Prague residents have long been used to the city’s efficient metro system but efficiency wasn’t the word that came to mind for many commuters on Wednesday, when a part of the oldest line in the system was closed off for more than four hours. Announcements were played in a loop outside stations every few minutes warning travelers of the situation. The crux of the problem? Heavy snow that had melted in the metro tunnel within Prague’s Nusle bridge.
Prague’s 37-year-old Nusle bridge, 40 metres high in places and almost half a kilometer long, is a crucial link on Prague’s Metro line C, containing within a tunnel connecting separate parts of the city. But on Wednesday, it proved the weakest link, as heavy snow on the bridge’s surface – a six-lane throughway – melted. Water made its way into the tunnel causing electrical damage, forcing closure on part of the line, between stations Pražského povstaní and Florenc, from two in the afternoon to seven in the evening. Firefighters were called to the scene to try to pump the water out and mop up; Pavlína Adamcová is a representative for the fire brigade:
“Our crews were sent into the tunnel at almost half past two: melting water that had made its way into the tunnel short-circuited the electronics and caused a small fire.”
As a result part of the line had to be shut down, leaving thousands of commuters temporarily stranded, many waiting patiently outside stations doors hoping travel would resume soon. But it didn’t, leaving many running very late. Prague’s Public Transit Co. in the meantime scrambled to get alternative busses – up to 40 of them – onto the streets. And, even though the problem on line C was fixed by Wednesday evening and transit resumed, it’s not yet clear more extensive repairs won’t be needed. The transit company’s spokeswoman, Ilona Vysoudilová, said this:
“It depends whether there is more extensive damage to insulation in the tunnel or not. If it has only been soaked through, it can be dried out, it shouldn’t take too long. But it’s possible that the insulation will need to be fully replaced.”
Nusle Bridge, photo: Adam Zivner, Wikipedia
Many observers note that although the Nusle Bridge underwent repairs in the 1990s after more than 30 years standing it is not in great technical shape. The Prague Technical Road Administration, for example, has said the bridge needs repairs to its inner casing as well as seams but renovation would cost more than the city,at least until Wednesay,appeared willing to commit. One City Hall representative also told a Czech newspaper on Wednesday that closing off a major transit route for longer at this time was unthinkable, and would cause chaos for commuters, given how many thousands rely on line C every single day. The crux is that Prague has only seen the beginning of winter, one that has already been difficult, and if this season is anything like the last, there could easily be a lot more snow – and problems with it.