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City wants signs in English

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Foreigners who came to the Madonna concert in mid-August might not have known that the ticket to the show entitled them to free public transportion. A recorded announcement broadcast in Prague’s metro stations was in Czech only. The situation could improve in the future, however, city officials last week agreed to changes to make life easier for foreign visitors.

“We propose that street signs and announcements in the metro be bilingual so foreigners can understand them, too. We will put pressure on the government to make it happen,” Milan Richter (ODS), Prague city councillor for culture, told Hospodářské noviny.

City hall is expected to endorse these changes in September, after which city officials will ask the Transport Ministry or Mayor Pavel Bém’s office to draft an amendment to the road law. It is clear, however, that no such bill will pass during this electoral term.

More change await taxi drivers. “In September, we plan to present the city council with a proposal to regulate the placement of taxi meters,” Richter said. Drivers will have to place their meters in the upper part of the dashboard so passengers in the back seat can see them easily. At present, most taxis’ meters at the bottom of the dash.

Some taxi drivers think the changes will amount to little. “Changing the taxi service law will not help anyone since it does not apply to the cars that are registered as contractual passenger transportation. These often drive tourists from hotels to airports,” said František Krotil, business director of taxi company Sedop.

Moving taxi meters will also not prevent unscrupulous drivers from installing meters with the so-called turbo function — a device which accelerates the meter during the ride. Few passengers can tell when a meter is on turbo.

City hall is acting now in response to statistics. The number of tourists in the first half of the year fell by 17% year-on-year. More than 4 million people visited Prague last year, but this year’s figures might fall to 3.4 million.

City representatives are responding to demands from the Association of Czech Travel Agents. “Every other guide will tell you that you will be robbed in Prague, either by pick-pockets or taxi drivers,” said the association’s spokesman, Tomio Okamura, who also blamed the financial crisis for declining tourist numbers.

Okamura met with the Deputy Mayor Rudolf Blažek and the city representative for culture, Milan Richter, who promised to help. “I have been coming to city hall with these suggestions for six years now,” Okamura said.

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