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Pilsen is the fourth largest city in Czechia with 175k inhabitants, or about 300k in its metropolitan area. In the region, other than Pilsen there is one town with around 22K people (Klatovy) and another four above 10k. The population of the region is 590k, it’s one of the least densely inhabited regions of Czechia with 77 people per km2, but the rate of urbanization is about average. It borders Germany, specifically the regions of Upper Palatinate and Lower Bavaria. Much of the region used to be inhabited by Germans before 1945, although Pilsen itself was always majority Czech.
The two main actors in transit are the Pilsen Region and the city. The region manages the bus and train service and maintains most of the roads, except for the one highway and the five class 1 roads that are maintained by the state. All railways are also maintained by the state. The city manages the urban transit and the urban road network. The region spends (in CZK) about 1 billion on transit and 1.3 billion on roads, while the city spends about 1 billion on transit and 0.8 billion on roads per year. The state also contributes some to subsidizing the intercity lines. There are about 725km of railways and 5000km of roads in the region.
The region created an integrated fare system called IDPK which now covers the entire region and all regional train, bus and urban transit lines. The fares are based on zones, with different prices for zone 001 which covers all of Pilsen. The fare system uses the fare card and app originally created only for transit in Pilsen, which was only updated to offer tickets for all of the region this Wednesday, so it’s still a bit of a mess with a lot of different tickets available for Pilsen only, regional only and integrated fares. The app that sells ticket is also separate form the app that shows the schedules, which is very inconvenient.
The zones tend to be about 10x10km, the basic 90 minute fare costs 16 CZK for the first zone and 10 CZK for every additional zone. In the 001 zone (Pilsen) the integrated fares are 18 CZK for 30 minutes and 22 CZK for 60 minutes. It tends to be slightly cheaper than the old fares it replaced.
About 30k people commute to work in Pilsen, about 20k commute to study in Pilsen; some 1.5k people commute from Pilsen to Prague. In the part of the region close to the border, many commute to work or study in Germany. In the region 65% of commuters commute by car, 13% by bus and less by train. In the city about 60% commute by transit and 16% by car. Daily ridership:
In Pilsen: 125k, of which trams 44k, trolleybuses 36k, buses 45k
In the region: trains 35k and buses 50k
Fun fact: If Pilsen were a US city, it would be 153rd by population (after Eugene) or somewhere around 165th by metro area population, 4th by light rail ridership (after Boston), 10th by urban bus ridership (after Washington DC) and 11th by commuter rail ridership (after MARC Train). Transit in Pilsen
Pilsen relies highly on its transit, it’s the most popular way of commuting. Commuters from outside of Pilsen use it less often than people who live in the city. The most important part of the network are the three tram lines. According to the 2001 census about 62% of the inhabitants of Pilsen commute by transit, 21% by walking, 16% by car and 1% by bike
Many people also commute by walking, the city is fairly friendly to pedestrians, but not so much to bikers. There is some bike infrastructure on the outskirts but very little in the center outside of recreational areas (along the rivers). Official diagram of transit in the city Intensity map of tram and trolley bus lines
Network length: trams 22km, trolley buses 46km, buses 228km Trams
The first three tram lines in Pilsen were opened in 1899, all single track and electric. One of the lines had low ridership, so it was closed in 1949 and replaced by a trolley bus line. All the lines were double tracked between the 20s and 50s. In 1962 a new branch was opened, another one was built in stages between 1986 and 1990. The last extension was inaugurated in 2019. Today there are three lines that meet in one central station, Sady Pětatřícátníků. Here’s a map of the network today
The majority of the tracks are separated from car traffic, only a short section of lines 1 and 2 has shared lanes with cars in the historical center, but 4 has its own lanes and it even has one grade separated crossing on the newly opened extension.
Line 4 has the highest ridership, 2 is in the middle and 1 has the lowest. The peak intervals are 3 minutes on line 4, 5 minutes on line 2 and 6 minutes on line 1 when the same vehicles are used (30 m long trams) However, line 1 usually has smaller trams (20 m long), and then it has a lower peak interval (4 minutes). Off-peak intervals are 5 minutes on line 4 and 7.5 minutes on lines 1 and 2. On weekends the interval is 10 minutes. The trams operate between 4:30 and 24:00, only bus lines have night service.
