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Czechoslovakia: Transportation
Country Study > Chapter 3 > The Economy > Economic Policy and Performance > Transportation


Czechoslovakia is one of Europe's major transit countries for north-south movement. In 1985 Czechoslovakia had a highly developed transportation system consisting of 13,130 kilometers of railroad tracks, 73,809 kilometers of roads, and 475 kilometers of inland waterways, according to official sources(see fig. 13). The country also had 1,448 kilometers of pipelines for transport of crude oil, 1,500 kilometers for refined products, and 7,500 kilometers for natural gas. The state owned and subsidized the means of transport, and passenger fares were among the lowest in the world. In 1985 cargo movement totaled over 99 billion ton-kilometers. Of the nearly 90 billion ton-kilometers of cargo-carrying service performed by public transportation, railroads handled about 81 percent, roads 13 percent, inland waterways 5 percent, and civil aviation less than 1 percent. Since the 1970s, in an effort to save fuel, the government had been encouraging the displacement of freight transport from the highways to the railroads.

Major improvements were made in the transport infrastructure after World War II, particularly with regard to the railroads, and the result was a relatively extensive and dense road and railroad network. In developing the transportation system, the government's primary goal was to facilitate movement of industrial goods; passenger traffic, while not neglected, received secondary consideration. Nevertheless, in the 1980s transportation frequently was a bottleneck in the economy because of low operating efficiency and long-term inadequate investment. In the mid-1980s, both rail and highway transport systems were in need of substantial upgrading. Although the shortcomings of the systems were well known and received considerable public attention, limited funding slowed the pace of improvement. During the 1981-85 plan period, for example, almost 97 percent of the funding available for railroads -- Kcs36 billion (for value of the koruna -- Kcs -- see Glossary) -- had to be spent on repair and replacement, leaving scant resources for major improvement projects. In 1985 about 22 percent of the tracks in the rail network were double track. About 28 percent were electrified, including the main east-west Friendship Railway linking Prague with the Soviet border, which formed the basis of the network. Situated near the center of Europe, Czechoslovakia had rail links to surrounding countries, and transit traffic moved in all directions. Many of the difficulties of the railroads were caused by lack of new equipment, poor maintenance of tracks and rolling stock (partly caused by the lack of spare parts), an insufficient number of skilled workers, and constant pressure to keep operating. The railroad management also had to cope with outmoded station facilities.

The highway system has received less attention than the railroads during the decades since World War II. Most improvements have focused on local roads, and, in general, the country has been slow to develop modern highways. Nevertheless, highway cargo movement increased rapidly in the 1960s and 1970s, doubling between 1970 and 1979. It was only in 1980 that a modern superhighway was completed linking the three largest cities (Prague, Brno, and Bratislava), a distance of 317 kilometers. This project had started in 1938 and was left uncompleted from the early 1940s to the late 1960s. In 1985 approximately 482 kilometers, or somewhat less than 1 percent of the road network, consisted of superhighways. Public officials acknowledged that the status and maintenance of the system remained inadequate for the country's needs. As a landlocked country, Czechoslovakia has no maritime ports. In the mid-1980s, the country's overseas trade passed through East German, West German, Polish, and Yugoslav ports. The Labe and Danube rivers were both navigable in Czechoslovakia. In the 1980s, the Vltava was carrying increasing amounts of traffic, and efforts were underway to make it more extensively navigable. Principal river ports were located at Prague, Decin, Komarno, and Bratislava.

Civil aviation played a particularly significant role in the movement of passengers. Czechoslovak Airlines, the state airline company, serviced most European cities and also provided domestic services. A regional airline, Slov-Air, headquartered in Bratislava, provided additional domestic service. In 1985 civil aviation transported 1.2 million travelers. About 90 percent of this transportation service consisted of international flight.

In the mid-1980s, Czechoslovakia had a relatively well developed communications system. According to official data, there were 3,591,045 telephones in the country in 1985, about 23.2 telephones for every 100 persons, the greatest density of telephones among Comecon countries. There were 4,233,702 licensed radios, or one for every 3.7 persons, and 4,368,050 licensed televisions, or one for every 3.6 persons. Both journalism and broadcasting were closely supervised by the government, but many inhabitants could receive West German or Austrian television and radio transmissions as well as Czechoslovak broadcasts.

Data as of August 1987

Last Updated: August 1987

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Czechoslovakia was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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