City Hall to launch ambitious plan that significantly steps up security in Prague metros

The horrors of the July 7 London bombings are still fresh in our minds. Ten years after the nerve gas attacks on Tokyo's underground railway, the bombs in London showed that public transport systems around the world are still an easy target for terrorists.

Although Prague is generally not thought to be a likely terrorist target, the City Hall and the Transport Authority have been exploring various security measures. On Tuesday, an ambitious project that could turn Prague's metro into a fortress was given the green light.

The Prague metro system has three lines, covers 54 km and is used by around 1.5 million passengers a day. There are currently only two stations that are monitored by cameras. Passengers walk into all metro stations freely; only those without passes punch their tickets in small machines that stand at every entrance.

The new system would limit that freedom extensively: every passenger would walk through a turnstile, all metro passes and tickets would be scanned - if a person, who had handled explosives and transferred particles of it onto the ticket, it would be detected and an alarm would go off.

The first phase of the project is to be completed by the end of next year. Three of Prague's main metro stations will have sensors that will monitor the underground air to detect even the smallest amounts of toxic substances like mustard gas or the infamous sarin, used in the Tokyo attacks. But in the 162 million crown project (a little over 6.5 million US dollars) all stations will eventually be protected by thousands of cameras, electronic sensors, and explosives detectors.