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CZK 15 billion metro ends in a field

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Letňany (ČTK): Letňany: A metro stop in the middle of nowhere. (ČTK)Letňany: A metro stop in the middle of nowhere. (ČTK)

Prague – It doesn’t even look like Prague. You get off at the end of the metro line in Letňany, and all you see are empty fields.

“You can’t get anywhere from here by foot. You need to take the bus,” says Kateřina Ondřejová, who uses this station every day when she travels from her home in Vinoř, north-east of Prague’s city centre, to her work in Prague.

The commute became worse when Prague’s transport company had to limit service at the end of the C metro line in January because of insufficient funds. “I often miss my bus, and waiting at a stop in the middle of a field is not pleasant. It rains, snows and gets windy out here,” she says.

The 4.6-km metro line from Ládví to Letňany, which was completed last spring, cost more than CZK 15 billion. And the operation of the three stations, Střížkov, Prosek and Letňany, is costing the city additional dozens of millions of crowns.

But Letňany Mayor Ivan Kabický doesn’t doubt that the Letňany station was built in the right place. “This area has great potential for the future,” he told Aktuálně.cz. He added that the parking lot, which can fit hundreds of cars, is already nearly 70% full these days.

Groundhogs and moles

When Prague Mayor Pavel Bém officially opened the new metro stations last May, he criticised journalists for writing that the Letňany metro would be “used by groundhogs and moles”.

“If you look at this part of the city, there are 80,000 people living here,” said Bém, who estimated that some 50,000 people will use the station daily. “You can see these people as ‘groundhogs and moles’, but the Prague City Hall does not see it that way,” he said.

City councillor Radovan Šteiner noted that C-line trains will have the shortest intervals. “The intervals on the C-line will be around 115 seconds, which is really the peak. It’s the shortest possible time from a technological standpoint. It’s the fastest way of transporting passengers,” he said.

But eight months have passed, and the reality is very different. Only every other train goes all the way to Letňany.

Years ago, when Prague City Hall tried to find a suitable location for a metro terminal in Letňany, it decided on a field far from any residential areas. The reason was the planned construction of a trade fair arena, possibly an Olympic stadium and other buildings in that area.

But all the construction is running behind schedule. The city’s transport company admitted as much in a letter response to Ondřejová, who had sent the company repeated complaints about public transport in Letňany.

City Hall compares the Letňany line to the one that runs to Zličín, in the south-western part of Prague. Fifteen years ago, the metro also ended in the middle of a field, but shopping centres were later built in the area, and now the line is widely used.

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