Prague - The Czech capital's underground railway system, known locally as metro, is bursting at the seams.
Especially at the peak time, Prague metro is unable to accomodate all the people waiting at the station. Carriages are so full, that many passengers have to wait for the next train.
It marks a new phase in Prague's transportation quagmire. With the streets of Prague now regularly jammed by car traffic, the same woes finally reached its underground, too.
Near the breaking-point
Prague Public Transit Company admits the existence of the problem. It believes though that it could be less pronounced if the trains were able to stick to the precise schedule.
According to public transport strategists the problem arises from the fact that there are simply too many passengers. Before they get on and get out, train is delayed.
"For example, the planned interval on the C line for the peak times is 115 seconds, while in reality it can be as much as 180 seconds," Pavel Čejka from Prague Public Transit Company explained.
"Five long buses arriving at the same time at the Kačerov station (where the passengers make a transfer) will do it. Metro is immediately full," he added.
The C line under pressure
Especailly the capacity of the C line, more than the remaining two, is near the breaking-point and it's not able to serve the growing metropolis comfortably.
The C line is the busiest metro line in Prague. The busiest section of the whole network the link between stations Vyšehrad and I.P.Pavlova, which runs through the bridge across the Nusle valley is also part of it.
Trains on this line are, nevertheless, running with the shortest interval possible. The trains cannot go more frequently than every 115 seconds.
"The minimum interval there is near the limits required by the safeguarding mechanism," public transport company declares.
On the A and B lines, the trains still have a time allowance and could run more often. "A certain cutdown of intervals is possible," public transport company admits.
Transporting the whole city. Every day
Every day metro is on the average used by each and every Prague citizen, including babies.
Total number of Prague's inhabitants was 1 181 610 last year, while the underground railway system during the working days transports on the average 1 142 000 passengers.
And that number grows every year as well as the number of Prague's inhabitants. Whereas in 2001 some 442 million passengers took the metro, last year it was over half a bilion for the first time.
Metro is thus holding on to its dominant position within Prague's integrated public transportation system. By tram a total of 340 million passengers travelled last year, by bus it was slightly less: 330 million people.
"The peak time for metro is between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. Number of passengers entering the metro stations at around that time is 107 thousand. The total number of passengers in the whole metro network is much higher, but too complex to find out," said the company.
Second peak time comes at 4 p.m. and lasts approximately till 6 p.m.