Prague public transport plans revolution - price hikes, chip cards, metro turnstiles

Photo: CTK

Prague's public transport system is frequently described by foreign visitors as one of the best in Europe, even though the natives often seem bemused at all the praise...But certainly no-one can deny that the system is extensive, fairly easy to use and relatively cheap. However the Prague Transport Authority has a number of changes in the pipeline which will change how the people of Prague pay for their transport, and they could be controversial.

The first change is a stiff price hike, which - if the proposals are approved by the Prague City Council next week - would come into effect on January 1st. Under the new tariff, the price of a single changing ticket would increase by 50 percent, from the current 20 crowns to 30 crowns. Monthly, quarterly and annual season tickets would also increase, by up to 40 percent.

The man in charge of Prague's transport, Martin Dvorak, says the price rises would bring a much-needed cash injection of some 850 million crowns - around 46 million dollars - into the authority's coffers. But it's not clear whether they'll go through. "Our proposals weren't very well received by the Council," he told reporters. The mayor of Prague, Pavel Bem, is said to be opposed to them.

But other, more ambitious changes are also in the pipeline. At present you have to physically queue for your tickets - either in front of a machine for single tickets, or in front of a person at the limited number of metro stations that sell season ticket coupons. By next summer that could be a thing of the past.

Photo: CTK
The Prague Transport Authority is planning to introduce a chip card system - the Praguer - similar to London's Oyster card or the Carte Navigo in Paris. The card already exists: for the moment people can use it to pay for parking and take out library books. From next year, it should be possible to use it as a public transport pass as well, with passengers charging up the card with credit beforehand.

And one final proposal - Prague is one of the few cities in Europe where there are no barriers regulating access to the metro. That, again, could change. Turnstiles were taken down in the 1970s and 80s. The Transport Authority is looking at plans to bring them back.