What you're hearing is the arrival of a train on Prague's "C" line - part of the city's busy but highly reliable metro network used by tens of thousands of Czech commuters every single day. Soon, two new stations will open extending the "C" line into the city's Kobylisy district, joining a northern district of Prague that was largely cut off. Jan Velinger went along to a preview of the two new stations - and joins us in the studio now to tell us how it went...
"Thank you Dita, as a regular commuter myself I have to tell you that taking part in the tour of the two new stations was an experience and a half. Organisers from the Prague Transit Authority opened the stations for one day seven months before both stations open officially. And, the public's interest has been rightfully piqued. The new stations and metro section feature several amazing firsts, including: the sharpest elevation rise between stations in Prague, and side-by-side tracks at one point - trains otherwise travel in individual tunnels. There is also a world first whereby whole sections of the tunnel were poured on dry land and only put into position later. Those parts specifically at the section where trains shall pass under the Vltava River. Finally, one of the new stations - called Kobylisy - is built with a free-standing vault. It's the first of its kind in the city's metro says Prague councillor Radovan Steiner:
"Technically speaking it's a single vault station and the space is uninterrupted by columns, so passengers can see a high ceiling of one nave, of one vault, like in a Gothic cathedral."
"Yes it is. It's obviously costly - it's not as cheap as a standard three-vault station, but, I think it's worthwhile. Passengers who will be using the station in the future will be able to optically and psychologically enjoy a spacious station, which will make their journey more comfortable."
Overall, the new section of the metro will serve some 150, 000 in the area of Kobylisy and Ladvi in the north of Prague, more than ten percent of the city's population. The whole new section cost 9 billion crowns. A lot of money, but a lot of exciting engineering and design that will keep technology buffs in rapture for quite some time. It's already obvious that when the new stations do open many visitors will travel to the end of the line for no other reason than to see them with their own eyes."
And, as you said Jan, it will be some seven months before the new section comes into use?
"Well transit authority officials have slated the opening for June - five months ahead of schedule according to original plans. Already all of the heavy construction has been completed but a lot of finishing work remains - everything from lighting and wall coverings to proper ventilation and such. That said, it was a unique experience to be able to see the tunnels now - before all the bells and whistle are in place. The atmosphere was very moody with only emergency lighting and lots of exposed concrete - right out of a sci-fi thriller. When trains whistle by, those areas will of course no longer be accessible - so visitors last week were able to get something of a privileged glimpse."
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