In the Prague metro, there are 61 stations in total if we count the transfer stations on each line separately. There are 45 barrier-free stations. Out of this number, 41 stations have barrier-free access for all passengers. Wheelchaired persons can also use sloping staircase platforms in the stations Nové Butovice, Smíchovské nádraží and Strašnická, a vertical platform in the Nádraží Holešovice station and an adjusted freight elevator in the Opatov station.
In places without barrier-free entrance, transport of disabled persons in wheelchairs is problematic if not impossible. It is unfortunate legacy of past years – according to the former concept of the construction of the individual sections, the metro stations were built without a possibility of barrier-free access until 1990. Currently, the Prague Public Transit Company intensively deals with the issue of the barrier-free access to stations and aims to have all the metro stations with barrier-free access until 2028.
An obstacle to easy access for disabled passengers – and especially wheelchair users – to the metro vehicles is also the horizontal gap between the edge of the platform and the vehicle boarding edge (in case of all metro vehicles). The gap is necessary for side swings of the vehicles which are determined by suspension and current load thereof. On lines A + B, the sets consisting of 81-71M type vehicles are operated, which do not have the suspension balancing the vehicle floor level with the platform level regardless of the load, as well as the vertical elevation (the vehicle boarding edge is higher than the platform edge). The size of the horizontal gap and of the vertical elevation in the case of type 81-71M vehicles is affected by the current load of the vehicles and by the wear of suspension and wheels. Therefore, it is not possible to set the optimal gap and to maintain such gap for the whole time of the operation. Currently, the testing of various types of mechanical devices facilitating smooth ride from the platform to the metro vehicle, or vice versa, is being prepared. Despite all the above information, DPP tries to accommodate passengers with reduced mobility as much as possible. The order of importance of the realisation of the barrier-free accesses to the metro stations is being discussed with the organisations for wheelchair users and the future adjustments impacting the movement of the visually impaired passengers are consulted with representatives of the SONS (United organisations of partially sighted and blind).
Various measures satisfying the needs of disabled passengers, where they would otherwise barely get to the metro areas, include for example already mentioned entry using the freight elevators. However, strict rules apply to their use. Their utilisation is only possible where the operational conditions allows. Immobile passengers must also have their own personal accompaniment trained by the Prague Public Transit Company employees for the use of the freight elevators. Transport by the freight elevator is enabled in the Opatov station, in the case of failure of the passenger elevators also in the stations Háje, Chodov, Roztyly and Nádraží Holešovice.
In the past period, barrier-free accesses were put into operation in the stations I. P. Pavlova, Anděl, Roztyly, Můstek A/B and most recently also in the Palmovka station. Subsidy from the EU funds within the Operational programme Prague – Competitiveness was obtained to fund these barrier-free accesses.
Currently, the barrier-free access is being realised in the Karlovo náměstí station, which should be, in the form of two related couples of passenger elevators, finalised in the middle of next year (2020). The approved investment plan currently envisages the gradual construction of barrier-free accesses in the metro stations Opatov, Jiřího z Poděbrad and Českomoravská.
Feasibility studies have been developed for a number of other stations and project preparation has already been launched for some of them. These includes e.g. the stations Radlická, Jinonice, Křižíkova and Malostranská.
Occasional breakdowns of barrier-free facilities are a separate chapter. Except for the stations with two passenger elevators operated in parallel, the barrier-free access is disabled in case of every breakdown. Suspensions – whether planned or extraordinary due to a breakdown – are then the subject of negative reactions of the traveling public.
Breakdowns of sloping mobile platforms installed in the stations Strašnická, Smíchovské nádraží and Nové Butovice are observed most often. Significant part of the failures is caused by ignorance of the rules for the manipulation with the equipment, which are, however, described in detail in the instructions for use.
Problems occur especially in case of the platforms where the control thereof is different from the control of the elevators. Thus, when calling the platform and then for the entire time period of the ride, the switch in question needs to be held, otherwise the platform stops. This is most evident in the vertical platform in the Nádraží Holešovice station, which passengers often confuse with an elevator. Mobile platforms are also often targeted by vandals.
Cabins of the passenger elevators are normally equipped with control elements with descriptions, the buttons also have characters in Braille, the cabins also contain acoustic sounds enabling connection with the operating (station) personnel. Passengers (especially children) often misuse the cabin button for calling for help in an emergency; the elevator cabins themselves then very often bear traces of “artistic endeavours”, as well as of theft and vandalism (deliberate theft or damage of equipment); lately there has been growing disorder in the form of the cabins’ pollution by the homeless or socially disturbed individuals.
If you witness such action, do not hesitate to call the Police of the Czech Republic immediately!
Barrier-free facilities are intended for all passengers, but preferably for disabled people and persons with prams.