Public transport taxed to the limit in wake of floods

Photo: CTK

As the country struggles to deal with the damage caused by last week's devastating floods, people face plenty of secondary problems. Telecommunications and transport remain crippled. Getting through to anyone on the phone is a major challenge, getting somewhere in person even more so.

Photo: CTK
While telecommunications are expected to improve within a matter of days Czechs have come to realize that damaged roads and the flooded subway will plague them for months to come. Travelling around the Czech capital Prague has become a nightmare. The streets are jammed with cars, while trams and buses struggle to cope with thousands of extra commuters due to the crippled subway. Although Czech Railways has also re-routed various lines to suit daily commuters, many people still prefer to drive to work.

The city's traffic police issues dozens of appeals a day, urging drivers to keep out of the city centre.

"We are appealing to drivers not to drive into Prague or through Prague unless they have very good reason to do so. There are huge parking lots on the outskirts for this purpose and the state of our main roads is now critical. Cars are crawling through the city and the trip takes hours rather than minutes. The constant traffic jams are complicating clean up operations in several Prague districts because fire engines, garbage disposal trucks and other vehicles involved in the operation get stuck in the traffic jams as well."

Directing traffic in Prague has suddenly become a major operation involving traffic police, city police, state police and even the army. Public transport has been given top priority with so called "yellow lanes" reserved for trams, busses and vehicles involved in the clean up operation. The police say they will start imposing tough fines on drivers who fail to respect the yellow lanes.

Although angry citizens propose tougher measures such as closing off certain parts of Prague to car traffic, the City Hall says that this is not a good solution since it would mean recalling police officers from areas where they are now badly needed . I asked, Martin Krupka, City Hall spokesman, whether the authorities are happy with the present state of public transport in Prague.

"The city transport authorities are doing everything possible to meet the present needs. Every tram and bus that's operable is on the road and every possible route has been covered. At this point it is not possible to do more."

What many people fear however is the start of the new school year in a fortnights time which will bring home many Prague families who are still enjoying their summer holidays out in the country. What this additional burden will do to the already heavily taxed public transport system remains to be seen.