Central European paternoster lift threatened with extinction

The sentence has fallen like an axe: from 2003 on, the bizarre and rather scary open-doored lift - the paternoster- will disappear from old office buildings across Central Europe. The paternoster, which has been moving Central Europeans from one floor to the next for decades, must be removed from Czech buildings because it doesn't meet European safety requirements. The problem? They don't have any doors. Beatrice Cady has the details.

to produce this particular type of lift during the second half of the century.

What makes paternosters different from regular lifts, is that there is not just one cabin going up and down the building and stopping at every floor, but several doorless cabins which move uninterruptedly, yet slowly enough to enable people to get on and off. The name paternoster comes from the rosary - the circle of beads reflects the unbroken chain of cabins. Although much more efficient and convenient than regular lifts--you need not queue up for ages while you're waiting for the lift to come--paternoster lifts have two major drawbacks: they are much more complicated to install and to repair, which makes building owners reluctant to buy them nowadays, and they do not meet the safety requirements of the European Union, which today is the main problem.

So how will the Czech Republic's joining the European Union influence the production and the use of doorless lifts? Despite press claims, the Czech company Krone that makes paternosters suggests that the European requirements will not threaten the existence of the existing paternosters, which will be regulated by Czech norms. However, further production of this type of lift will no longer be allowed. So, the fate of paternosters in the Czech Republic seems to be sealed; when the older generation passes away, it will not be replaced. In the next ten years, paternosters will be nothing more than a memory. But what do the people think?

Well, as a whole, Czechs don't seem to think the paternoster needs to be banned. Paternosters are considered to be as safe as any other kind of lift. The Czech Army has just had a new one installed in its office buildings in Dejvice. Besides, there is nothing to fear in a paternoster: it will automatically stop if something gets stuck in its mechanism, your little finger for example. So the myth of the decapitated person in Radio Prague's paternoster must just be Western propaganda.

Author: Beatrice Cady
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