-T and affected neighboring countries (Poland, Republic of Austria, the Slovak Republic and Federal Republic of Germany) and the European Commission, to assess the full European context the issue of its possible implementation, the transmission efficiency and investment performance of individual branches. Submit to the Government by 31 December 2010 information on the verification of the concentration at the international level.

Despite these facts, neither the Government Resolution No 145/2001 concerning the timing and financial provisions for the implementation of the development of transport network in 2010 did not refer the completion of these phases. The reason is clear: there is no plan for funding related to DOL, which would be in the interest of Europe, and not just Czech affairs. It follows that the project can be a means of funding considered a major and decisive win.

Návrh trans-evropské dopravní sítě

Proposal for a trans-European transport network from 30th of July 2009 counts with water corridor Danube-Oder-Elbe.




Only a radical move shall do

Due to their location, the AGN agreement considers both the Elbe and Oder Rivers the essential part of the crucial routes E 20 and E 30. A systematic modernization of free flowing sections of both the rivers is a must, as its defective navigability, or rather unreliability, seems to be the main reason of the lingering water transport on these waterways. Such modernization would require regulation of river stretches of several hundreds of kilometres, or, taking into account the objections of conservationists to such adjustments, construction of hundred kilometres of lateral canals. That would account for several billion Euros of investment. To guarantee its recovery, the traffic density would have to exceed 10 or rather 20 mill. tons per year. That is only hardly conceivable considering its current unfavourable state. It sounds like the causality dilemma of the chicken or the egg. Moreover, the Elbe and the Oder represent dead-endings of the network with only tepid attraction areas.

The only way out of the dead endings leads via transferring the trans-European traffic streams to the Elbe and Oder Rivers by means of the D-O-E water corridor. That would significantly upgrade and liven up the whole central network of the E category waterways, as well as the Danube with its giant transport capacity, employed only up to about 10 %. Utility of this river, after Volga the second longest river or waterway in Europe, clashes with its incomplete connection to the rest of the European network. Although since 1992 there is the Main–Danube Canal connection, its route runs too far to the west from the central network area, therefore while it is quite convenient for the Danube access to the ports at the Rhine estuary (Rotterdam), in Benelux and in North France, it is barely suitable for the eastern North Sea ports (Bremen, Hamburg), and absolutely inconvenient for the Baltic ports (Stettin), industrial areas of East Germany, around Berlin and in Poland. The D-O-E connection would work much better in all these cases, as easily proved on respective hauling distances and on the number of locks on the variant routes. While in terms of prompt accessibility of Rotterdam, both routes running from the area of the Middle Danube along the Rhine and the Elbe are practically comparable, in case of Bremen and Hamburg especially, the Elbe route proves markedly more convenient, as does the Oder route in case of Berlin, Stettin and other Polish locations.

The Danube–Main–Rhine (R-M-D) interconnection is of no competition to the Danube–Oder–Elbe (D-O-E) water corridor. Both the transcontinental routes would fulfil their own specific functions, and could be even complementary. After all, some 50 years ago, both routes were included in the UNECE documents at the same time and equally, not as alternatives. It implies that the D-O-E water corridor is the only measure how to prevent the “white spot” in the middle of European waterways as much as it is the most needed integrating part of the network as such. Comparison of the numbers of locks appears the most convenient in the route D-O. The schematic comparison of the lock numbers on the compared routes takes into account the presumable construction of other locks, which will probably be needed while canalizing the Oder, or even the Elbe. Such intervention will naturally involve shortening of the route due to lateral canals, which has been included in the calculation. Notice, that even when considering the increased number of locks, their count remains very low when compared to the Main–Danube connection, which is operationally advantageous. It is chiefly caused by the fact that the Oder branch crosses the main European watershed between the Danube river basin and the basins of the rivers emptying to the North and Baltic Seas in the far lowest part, i.e. in the Moravian Gate. This wide valley is exceptionally convenient for routing of all kinds of trans-European traffic routs. Incidentally, the first railway on the Austrian-Hungarian territory led through there, as well as the important north-south motorway, which is already being built. The surface of the summit pool on the Oder branch will reach bare 275 ms ASL.

Coincidentally, the Czech territory offers also the second best spot for crossing the main European watershed: the Elbe branch of the D-O-E water corridor can cross this “magic line” at Česká Třebová at approximately 390–395 ms ASL, which could be further lowered to mere 350 ms ASL for the price of a longer tunnel. Owing to such solution – undoubtedly costly – the number of locks on the routes running through the Elbe branch remains very low, in some cases even lower than in the Oder routes. The area south from Nuremberg, crossed by the existing Main–Danube Canal, with the summit pool at 406 ms ASL, thus comes only as the third most convenient for surpassing the watershed.

