Every time we're in a city with a metro system, we instinctively find ourselves comparing it to the London Underground. We love the London Underground (were the five stories we publish on it a week not enough of a giveaway?) but it's always worth checking out the competition.
This time, we're in Prague, which boasts a small but impressive network.
As a great philosopher once said — possibly Plato? — 'size matters'. Prague is severely lacking in this department; it only has three lines compared to London's 11 (Prague does, after all, have a mere 1.3m inhabitants).
Prague's got a fourth line coming, but alas, the D line won't arrive until 2023 (insert your own joke about riding the D here). By that time London will have Crossrail, and although it technically won't be a tube line, it will outshine all other countries' subterranean transport achievements.
Perhaps the biggest London truism right now is how costly the city is. Prague is vastly less expensive, especially when it comes to beer, the drinking of which is a national pastime. By living in Prague you're already saving wads of pilsner money, despite drinking more of it, which leaves more to spend on transport. Except you won't need that either, as the transport is modestly priced too.
A monthly zone 1-2 travelcard in London costs a precious £126.80. In Prague a monthly travelcard clocks in at roughly £23.37. Yes, the annual salary is roughly a third of London's, but in relative terms, getting around in Prague is still far cheaper. Plus, that monthly travelcard includes Prague's outer zones (well, they don't have zones but you see our point). We wonder: what's Prague's equivalent of Amersham...
The trains on the Prague Metro are fine. Nothing special. The most noticeable thing about them is that instead of two sets of seats facing each other, they do this weird two seats facing just one — it feels like a seat has been amputated — or that they've been set up for a moving job interview.
The trains are a bit boxy compared to our curvaceous tube. There's not much variety in the trains either, a by-product of having so few lines. No popping moquette to speak of here. Sorry Prague, we're going to have to be honest: your trains are dull.
The absolute best thing about Prague's metro system are the designs that line the platforms. Clearly drawing inspiration from Daleks many of the walls and tunnels are dotted with coloured concave and convex hemispheres. Many a time we've stared at them after one too many Pilsner Urquells, trying to figure out which are concave and which are convex. Sounds easy, but isn't.
London's platforms can be fantastic too, but they're equally as likely to let you down. For every wonderful Paolozzi design there are five more plain Jane stations.
There's another thing to point out about Prague's stations. Everyone knows about London's stations doubling up as bomb shelters during the Blitz, but would they make it through a nuclear attack? Some of Prague's stations could.
In a few of the stations there are huge round doors that can be hermetically sealed to protect from a nuclear blast on the surface or even a torrential wave of water. The whole system could shelter 300,000 for three days. Think about it. All that time down there with those Dalek hemispheres. How beautiful.
Oh yes, many of Prague's stations also have stalls hawking delicious (and naturally cheap) pizza by the slice.
London has the oldest underground system in the world, whereas Prague's hasn't even hit 50. Still Prague's metro was built during a fascinating time for history fanatics, when the country was under communist rule. The entire network still has that functional, brutal vibe surrounding it.
In fact, Prague attempted to do away with as many of these allusions as possible. 13 stations were renamed, in an attempt to distance them from their communist past, for example Dejvická was originally Leninova. Understandable for a nation attempting to recover from a traumatic part of its history, but still a bit disappointing for the historically-inclined tourist.
The London Underground is far prouder of its history, especially because of websites like ours, determined to dredge up every strange part of it we can find.
Final score: London 3 Prague 2
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- London Underground Vs Tokyo Metro
Disagree with us? Tell us why in the comments beneath and let us know where we should compare next.
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