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Back stroke in Prague

Prague´s public transport faces series of cuts. Dopravni podnik hl. m. Prahy (DPP) – the city´s transit company – lacks resources and Prague´s counsellors have decided that the way how to cut down expenses and reduce loss is to curb down a service for some 1,3 milion of inhabitans of the Czech capital, starting beginning of March. The cuts would see some bus and tram lines scrapped entirely while Prague´s metro would shorten the service round the clock. Last trains would leave the center at 11.30pm rather then shortly after midnight and first morning trains would kick start half-hour later. DPP needs to safe CZK 1 bld and the rise in price of transport tickets together with the reduction of services are believed to be the right path to take.

Well, well, well. It´s a time of an economic crisis and everybody is cutting down expenses. But Prague is a rich and busy city, only mildly hit by the economic downturn – if at all – and it´s a touristic hot-spot, a money catcher. Obviously tourists do use Prague´s public transport, too, and they, together with locals, consider it as one of the pleasant sides of this town.

For that´s fact: Prague´s metro, trams and buses make it for an added value to the romantic panorama of the medieval Czech capital. Try to live in London, Paris or Berlin, and than in Brussels or Warsaw, and it is clear that Prague belongs to the first group. Public transport works fine in the British, French, German and Czech metropolis while it´s hellish in Brussels or Warsaw. And while Paris or Berlin are enhancing the scope of public transport services – Berlin´s metro runs throughout Saturdays´nights now and Paris hands out regular free night passes during special cultural events in the town, irrespective of crisis – Prague´s counsellors, who decide on the subsidies for DPP, have taken a backward step.

Even more importantly, it´s not known whether the cuts will generate the needed income. Prague´s city council didn´t disclose any analysis that would prove it while the immediate impact of a reduced service is rather clear: complicated departure for work in early mornings and complicated, and costly, return home after 11.30 pm. Only the cab drivers can open a bottle of champagne now – those Prague´s taxis that are always ready to rip you off which is a notorious experience of locals and especially of foreign tourists coming to town.

Any suggestion how to solve the dilemma of an empty pocket? If we leave aside things that should be scrapped immediately, like the latest and highly controversial project of a flexible all-year public transport pass („Opencard“) which smells of corruption and is worth some CZK 900 million, basicaly about the sum that is missing in the budget of DPP, how about changing the material with which the walls and floors of Prague´s metro stations are covered?

DPP uses mostly polished granite and in some cases even polished marble to furbish the stations – a habit from the past when Czech constructors had to look for an inspiration to the Soviet Moscow tube. They don´t have to anymore, and polished granite is three-times as expensive as a rough one (not even taking about the cost of ordinary, cheap tiles that are a common floor feature to, say, Paris´ or London´s metro). And not only that it´s three-times as much, it´s also quite dangerous to walk on it, especially during winter time because it´s very slippery. And since it´s very slippery, broken legs and arms are daily accidents inside Prague´s metro – with quite a number of commuters claiming dammage at the DPP.

Anything to add? How about „Welcome to the visionary and responsible heart of Europe in the 21st century“, your Prague´s city council, with love.

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