Prague Airport is one of the fifty largest in Europe. But it is the only one that has no railway connection, so most passengers are crowded on buses. Although Prague has strengthened the bus service, it is not enough. The situation will not change in the years to come either, as the high-speed train from the center to Ruzyně is still out of sight.
Suitcases, stairs, crowds. An unpleasant holiday triathlon waits for passengers of Ruzyne airport.
Those who can afford it take a taxi or their own car. But these are in a minority. Roughly two-thirds of people heading for Prague Airport will arrive by one of the bus routes. They have no other option.
There are six daily and night lines from Prague and Central Bohemia to the airport. The most frequent of them, from the Nádraží Veleslavín metro station, leaves every three minutes. And it is not enough anyway.
In 2019, the city deploys two buses instead of just one in 2019 at critical times, such as during weekends. “One bus connecting to each metro is no longer sufficient,” explains Ropid spokesman, Filip Drápal.
The railroad was originally supposed to operate at the airport ever since 2004. According to the latest plans, the first train is supposed to arrive in 2028. By then, it will be a bus only. Prague has rejected the extension of the tram or metro.
Metro Station Nadrazi Veleslavín is proof that when traveling to Prague airport, everything should have been different. Instead of having a suitcase in your hand and taking a bus, one should comfortably switch to a train.
Hundreds of daily connections
When crossing the mezzanine station, there is usually no time for the passengers to notice large glass doors that go nowhere and are a monument to one expected project – this is where the train was to be connecting, which was to connect the center of Prague with Václav Havel Airport in Ruzyně. It was supposed to be finished long before the metro was opened in 2015.
These doors will open in ten years, at the earliest. About six hundred thousand people every month, mostly with suitcases, have to travel by bus. And their numbers have been rising ever since 2013, as well as the airport traffic.
“Last year, almost 16.8 million passengers were cleared and 155,530 take-offs and landings took place. Thus, the positive trend continues, with the number of cleared passengers increased by 9 percent,” said airport spokesman, Roman Pacvoň.
The existing bus connection is in danger of collapse
Twenty thousand passengers pass through Ruzyně Airport on line 119 from Veleslavin each and every day, while up to ten thousand people choose one of the other five routes to the airport. Thus, a total of 436 connections from several directions are heading towards the airport on a working day.
Last time Prague strengthened its connections to the airport was at the beginning of the tourist season in late May. Two buses operate at the busiest of times instead of just one. “Dual connections will solve capacity problems at longer metro intervals during the weekend when one bus connecting to each subway is no longer enough,” explains Filip Drápal, a spokesman for ROPID, which provides public transport in Prague and its surroundings.
The line has been strengthened as of last year when at peak time, the connection waiting time was shortened to just three minutes and there was a connection to each metro.
Trolleybuses instead of trams
Prague has no other way to simply increase airport connection traffic. Especially when no bidders entered the recent long-term rental of high-capacity buses. “The further development will depend on the growth of the number of air passengers. If they grow, there is no other cheap solution without high-capacity buses,” admits Drápal.
Therefore, ROPID still envisages the provision of large-capacity buses on line 119 from Veleslavín.
The Prague transportation department also aims for the possibility of electrifying the line and even deploying high-capacity trolleybuses.
The railway is being prepared
On the contrary, it is almost certain that the tram and metro will not be connecting to the airport.
“An effective variant of the railway is being prepared, including the modernization of the line to Kladno. Metro A and tram are not included,” adds Drápal.
The journey from the center of Prague to Václav Havel Airport in Ruzyně should take only 25 minutes using the railway line, which is being prepared, and without the risk of a traffic jam. “The modernization of the line between Prague and Kladno with a branch to the airport should be completed in 2028,” says Deputy Director of Railway Infrastructure Administration, Mojmír Nejezchleb.
The line modernization is divided into seven sections. The first section of the Negrelli Viaduct, which will be completed by June next year, is still under development. Others are being prepared, but they are only at the initial stage, purchasing the land and boring long tunnels.