History of Esko and Suburban Rail Transport
Suburban and city rail transport as such was established at the beginning of the 20th century and is connected to the electrification of the Prague railway junction. However, massive development of suburban capacity rail occurred only in the 1970s in connection with the development of class 451 and 452 electrical train units known by the nickname “Pantograph”. These trains gradually became a symbol of the Prague railway and in their time represented a breakthrough in short-distance passenger transport. The lower floor, broad entry doors and interior arrangement allowed for unusually rapid boarding and disembarking of passengers which, along with these vehicles’ dynamic ride properties, helped to satisfy the growing demand for rail transport. In order to board the “Pantographs” more comfortably, it was necessary to reconstruct the platforms of all railway stations and stops. Capacity electrical units became the backbone on the main lines departing from Prague – to Kolín, Nymburk, Kralupy nad Vltavou, Beroun and Benešov. On these main lines, transport volumes gradually grew to necessitate trains running at 30-minute intervals during peak hours on weekdays. Insufficient capacity of the track network, especially on segments in Prague, prevented shorter intervals and in certain areas this is still a problem.
In the 1990s a modernisation of rail corridors was initiated which affected operations on individual lines.
Also in the late 1990s after several attempts with various prototypes, delivery began of new class 471 electrical units which are gradually taking over service from their older counterparts on the main lines. A concurrent programme has begun to modernise class 810 to 814 railcar units, known under the name Regionova. The first Regionova trains are now gradually replacing their unsuitable older counterparts.
The most significant construction project for the future, however, was the New Connection, which resolved capacity problems between Prague Main Station and the stations Praha-Libeň, Praha-Vysočany and Praha-Holešovice. It also made possible the interconnection of all directions from Prague Main Station and Prague Masaryk Station.
The creation and development of Prague Integrated Transport (PID), however, formed the basis for city rail as such. Starting in 1992, PID gradually made it possible to use municipal public transport tickets on the railway. Initially this only applied to the territory of Prague, but as PID developed this was extended to segments outside Prague within c. 30 km from the city limits. Gradually the main lines were integrated which made it possible to use not only passes but also PID short-term transfer tickets.
The first expressly city rail link was today’s line S41 from Praha-Libeň to Roztoky u Prahy, which is enjoying greater and greater demand
The railway played what was perhaps its most significant role during the flooding in the summer of 2002. Due to the inundation of metro stations, Prague’s municipal transport system was significantly restricted, and thus the railway prematurely took on its role as the backbone of Prague transport. Trains were expanded to maximum capacity on existing lines and even the Malešice connection and the Braník Bridge routes were used. This demonstrated the significance of the Prague railway’s role as a fully-fledged component of Prague mass transport and also underscored the acute need for its modernisation.
The designation of the main suburban rail lines with the symbol “S” was officially launched in December 2007. The individual Esko lines were numbered counter-clockwise from S1 to S9, while connecting lines were designated with the numbers of the main lines which they connect, e.g. S12, S41.