The most common vehicles are T3s and their various refurbishments, always paired on weekdays, sometimes single on weekends. About half of them have a low floor section, almost always at least one of the pair has it. The high floor T3R.P are slowly being sold off, mostly to Ukrainian cities or private owners, but it’s still the most numerous type. Their average age is 35 years. The partially low floor T3R.PLF are newer and will remain in service for some time, just like the even newer Vario LF, manufactured around 2010.
On line 1 shorter trams are used: Astra, Vario LF2/2IN and EVO 2. The only bidirectional trams are the KT8D5R.N2P and Vario LF 2/2IN, PMDP has 16 of those and they’re used during any closures that require bidirectional trams, otherwise the KT8s are most commonly on line 4 and Vario LF2/2IN on line 1. PMDP is buying new bidirectional trams, Škoda 40T, which are roughly of the same size at the KT8 (30 m). PMDP is now also looking for some 40 meter trams, the press release mentions that they would be used on line 4 and the planned branch to Vinice.
List of trams currently in service
7x paired T3R.P + T3R.P (high floor)
18x paired T3R.PLF + T3R.P (about 15% low floor)
16x paired Vario LF + Vario LF (about 30% low floor)
12x KT8D5-RN2P (about 20% low floor)
4x K3R-NT (about 20% low floor)
5x Astra (about 50% low floor)
4x Vario LF2/2 IN (about 50% low floor)
9x EVO2 (100% low floor)
Over the entire history the city had 373 trams, here’s a list and pictures of them all
. Trolley buses
The first part of the network was inaugurated in 1941 and since then it has been growing, with a pause during the 60s. The only significant reduction happened in 1977, when some trolleybus routes mostly parallel to tram tracks were closed. Major expansions happened throughout the 40s and 50s, then in 1988 and the last major one was in 2010. A planned expansion will rebuild a part of the trolleys that were torn up in 1977 and extend the lines into new parts of the city. In 2014 a new depot with room for some 300 buses and trolley buses was opened. Currently the city owns 95 operational trolley buses, over the whole history since 1941 it owned a total of 507 trolley buses.
There are 9 trolley bus lines and all of them meet in a trunk section that intersects tram lines 1 and 2 at the central railway station and line 4 at U Práce. The stop U Práce sees about 15k passengers a day boarding and getting off. The trunk section is on a two lane road shared with cars, only a small part of it next to the central train station is closed to cars. Here is a map (pdf) of all the current (green) former (black) and planned (orange) trolleys.
Pilsen has the highest modal share of trolley buses of any Czech city above 100k population, and the second largest trolley network after Brno. It is also home to the world’s largest trolley bus traction equipment manufacturer, Škoda Electric. All trolley buses in Pilsen are made by Škoda. In 1941 the network opened with Škoda 3Tr vehicles, today the trolley buses are made up of Škoda 24-27Tr, all of which are modern low floor trolley buses, about a third of them articulated. Most have a diesel generator and some have a battery, some are fully dependent of the trolleys. A couple of the lines extend beyond the trolleys, but the busiest ones (such as 15, 16) are completely under wires.
Recently PMDP had been testing line 19, which merges bus line 35 and trolley bus line 11 into a single line, the trolley bus spends roughly half the time under wires and half on battery power. It’s possible that more lines will be merged like that and more of the transit will be electrified that way, but most of the current trolley buses aren’t really suitable to such lines. So far no purely battery-electric buses have been bought, considering the extensive trolley network it would be counterproductive.
List of trolley buses in service
23x Škoda 24Tr Irisbus
5x Škoda 25Tr Irisbus (articulated)
44x Škoda 26Tr Solaris
23x Škoda 27Tr Solaris (articulated) Buses
Buses generally sever lower demand lines, the exceptions are the three most important lines: line 30, which is an incomplete circle line, line 41, which serves Vinice and is planned to be replaced by a tram line, and line 33, which server the largest hospital and it’s planned to be electrified and converted into a trolley bus line. Besides these three, other bus lines serve low traffic areas and many act as feeders for the tram lines.
There is only one bus lane in the city besides the short section used by trolley buses next to the train station, it’s used by line 41 and four other less frequent bus lines on the highest traffic section of any road in the city. It will certainly lose importance if the Vinice tram extension is built.