The comparison of altitudes clearly shows that the Moravian Gate must be considered a natural asset of the Czech Republic, which so far has gone unemployed and unappreciated. 

A chart of the most important navigation routes to pass through the D-O-E water corridor

Porovnání vdáleností a počtu plavebních komor mezi Vídní a důležitými evropskými námořními přístavy při Severním a Baltském moři. 

Porovnání vdáleností a počtu plavebních komor mezi Vídní a důležitými evropskými námořními přístavy při Severním a Baltském moři. 

Porovnání vdáleností a počtu plavebních komor mezi Vídní a důležitými evropskými námořními přístavy při Severním a Baltském moři. 

Porovnání vdáleností a počtu plavebních komor mezi Vídní a důležitými evropskými námořními přístavy při Severním a Baltském moři. 

Comparison of distances and number of navigation locks between Vienna and the major European seaports in the North and Baltic Seas.

Construction and operational demands of any waterway is characterized by the altitude differences, which are to be surpassed on its route. The same reads for main transcontinental routes. Advantages of such routing, e.g. via the Rhine, the Oder or the Elbe for Hamburg are even more apparent than in comparison of mere numbers of locks.  From this point of view, the D-O-E interconnection is far the most convenient and the most natural integrating element of the European network. Despite the boats, which can sail even uphill, they are still at their best when horizontal.

When they need to overcome the proverbial “roof of Europe”, they favour the places, where the “roof ” becomes the lowest, as it happens to be in the Moravian Gate and in the upland of Česká Třebová. To conclude, it is very safe to claim that the D-O-E interconnection is cardinally important for the international network of European waterways, as it will liven up its scarcely used central parts or even prevent gradual degradation of their water transport activities. To assess its benefits for the increase of the water transport share in the European transport system, i.e. decrease of the road transport share, it is necessary to reflect not only the expected volume of transport on the actual D-O-E connection, but also the boosted traffic in the central part of the network and on the Danube as a whole. The above-stated recapitulation still does not cover all benefits of the interconnection to the European water transport. As already mentioned, coastal navigation plays a prominent role in the EU countries; it sometimes merges with the inland navigation, namely in connection with introduction of river-sea going vessels. 

Říčně-námořní loď Hansa Kampen je 89 m douhá a 12,5 m široká, takže patří ve své kategorii k jednotkám střední velikosti. Při maximálním ponoru 434 cm uveze na moři 2964 t. Při omezení ponoru na 350 cm je možno naložit (ve sladké vodě) 2060 t. „Místem narození“ této lodi je labská loděnice v Křešicích u Děčína. 

River-sea ship Hansa Kampen is 89 m long and 12.5 m wide, so it belongs in the category for medium-size units. At maximum draft of 434 cm can carry at sea in 2964 t. With the restriction of draft to 350 cm can be loaded (in freshwater) 2060 t. The "birth place" of this ship is a shipyard Kresice at river Elbe in Decin, Czech Republic.

There is no doubt about the vessels of combination river-sea navigation being employed more and more often, particularly with the increase of goods exchange between the EU countries and Eastern Europe or with the Middle East (Russia, Ukraine, other ex-Soviet countries, countries on the shores of the Black, Caspian and Mediterranean Seas). I.a. it is caused by the fact that most of the fleet of the Dnieper, Volga or other waterways connected with these rivers, are already ready for coastal or short sea navigation. The vessels were constructed to withstand a wave regime of large artificial reservoirs, which were built on these rivers for energetic reasons. River-sea going vessels with large depth and consequently bigger demands on the admissible draft and bridge clearance, can hardly be economically employed on all waterways.

According to the contemporary views, their introduction is efficient on the waterways which:

• Are classified at least Va;

• Offer constant admissible draft of 2.5–3 ms, or at least 2 ms or more for 90 % of the year on free flowing rivers;

• Provide bridge clearance of at least 6–7 ms.

The map of waterways complying with the criteria implies two facts. Firstly, the navigation range of such vessels is surprisingly large and reaches, in fact, beyond the European borders; secondly, as it covers the inland especially due to the Danube, the D-O-E project, which connects to the Danube and fully complies with the criteria, could open the very heart of the continent for the river-sea navigation. Just another advantage of the D-O-E water corridor.


