Jiří Snížek is Central Bohemia’s deputy governor in charge of regional development. It’s a tricky assignment that’s been made more difficult in recent years by the huge exodus of people from Prague into the region.
You’re primarily responsible for the development of Central Bohemia, but the City of Prague’s development now depends heavily on what happens in your region. How does that work?
In politically correct terms, Central Bohemia is a two-speed region. The part around Prague is developing quickly. There’s a great deal of demand for residential and suburbanization is taking place. Then we have areas such as Městec Králové or Sedlčansko where the number of residents is declining slightly and there’s less demand to build residential. I’m trying to solve these issues conceptually, which means supporting the poorer regions while regulating the area around Prague, or developing a vision for it.
What are the best ways to do this? What’s important for you?
The rule of thumb is that is that it’s best for people to commute for an hour or less. That includes the Kolin area, so the range of potential suburbanization is big. In Prague and Central Bohemia there are now 2.7 million people and studies show that in 2050 it will be 3.6 million. We have to deal with that somehow. At this point, development in the region is unregulated and there’s no vision. But the Ministry for Regional Development was tasked six years ago with creating a master plan for transportation, technical and green infrastructure for Central Bohemia and Prague. Once the master plans are created and they’re linked together, then Central Bohemia, the City of Prague and the state will all know what the whole agglomeration will look like. Including how people will travel. We’d prefer that to be sustainable transport, meaning electrifying the railroads where large numbers of people can travel to Prague. But of course, the solution we’d like to bring to Central Bohemia is the concept of 15 minute cities. That means enabling the creation of towns where there’s housing, work and education are connected. But that will take a very long time.
It’s impossible for everyone in Central Bohemia to drive into Prague, so the development of rail transportation will be critical.
Yes, that’s true. My colleague Petr Borecký, a regional councilor for transportation is dealing with that through the construction of P+R train station parking lots. We also fell behind a bit on the construction of high-speed rail, since it should have been working 10 or 20 years ago. That would even make Jihlava or Ústí nad Labem or Roudnice nad Labem something like suburbs of Prague, because it could make the commute from there around an hour. In terms of Central Bohemia, that means the Nehvizdy u Prahy station for high-speed trains and at Pučery near Kutna Hora. Then there’s the train tunnel connection to to built to Beroun and a new line from Prague to Benešov with three new stops on a line where the trains can run at 200 km per hour. That will also shorten the trip.
You’re obviously not an enemy of development. How do you deal with people whose interests are purely local and who try to prevent change?
I’ve made many trips to the regions. I’ve managed to visit around 80 towns, so I always try to get to know the place and the goals of people there. I try to explain to people what change can do for them, for example the railway to Benešov and I try to meet them halfway. If Velké Popovice is against the railway going through the Velkopopovice nature park, then I speak with the railways about considering a route that goes through the town of Kamenice. I spoke with the mayor there who isn’t automatically against it.
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