Porters planned after failure to install escalators at new Metro station serving airport

Photo: Filip Jandourek

A shiny new Metro station will from Monday serve travellers using Prague’s Václav Havel Airport. However, the Nádraží Veleslavín station has not been fitted with escalators leading to street level. To get around the problem, porters will be employed to help people with heavy luggage in what is said to be a unique service in Europe.

Photo: Filip Jandourek
At 3 PM on Easter Monday four new stations on the A (or green) Metro line will go into operation, with Bořislavka, Nádraží Veleslavín, Petřiny and Nemocnice Motol set to serve thousands of residents of Prague 6.

Nádraží Veleslavín will also serve travellers going to and from the city’s airport, who will board and alight the 119 bus there instead of at the more centrally located Dejvická.

However, as iDnes.cz has reported, the station has not been fitted with escalators from its vestibule to street level.

To get around the problem, Václav Havel Airport Prague has hired porters to help passengers carry heavy luggage up the two dozen or so steps they need to negotiate to reach the street-level bus stop.

There is a lift at the station, but it will deposit users on the other side of a crossroads.

Travel writer Mark Baker has covered this region extensively. I asked him for his views on the failure to install escalators.

Photo: Kristýna Maková
“It seems to be typical when people are designing something in this city to leave how it will affect tourists sort of off the board.”

In all your travels, have you ever seen porters being used at a station on an underground rail network?

“At least in the countries that I cover, in Central and Eastern Europe, this will be totally unique. Prague will be alone in this, or at least will be special in this respect, I think.”

A spokesperson for Prague Airport said it was unique, but as if it was a positive thing.

“Well, I think it’s going to be a positive thing, at least at the beginning. You can imagine the good publicity that Prague is going to get out for having porters at the escalators of a Metro station. It’s going to be fantastic.

“The problem is going to be how long they commit to this thing and how well they do it and how they execute it in practice. Those are the things that in the long run will determine whether this succeeds or fails.”

But won’t Prague look ridiculous for not having included escalators at this very important Metro station?

Illustrative photo: Kristýna Maková
“I really don’t know. But I think people will see these porters as something kind of special. And I think at the beginning they’re going to get a positive buzz.”

The Prague transit company say the airport authorities did not request escalators to street level during a planning stage in 2008; when they did so two years ago it was too late from the perspective of legislation on applying for funding.

One or two porters – with the number depending on time of day – will wear reflective vests and ID cards. They will carry bags weighing up to 30kg, the limit for air travel.

Prague Airport says the service will be in operation at least until the end of the year, when a review will be conducted.