Traffic significance of the D-O-E for the Czech Republic

By far the largest part of the D-O-E water corridor route falls onto the Czech territory. The domestic opponents of the project often argue: ‘Why should the problem of insufficient integrity of European waterways, an all-European problem, be resolved at the expense of the Czech Republic, at the expense of land appropriation, damages on the environment and landscape in Bohemia and especially in Moravia?’ This seemingly matter-of-fact objection is very easy to disprove. As for the impacts on the environment, wildlife and landscape, it is impossible to conceal that some of them will occur. However, the positive ones will vastly prevail; it is related to the extra-transport functions of the waterway, which are to be analysed in the following chapters, to be dealt with later but all the more profoundly.

Regarding strictly the transport problematic, it can be assessed from two different points of view: according to the transport connection of the Czech Republic to the rest of Europe as well as to overseas, and according to the influence of the traffic routes on the economic development in the adjacent areas. Quality of transport connection of any country influences directly costs of its foreign trade, i.e. efficiency and competitive strength of its economy. Connection to a cheap transport networks is fundamental; those include also the sea, coastal and inland navigation.

The important role of the coastal and inland navigation in 15 member countries of EU has already been mentioned. With the admission of another 12 countries, the proportions have slightly changed, as they are prevailingly ex-eastern-block countries with the governing share of the railway transport still surviving. Nevertheless, 26 out of 27 member countries have an opportunity to use coastal navigation, as they have seashore and seaports at their disposal, or they have a chance to entrust part of their foreign trade to the modern inland navigation. Most of them enjoy even both of the opportunities.

The only EU member country, which is deprived of either the first or the second chance, is the Czech Republic. There is no coast, neither any quality inland navigation network to speak of. Thus, within Europe, the Czech economy finds itself in a very unequal position. The handicap could be tackled only with a prompt connection of the Czech Republic to the Danube waterway, which is a logical first stage of the D-O-E water corridor.

Přeprava nadgabaritních nákladů není díky speciální překladní poloze v přístavu Mělník vzácná ani na labské vodní cestě. Znevýhodňuje ji však to, že většina výrobců nadrozměrných nebo extrémně těžkých výrobků sídlí na Moravě a je od Labe velmi vzdálena.

Special reloading facilities in the port of Mělník allow relatively frequent transport of oversized cargoes on the Elbe. However, most of the oversized or extremely heavy products are manufactured in Moravia, which is rather far away from the Elbe.

The economic handicap of the Czech foreign trade shows for instance in the increase of the average cost price of some products when you add freight costs of export or import for longer distances (e.g. between the central part of CR and seaports at the Rhine estuary). You can consider two alternatives: either the rates of direct railway transport or costs of the combined transport, including a short distance transport of the goods to the seaport (up to 100 kms), transhipping and other bywater transport. The comparison not only shows a great advantage of the combination with water transport, but further proves that railway transport multiplies price of some commodities at their destination so much that they are practically unmarketable. Export (or import) of such raw materials or products is thus only possible with employment of the water transport.

In terms of marketability, the relative advantage of lower cost of water transport naturally decreases with the increase of the average cost price of the respective commodity. However, it is interesting, that water transport gains ground even in case of containerized goods of various and often rather high cost price, as proved in the earlier-stated data of the ever-growing role of inland navigation in this field. In case of transport of oversized, extremely heavy and bulky products, which cannot be shipped by railway and only with true difficulties by road, the water transport offers entirely specific advantages. In such cases, the water transport benefits reach further beyond mere freight cost savings. It allows the manufacturer to despatch larger, completely assembled units, and reduce the extent of more costly assembling in the destination. 

Development of some industrial fields would be practically impossible without the help of water transport. Moreover, it is little known that connecting the Czech Republic to a reliable waterway network could fundamentally affect choice of the optimal alternative of further energetic development. Quality hard coal from overseas has been on its rise in Europe; owing to the cheap sea transport, its seaport price is lower than the price of coal from the European pans.

However, the consecutive transport by land marks the price considerably up, and its transfer to the Czech Republic by railways would be economically unbearable. Although the water transport would be the best solution, unreliability of the Elbe waterway can hardly guarantee a regular supply of the fuel. Thus, so far the concept of imported overseas coal has been rejected in favour of the scenario involving new nuclear power plants and expansion of coalmining in North Bohemia.

Schematické znázornění vlivu přepravních nákladů na cenu jednotlivých komodit v místě určení při přepravní vzdálenosti 1000–1200 km. 

Influence of transport costs of individual commodities on their final price at destination with transport distance of 1,000–1,200 kms.

Let us get back to the critical voices, which claim that the Czech economy could by very well connected to a reliable waterway network through the existing Danube ports in Slovakia, Austria and Germany, which are only tens of kilometers away from the Czech border, easily reachable by road or railway. Such solution, tempting as it is at first glance, would in consequence cut Czech entrepreneurs from the opportunity to enter the international transport market and participate in transshipping as well as the connected logistic services.

