Crackdown alert: Czech transport companies to target fare dodgers in November

In a bid to increase revenue, public transport companies across Czechia ramp up ticket checks in November to stop "black passengers."

Thomas Smith

Written by Thomas Smith Published on 07.11.2022 16:04:00 (updated on 08.11.2022) Reading time: 4 minutes

Transport companies in Czechia’s largest cities are cracking down on fare dodgers, also known as “black passengers," iDnes.cz reports. According to transport companies, non-payers are contributing to the firms losing “hundreds of millions” of crowns.

In 2020, about 1,000 people a day on the entire country’s public transport were caught without a ticket, according to Linda Hailichová, the spokesperson for the Association of Transport Companies of the Czech Republic. This translated into CZK 325 million worth of damages for the state coffers.

Fines range from CZK 50 to CZK 1,500, and grow if they are not paid. On Prague’s transport network, a fine for not having a valid ticket is set at CZK 1,000 if paid on the spot or within 15 days of the fine’s issuance.

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Ticket checks in night trams

To increase their budget revenue, transport companies therefore have a mission this month: to ramp up checks on passengers.

"In November, together with the city and state police, we will carry out three larger control actions focused on the culture of travel and tariff discipline on night tram lines," said Aneta Řehková, spokeswoman for the Prague Public Transit Company (DPP).

Around 150 transport inspectors operate in the capital, which has over 1 million inhabitants, and fine approximately 220,000 people per year, according to Řehková. The fines in Prague annually total about CZK 300 million, of which less than 75 percent are paid.

In 2021 it became considerably easier to pay fines in Prague, with people able to pay their debt online rather than in person.

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The chance of being approached by a ticket inspector on Prague’s public transport is minimal. An estimated 0.6 percent of passengers in Prague get checked daily on average. Of the amount of people who are inspected, 3 to 6 percent do not present a valid ticket.

Country-wide crackdown

Ústí nad Labem in the north of the country is also planning more checks this month: spokeswoman of the region’s transport company Jana Dvořáková said that there are ten co-ordinated “mass checks” planned for this month, the first of which will focus on night transport.

Brno, the country’s second-largest city, also plans several night-time inspections, focused on a specific (and undisclosed) location. Earlier this year the city’s transport company announced plans to increase night-time inspections threefold. In 2021, non-paying passengers owed the city of Brno CZK 60 million in non-paid fines.

Transport assistants instead of ticket inspectors

Most cities’ transport companies keep secret their exact plans for mass ticket checks – Ostrava, on the other hand, is very open about them. This month, the city will also do things slightly differently.

“This year we are holding a weekly event for the first time. The checks start on Monday afternoon, will last 14 hours and will be repeated throughout the working week, until Saturday morning," spokesperson of Ostrava Public Transport (DPO) Tereza Šnoblová explained.

Rather than sending its ticket inspectors, the city will instead delegate responsibility to transport assistants and police officers during checks. People will not be fined, but will instead be removed from the mode of transport. The role of these so-called transport assistants is to supervise passengers’ safety and remove any unruly or misbehaving passengers.

Ostrava is the only city in Czechia with a dedicated team of full-time transport assistants to assist with problematic passengers. Other cities’ ticket inspectors instead attempt to deal with uncivil passengers, though this is technically beyond the scope of their operation.

According to DPO Director Daniel Morys, the transport assistants play a beneficial role in reducing outstanding debt. Between 2018 and 2022, debts incurred to the DPO totaled about CZK 250 million – a reduction from the CZK 404 million owed between 2013 and 2017.

Fast facts about Prague transit and fines

  • Prague's public transport company, DPP, issues an average of 602 fines per day.
  • About 20,000 passengers are checked every day by inspectors in Prague.
  • Between 3 and 6 percent of people approached by ticket inspectors in Prague do not have a valid ticket.
  • Only three-quarters of fined passengers pay the outstanding debt within 30 days.
  • There are 147 official ticket inspectors that cover Prague's transit system.

    Sources: Deník.cz and iDnes.cz

Prague had been planning to hire similar assistants in the near future, but the worsening economic situation hindered this.

"We have a prevention project ready, but it is currently suspended. The reasons are mainly economic, but also related to the situation on the labor market, where securing suitable workers is not easy," explained Řehková.

There were 28 assaults on the capital’s ticket inspectors between January and August this year, as written in Deník.cz

Prague police sometimes help inspectors; joint-inspection events with the police are organized three times per month, according to a spokesperson of DPP.

Hoping to recoup revenue from fewer fines being imposed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, cities' transport companies will hope to yield good income from increased checks this month.

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