LOCALS DESERVE A BETTER PRAGUE
Petr Dolínek (1981) is the Deputy Mayor of the City of Prague, responsible for transport and European funds since November 2014. Petr has been operating as a councilor at the City Hall since 2010, he also served one year as alderman for Social Affairs, Housing, and European funds. Since 1995 he is a member of the Young Social Democrats, whom he led for two terms as chairman. He became a member of the Social Democratic party (ČSSD)in 1999. During his university studies, he worked as a parliamentary correspondent for the Minister of Education and later as editor of the Prague paper "Pražské listy". Petr has some experience with the private sphere, where he worked in marketing. Petr Dolínek is married and has two children. His hobbies include reading, sports and travelling.
Elections and post-election negotiations are finished and now comes the real work. How do you rate the new coalition?
Our priority was to promote the most out of our electoral program, and that is what we have managed, so in this respect the negotiations and the final version of the coalition agreement turned out in a very positive way. I also believe that a number of program points will find support across the political spectrum. Regional policy is to some extent "above politics" and Prague is no exception in this case. Every person should be interested in having a quality public transport, repaired sidewalks and schools that offer quality education.
You became a deputy for transport and European funds. How were your first days in office?
It was necessary to begin to address specific things right away, so there was no time for some introductions. The glaze frost, which almost paralyzed Prague tramways for two days, put us through a really sharp start.
How do you assess the handling of the situation?
I believe that the plan for using replacement buses instead of tramways was mastered well and that it ensured sufficient transportation service. I would also like to highlight the work of emergency services, rescuers, firefighters, military, the police, the city police and others who were involved. All demonstrated an incredible professionalism and significantly helped in controlling the situation. Some room for improvement appeared in sufficient information to citizens and visitors. I want to prepare a clear procedure, on how to quickly and efficiently inform the public in the case of unexpected events. This could be done through different instruments, whether it is by email, SMS, an updated website, or people who will inform citizens directly on the stops. Due to a large number of tourists and foreigners living in Prague, it is also necessary to raise awareness in foreign languages, at least in English.
In addition to improving citizens' awareness, what will you continue to focus on in the transport agenda?
I consider as a priority completing the construction of a transport infrastructure, which means opening the tunnel Blanka complex. According to the latest estimates, the opening of the tunnel will take place around March and April 2015. We are now proceeding according to Metrostav's schedule. However, the opening can occur only when it will be safe for users, we therefore first need to get all permits. At the present moment, there are still works within the tunnel, we are thinking out the replacement of several cables, and finalizing the necessary documentation. I hope that all will be handled within the estimated time.
Blanka is wearing a hallmark of an overpriced contracts, how would you like to prevent something similar happening again in the future?
A big problem arose in connection with the construction of Blanka. It is the awarding and implementation of commissions and competitions by tender. There must be a fundamental change in the way Prague operated in this field until now. Blanka is not the only example, but it certainly is the most visible example of poorly managed commissions. It is not possible to built something different from what was presented in the original project, as was the case with the Troja bridge. Constructions must be secured through a municipal supervision and consistent monitoring of compliance with contracts and deadlines. Prague must know what it wants to build and how it should look. It is inconceivable that Prague would remain hostage to construction companies and developers.
The coalition has agreed that the focus should be set on the development of public transportation. Do you know where should new tram lines or buses accrue?
Urban public transport must be a clear backbone to traffic around the capital. We want citizens to give the precedence to public transport and not to individual car transport. But for such change, we first need to strengthen connections in locations where it was shown that changes made in the autumn of 2012 worsened the situation and transport services were clearly reduced. This affects both tramway and bus lines. Our next goal is to commence the construction of the D subway line during this mandate. We believe that our efforts will lead to an overall improvement of public transport in Prague. This would also be reinforced through friendly prices for yearly-coupons holders, for whom travel around Prague would become much cheaper.
Common complaints are directed to a lack of accessibility while traveling by public transport. Will you also focus on this?
Yes, we are going to continue to address the accessibility issue in various metro stations. Wheelchair users must also be able to access tramways and buses. Despite the deployment of wheelchair ramps, getting in and out is still unsatisfactory.
A major theme is also the Transport Company - Dopravní podnik, what would you foresee in its future?
The situation in the Transport Company first needs to be stabilized. The Transport Company must become a well-functioning and prosperous society, which will be financially stable, and providing quality services in the field of public transport. It certainly will not be through the privatization of the company, and the stripping of its assets or redundancies. We will primarily focus on finding savings in operating costs.
Even though you want to put the emphasis on public transport, there is still a large number of people who drive in the capital city and who address the issue of parking. Will you deal with this problem as well?
Parking zones are actually one of the first points that come on the agenda. The decision-making gathering is planned in the near future. We should determine issues such as parking zones' new locations, the system that will collect parking fees, as for example intelligent machines etc. We must quickly choose the best possible solution. I personally advocate the so called mixed-parking zones, where drivers residing outside of Prague can park during the day, but these zones would be defined for residents during the night.
Before the elections, there were several discussions about possibilities of linking the city center to the airport. Do you already have ideas about the project's implementation?
Ensuring a qualitative and comfortable traveling to the airport is key to Prague's development. I have already asked the newly appointed Minister of Transport Daniel Ťok for a meeting, where I would like to tackle, inter alia, the connection to the airport. We are discussing about a possibility of a rail link, which is supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Bohuslav Sobotka. In the first phase, we want to implement a rail link between the airport and Vokovice that should connect to a new metro A station in Veleslavín.
Another area that falls within your competences are European funds. Are you considering on using funds for building the connection to the airport or the construction of the metro D line?
Definitely yes. An efficient use of EU funds for major transportation projects, which not only serve Prague citizen, such as the metro D line and the railway to the airport, is absolutely essential. But it is not the only area where the European funds are needed in terms of the development of the metropolis. In my opinion, the key to the development of the capital is also set in the promotion of science, research and innovation. The exploitation of EU subsidies in this area must be targeted and in collaboration with universities, the Academy of Sciences and other partner institutions that support the creation of new job opportunities and profiling world-class experts. Still, an important part of the money must also be directed towards the social sphere.
By Jan Vávra
Photos by Bryan Ham
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Source: Prague Leaders Magazine