In case of river-sea navigation, it concerns business activities reaching beyond the European region. It is closely connected with job opportunities, tax yields etc. It would also represent resignation to the advantages of direct shipping by waterways; the direct transport is markedly cheaper than the so-called fractional one. Advantages of direct shipping, with no additional costs of consecutive transport and transshipping imply the positive influence of waterways on the economic development in their immediate neighborhood. Most often, plants and services move straight into ports, or port industrial zones. The contemporary inland ports are not mere transshipping spots, they concentrate all kinds of economic activities, like industrial plants, trading and dispatching warehouses, silos etc.

The port of Nuremberg on the Main–Danube Canal is just one of the examples: its premises have been rented out to more than 50 businesses, which employ over 5,000 people and are engaged in various activities from dispatching and logistic services, via manufacturing of building material and fodder, down to recycling and waste material utilization. This industrial centre had been developing according to its plan long before the Main – Danube Canal was completed. Raising new plants at an independent location on the waterway is yet another form of direct connection to the water transport. Such enterprises usually establish narrowly specialized plant ports for unloading of material or loading of their own products.

The modern waterways are thus undoubtedly highly attractive for investors, as the lots on the canal or river banks rank much higher in price than those more distant from the waterways. Quite possibly the indirect economic benefits of the “gravitation” impact of waterways might be in the end more significant than the direct, easily calculable payoff.


The D-O-E waterway in the European waterway network

To consider the role of the D-O-E water corridor in the future network of internationally important waterways, it is safe to keep in with the quoted agreement AGN, which defines such waterways (i.e. waterways of category E) rather clearly. The map, which is included in the agreement, shows at first gland the central position of the D-O-E interconnection. Realization of the project, which might be one of the major missing links, will effectively contribute to increase of the transportation output in the European navigation network, as well as to provide for sustainable development of transport.

Mapa hlavních evropských vodních cest 

Map of major European waterways by the AGN Agreement

Careful readers will naturally remain sceptical and demand more convincing arguments than a glance at a map. Let us offer a more profound analysis. The above presented graphs e.g. illustrate a noticeably dominating role of the Rhine, which concentrates much more transportation activity than other waterways. It is a fact that currently this river on the German and Dutch border moves about 160 mill. tons of goods per year. No other continental traffic route, nor the most frequent railway or motorway, features such traffic density. The Rhine superiority does not lean only on the remarkably convenient operation qualities of this waterway, not even on its favourable routing through highly industrial areas with its final destination in almost the largest world seaport of Rotterdam.

If you wish to follow the different employment of water transport in Europe and explain its causes, it is necessary to adjust the AGN map of the E category waterways and mark down the traffic density of each main route. Traffic density represents the amount of goods, which passes through given sections every year. Although the Rhine rate reaches the highest, interesting results are scored even on its tributaries and connecting canals, on the Maas, and on the waterways of Holland, Belgium and France. Most often, it concerns areas where waterways came to life in the historically convenient time, often still in the “pre-railway” era, although not as early as in Britain. They became the main arteries of industrial revolution, grew into a coherent network and later, along with the development of railways, they were constantly modernized.

As the industrial revolution was slower to come in Central and Eastern Europe, the railways, which network was easier and faster to build with a generous state assistance, already took the role of the main carrier. Thus, promoters and builders of modern waterways missed the most convenient historical opportunity and had to fight a certain unfair competition of the state railway companies. The fate of the D-O Canal project, designed for the Anglo-Austrian Bank, is just one of the examples. As some historical waterways never got a chance to have their navigability improved, their navigation often completely vanished, e.g. on the Vltava from České Budějovice to Prague, on the Lower Morava, and even on one of the largest European rivers – on the Vistula, which is, with the exception of few fragments, practically innavigable.

The Elbe navigability from Ústí nad Labem nearly to Hamburg is barely satisfactory; navigability of the regulated Oder below Wrocław then totally unsatisfactory. The transport importance of such waterways is naturally minimal and their low employment quite understandable. The traffic density of the Elbe reaches approximately 0.5 % of the Rhine figures, and it is even lower on the Oder. The same is true about connection canals between the Oder and Vistula Rivers (Bydgoszcz Canal), neglected for decades, with almost a zero traffic. It is becoming quite clear that unless there is some radical move, the gradual decay of Central European waterways will become an irreversible process.

The waterway network of the expanding EU will then stop in the Berlin or Stettin area. The Danube will become the only waterway running eastward, however without any network of feeder routes. It could very well happen, that the future waterway map will mark the entire area between the Danube and the Baltic with “hic sunt leones”, which ancient geographers used to write over unexplored territories, where “only lions live”.