Prague may scrap Opencard project

Prague City Hall may cancel the controversial smart card scheme Opencard if further services cannot be developed soon, mayor says

Politics & Policy|Society
Brian Kenety | 04.04.2012

Prague mayor Bohuslav Svoboda says the Czech capital’s smart card scheme Opencard may be cancelled as project managers and partners have failed to develop it so that residents may enjoy a broader range of services. Currently, it is almost exclusively used as a public transport season ticket.

“If we cannot quickly enough start to develop additional services, we will have to address the issue of whether to continue the Opencard project,” Svoboda (Civic Democrats, ODS) said Tuesday following a meeting of Prague City Hall, as cited by news server Aktualne.cz. “We want to have concrete proposals on the table by autumn,” the mayor said.

Apart from acting as a ticket for the Prague metro, trams and buses, Opencard also allows discounted access to cultural venues and can be used to make cashless payments for public parking and as a library card. The project — which cost more than Kč 800 million to introduce — has been plagued by massive cost overruns since its inception and by allegations of corruption.

Prague City Hall last year cancelled a dubious contract with Haguess, the nontransparent firm that had been supplying chips for Opencard — and which is allegedly part controlled by controversial ODS “godfather” and lobbyist Roman Janoušek, now at the center of a probe into cronyism and corruption during the term of the previous mayor, Pavel Bém (ODS), who is now an MP.

Svoboda on Tuesday criticized the Opencard project as a whole, saying it was “not sufficiently well prepared” and that those responsible for it have consistently failed to keep their promises to the city.

Jan Kalousek (ODS), chairman of City Hall’s committee for information science, said the simplest option would be to cancel the project and go back to paper tickets and payments by text message. “We will wait for the analysis of the development plan and then see what next. There are several options, and the cancellation is one of them,” he said. 

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