All of the buses are diesel, the city only rented two Škoda Perun 26BB HP electric buses for testing in 2015 but they’re not used anymore.
There are currently 131 buses in service, all operating from the Karlov depot with the trolley buses. The most common buses are Irisbus Citelis 12M, SOR NB 12, a few newer SOR NS 12 and the articulated Solaris Urbino 18, manufactured between 2006 and 2019, the average age is around 6 years.
Buses have night service, 7 lines with hourly departures between 0:30 and 3:30. Transit in the region Rail diagram of passenger rail service in the region – line thickness indicates interval Intensity map of regional rail service – line thickness indicates ridership excluding long distance lines map of railways in the region – number of lines indicates number of tracks; red = electrified
There are six railways radiating from Pilsen, of which four are electrified, two have cab signalling, one is fully double track. All have passenger service. The Rhine-Danube rail freight corridor passes through as well.
The most important is the railway connecting Pilsen to Prague, it has long distance trains with a 30 minute interval and regional trains with a 1 hour interval. Recently a 4km tunnel was opened on this line shortening travel time to Prague by about 10 minutes. A longer 25km tunnel is planned to reduce the time even more. Currently the average speed of the intercity trains is equal to the average speed of the cars on the parallel highway.
The other railways generally also have a 1 hour interval of regional trains, with long distance traffic usually on a 2 hour interval. Of the 5 towns above 10k people in the region, 3 are connected to Pilsen by rail directly, and the other two indirectly with one transfer required.
The central station in Pilsen has a total of 12 tracks usable for boarding trains, 8 of them are connected both to the east and west, while 4 are only are terminus tracks only accessible from the east (the direction of Prague). There are usually about 20-30 trains departing the station every hour. Three of the railways that radiate from Pilsen are connected to the station form the east, three from the west. Next to the station there’s a bus terminal for regional bus lines, a very frequent trolley bus stop and a tram stop with lines 1 and 2. It’s located conveniently close to the center. There are other stations in Pilsen but most of them are not used a lot, only Jižní Předměstí is somewhat important.
The state is currently modernizing one train station in the region and adding ETCS to one line, worth about 2 billion CZK in total. The Pilsen central station is being modernized since 2011, it’s almost complete now and some 7.5 billion have been spent so far. The state is also planning to double track and electrify about 50km or railways in the region between 2023-2030, worth about 20 billion in total.
Most of the regional lines terminate at the central station, but a couple run through – one terminates at another station in the city and there are a couple that run through to another town, so some connections don’t require a transfer in Pilsen (but the majority does).
There are four main regional lines – P1-P4 which all serve Pilsen. P1 and P2 are on electrified lines. P1-P3 all have 6-9k daily passengers, while P4 has only around 2k. They capture a large share of the commuters to Pilsen.
- P1 has two branches: the southern branch connects Pilsen to Horažďovice, served by 9 two-car RegioPanter EMUs, usually coupled in pairs, on an hourly interval with additional peak service bringing it to a 30 minute interval in the morning. The northern branch connects Pilsen to Cheb and it’s only served on a two hour interval. Four EMUs for the northern branch are currently being manufactured, in the meantime locomotive pulled trains are used. There is an additional 2 hour interval service that connects both branches with a single EMU, but it terminates a much shorter distance from Pilsen that the rest. After double tracking a part of this line the interval may be increased. The current top speed is 100 km/h on the southern branch (to be 160 km/h after double tracking) and 150 km/h on short sections of the northern branch. Both branches are fully electrified and partially double track.
- P2, aka R16 intercity line plus some additional trains connects Prague to Klatovy via Pilsen and it’s served by trains with 4-6 carriages pulled by class 362 locomotives, some with driving cabs, also on a regular hourly interval with additional peak service. This line acts as an intercity line between Prague and Pilsen with few stops, and as a regional line between Pilsen and Klatovy with frequent stops. There is also additional service between Prague and Pilsen that has frequent stops, with a 2 hour interval. A few of the trains continue past Klatovy with a diesel locomotive to Železná Ruda, a popular destination for tourists in the Šumava mountains. 11 EMUs are on order for this line for the stopping trains that currently have the 2 hour interval. The top speed is 160 km/h on the eastern branch that goes to Prague (although the tunnel was designed for 200 km/h) and 90 km/h on the southern branch that goes to Klatovy. The Prague branch is fully double track and the Klatovy branch is single track.
