A Prague underground system had been proposed as early as 1898 by the engineer Ladislav Rott, but it was only in 1926 that the first proper plan for a rapid transport system was drawn up by Vladimir List and Bohumil Belada, commemorated in the plaque below at Muzeum station.
Even so, the troubled history and economy of the twentieth century put the project on hold until the late 1960s; and it was not until 9 May 1974 that the first trains were put into service on a section that now forms part of the ‘C’ line, running south-north via the city centre. The years that followed saw rapid expansion of the network with two further lines, one running northwest-southeast (line ‘A’, 1978) and one northeast-southwest (line ‘B’, 1985).
The minimalist design of the stations owes much to their communist-era architects. Each is unique, but those on the ‘A’ line are the most recognizable, with Jaroslav Votruba’s colour-coded panels of anodized aluminium stretching the full length of the platforms in a series of convex and concave roundels.
The stations themselves are simple and functional, most of them having a single central platform; in the city centre, three of the stations connect two alternate lines via a system of walkways and escalators. At the time of writing there are 57 stations, forming a network that serves 600 million passengers a year, making the Prague metro one of the world’s busiest. In April 2015, four new stations opened on line ‘A’, part of the current extension towards the airport.
Since the revolution of 1989, eleven of the stations have been stripped of their former Soviet names; several, however, retain artwork which acts as a reminder of those times – including a relief of Lenin at Dejvická, formerly ‘Leninova’, and a mural depicting the communist Russian space programme at Háje, formerly ‘Kosmonautů’. Other stations contain artwork reflecting the heritage of the city.