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An outlook to future - Only a radical move shall do PDF Print E-mail
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Traffic significance of the D-O-E for the Czech Republic
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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.