An almost 50-tonne army tank in the service of railway firefighters


Prague, January 23, 2014 – The Railway Infrastructure Administration (SŽDC) also makes use of special emergency-response equipment. The latest addition is a VT 72B armoured recovery vehicle, which was handed over to the Prague-based unit of SŽDC’s Fire and Rescue Department (HZS) earlier today.

In 2012, SŽDC acquired altogether four such armoured recovery vehicles. Their repairs and technical modifications to make them suited to railway fire-fighters’ requirements and needs started in September 2013. Until then, the recovery vehicles had been stored in a depot in Milovice, where their crewmembers had been trained in their use and also passed the driving tests.

The army tank in question was manufactured in 1989 and its price at that time was slightly less than 10 million Czechoslovak Korunas. The Rail Infrastructure Administration acquired it free of charge from the Czech Armed Forces, the transaction’s legal framework being that of a transfer of property between state organizations. The repairs were carried out by Excalibur Army.

With its engine running at full power, e.g. when winching a burden in, the VT 72B army tank gobbles up to 500 litres of diesel fuel per hour. “To give you an idea, 500 litres of diesel fuel would be enough for a standard passenger car with a 1.9 TDi engine to cover the distance between Prague and Singapore,” says Jiří Kolář, Director General of SŽDC. “However, we must bear in mind this is a truly specific piece of equipment, incomparable to anything else you may find in the Czech Republic,” he adds.

As of today, SŽDC owns and operates eight armoured recovery vehicles, four of them being older VT 55s, the remaining ones more modern VT 72Bs. The two oldest vehicles will be decommissioned this year. The recovery vehicles serve at bases of SŽDC’s Fire and Rescue Department in Prague, Havlíčkův Brod, Přerov and Milovice so that their combined operating range covers the entire territory of the Czech Republic.

The armoured recovery vehicles of SŽDC’s Fire and Rescue Department intervene in situations that other heavy equipment is unable to handle, e.g. during floods, and can also be used as anchoring and winching points. If a heavy locomotive runs off the track in otherwise impassable terrain, the recovery vehicle can winch in the derailed locomotive closer to the trackbed where a railroad crane can place it back on the rails. With a triple-line pulley setup, the vehicle can develop up to 90 tonnes of pulling force.

On the average, SŽDC’s armoured recovery vehicles are called to action six times a year. They are also available for hire to civilian parties under commercial terms and conditions. The hourly rate is around CZK 8,000 VAT excluded, plus costs of transport to the site. There was, for example, a case involving a piece of construction equipment worth several hundreds of thousands of CZK sunk in a peat bog up to its cab. Apart from a substantial financial loss, there was also a risk of an environmental disaster caused by a leakage of diesel fuel, hydraulic and engine oil and other fluids into the vulnerable wetland ecosystem.


Basic specifications of the armoured recovery vehicle:  
Weight 46,500 kg
Length 7,120 mm, including the blade
Width, including removable parts 3,590 mm
Power output 573 kW @ 2,000 rpm
Average speed:  
Hard surface dry dirt road 35–45 km/h
Road speed max. 60 km/h
On the road 485 km
Cross-country 235 km
Fuel consumption (no towing):  
On the road 290 l/100 km
Cross-country 300–600 l/100 km
Fuel consumption per hour of work:  
When using role equipment 50 to 500 l
Turning angle 360°
Maximum lifting capacity 19 t



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