Prague metro 35 years down the line


Prague’s metro is relatively new in comparison to that of Paris or London, but in the course of its short existence, it has become one of the busiest underground systems in all of Europe. On Saturday, the metro celebrated its 35th anniversary.

It was 35 years ago on Saturday that the first trains left this, Muzeum, metro station, bound for Kačerov in the south and Sokolovská (now Florenc) in the north. Over the past three and a half decades, Prague’s metro system has expanded to consist of three lines which span nearly 60 kilometers of track. And it’s busy. Each day, the metro transports over 1.5 million people, making it the sixth busiest subway system in Europe.

Earlier today, I hopped aboard a C-line train to visit Dana Holanová, who worked on the design of the metro back in the 1960’s. I asked her first of all what Prague was like before the underground was built:

“It was very slow. Mostly the streets were packed with cars and all the other forms of transport which tried to get through and couldn’t. It was very busy.”

The metro wasn’t built all at once in the form that we know it now. It was built in separate stages. Can you tell me what you were working on and what you were doing?

“I remember working on the B line. But apparently A was done before that and C first. I remember there were some problems with what was under the city, the old foundations and so on. In fact we didn’t know what was under the city, so building the metro was a long process.”

Were you working on particular stations, or were you mapping out a route for the whole thing?

“I think we did all kinds of stuff, mostly designing. I was involved in the design of the interiors and calculating the weight each station could bear, I remember that part of it. It was especially Dejvice station I was working on.”

And are you happy with the end result?

“Yes, it could go a little further towards the airport, which it will. I think that was a mistake that we didn’t design it like that back then. But, of course, that wasn’t possible.”

And when you sit on the metro today, which I’m sure you do from time to time, is it how you imagined it would be when you designed it?

“Oh it’s wonderful, it is so fast. It is unbelievable. And it works, it goes all the time, especially in the mornings. So, they did a good job, let’s put it that way!”

The metro doesn’t yet go out as far as the airport, but chances are that its famous tannoy announcement, urging passengers to finish boarding, is one of the first blasts of Czech you will hear in Prague. With plans to expand the metro further - potentially adding a new line to the network by 2014 - 'Ukončete, prosím...' is set to become even more common a refrain in the years to come.