- P3 connects Domažlice to Pilsen and is served by 9 two-car Pesa Shark DMUs, usually coupled in pairs and they run an hourly interval. Ex6 trains going to Munich also use this line. The current top speed on this line is 90 km/h. It’s entirely unelectrified and single track. It’s planned to be electrified and partially double tracked with 200 km/h track speed on about half of it, 115 km/h on the rest.
- P4 connects Pilsen to Žihle and it’s served by older DMUs. The top speed is 85 km/h. It’s single track and unelectrified. There are further 13 regional lines which don’t go into Pilsen, only a few peak services run from these lines directly to Pilsen. All of the are on unelectrified lines. The less important ones are served by single car class 810 DMUs, the more important ones generally by two-car class 814 or other similar DMUs. The more important ones usually act as feeders to one of the electrified lines. The usual interval on these lines is 2 hours, the ridership ranges between 100 and 2000 passengers per day. The class 810 DMUs are aging and it will be difficult to find a similarly cheap replacement for them on the lower demand lines, so some might eventually be replaced by buses.
There are four long distance lines in the region. R16 doubles as the P2 regional line, connecting Prague, Pilsen and Klatovy with an hourly interval, with some trains extended to Železná Ruda. Ex6 connects Prague to Pilsen with an hourly interval, it splits in Pilsen into two branches, one goes to Munich and one to Cheb, both with a 2 hour interval. R11 connects Pilsen to Brno via České Budějovice with a 2 hour interval. R25 connects Pilsen to Most also with a 2 hour interval. Ex6 and R16 together create a 30 minute interval between Pilsen and Prague. A few of the Ex6 trains going to Cheb are Pendolinos, which are faster thanks to tilting technology, and they also run a longer route, Františkovy lázně – Cheb – Pilsen – Prague – Pardubice – Olomouc – Ostrava. They also tend to be delayed more often thanks to the longer route.
All regional trains are operated by ČD, the Czech state railways, only the R25 long distance line and one seasonal tourist line are operated by the private GW Train Regio. Some of the diesel lines will soon be up for competition.
There is no night service, the trains operate approximately between 4AM and 11PM.
The total amount of daily passengers on the regional trains is about 35k of which some 25k are going to/from Pilsen. There’s no publicly available data on the intercity lines, but especially the lines between Pilsen and Prague have very high ridership, higher than any of the regional lines. The quality of service increased a lot recently, with the opening of the new tunnel, higher interval and better carriages such as Bmz. Regional bus network
The primary operator is Arriva Střední Čechy (owned by DB) with 315 buses serving the region, all of them brand new. They started service on 14 June 2020 replacing the previous operator ČSAD Plzeň.
Arterial bus lines connecting to Pilsen usually terminate at the central bus station or the railway station terminal, while less important lines terminate on the edges of the city, usually at a tram station (Bory, Slovany, U Gery).
Since there’s no official map of the bus service, here’s a fan made one: https://mapaidpk.net/
. The network is very dense, every village is served. However the intervals are usually quite low except for the arterial lines. The bus lines are usually much slower than the train lines, but they often have guaranteed transfers to the train lines.
+ high modal share of transit in the city
+ high rate of electrified transit (despite no battery electric vehicles)
+ dense and frequent transit network in the city
+ full fare integration covering the entire region, reasonably cheap fares
+ good balance of investment between individual and mass transit
+ low average age of bus and trolley bus fleets
- bad bike infrastructure
- lack of bus lanes, especially for the frequent trolley bus lines
- high average age of tram and train fleets, although it’s improving
- transit apps need a lot of work
Sources: http://www.svsmp.cz/dopravni-pruzkumy/informace-o-doprave-v-plzni-za-rok-2018.aspx https://www.plzensky-kraj.cz/clanek/aktualizovany-plan-dopravni-obsluznosti-plzenskeho-kraje-na-leta-2017-2021 https://www.pmdp.cz/o-nas/povinne-udaje/vyrocni-zpravy/ http://plzensketramvaje.cz/ http://www.plzensketrolejbusy.cz/