Fresh snow and icy roads are complicating traffic around the country. Police report a heightened number of accidents in Prague and traffic is reported to be slow and difficult along the country’s main highways. Many roads in the mountain regions are impassible without winter chains and heavy snow contributes to poor visibility. Drivers have been asked to exercise extreme caution.
The national vehicle registration system which was put into operation last summer and has repeatedly been criticized for malfunction, is facing another serious hurdle: the contract with its current operator is due to expire at the end of March and the Transport Ministry reportedly omitted to call a public tender for a new operator. According to the internet news site idnes.cz an operator will now have to be found within 30 days, moreover without a tender. Even after more than six months in operation the new vehicle registration system is said to be slower and less reliable than the one it replaced. The transport minister resigned in connection with the problems late last year.
Largely due to heavy snow, Tuesday saw the most car accidents on Czech roads in more than four years. The police registered 521 accidents - a sad daily record that was last surpassed on three separate days in the fall of 2008. Last year, the highest number of accidents in one day was 482 on 15 February. There were two fatalities during the day on Tuesday.
A new, 2013 motorway toll sticker comes into use on Friday. The sticker can be purchased at post offices and gas stations. The price of the annual coupon remains 1,500 crowns, or some 80 US dollars. Coupons are also available for the period of ten days and one month. Drivers without a valid sticker can be fined up to 5,000 crowns.
In Business News this week: The Czech Ministry of Finance cuts its growth outlook for the year to almost zero; fresh figures show 7.2 percent of Czechs were jobless in Q4 2012; passenger numbers and flights were down at Prague airport last year; spas report a halving of business in just three months; and experts say luxury flats in Prague have maintained their value.
A junction at Prague’s Nábřeží Kapitána Jaroše is set to get an unusual new monument in May, with the installation of a work by the renowned artist Krištof Kintera. Comprising a bicycle attached to a street lamp, Bike to Heaven will serve as a memorial to riders who have been killed in the city, including cyclists’ rights activist Jan Bouchal, who was run over at that very spot in 2006. The monument is being funded by a public collection organised by the civic association Auto*Mat, whose project coordinator Tereza Vohryzková explained the genesis
Earlier this month, construction began on a new four-floor centre in the city of Ostrava that will house the first Czech supercomputer. The site, which will house hundreds of processors and will employ between 150 and 250 staff, will have massive computing power capable of complex simulations in breakthrough fields such as nanotechnology. It is expected to begin full operation in 2015.
The Prague 5 Circuit Court has acquitted the former Transport Ministrer Vít Bárta and former Public Affairs Party MP Jaroslav Škárka of all charges in a bribery case that the court first ruled on in April 2012. The circuit judge Jan Šott thus confirmed a ruling of the Prague Municipal Court from November. Mr Bárta, who is also the former head of the Public Affairs Party deputies club, was accused of bribing his fellow party members Kristýna Kočí and Jaroslav Škárka to gain influence. Because Mr Škárka had spent part of the money he received from Mr Bárta before reporting it, he was also accused of accepting a bribe. Last April, Judge Šott handed down a suspended 18-month sentence to Mr Bárta and a three-year jail sentence for Mr Škárka. But in November, the municipal court accepted the appeals of both defendants, reversing the previous ruling. After confirming the city’s ruling on Wednesday, Mr Šott said that his hands were tied by the higher court’s decision, and that the whole case has become political. The State Attorney’s office will appeal the case with the Municipal Court.
Icy conditions caused by freezing rain were behind dozens of car accidents across the country on Monday, as well as injuries to pedestrians who lost their footing on sidewalks. The situation in Bohemia is expected to improve by the evening with drizzle turning to snowfall. Icy conditions in Moravia, by comparison, are expected to continue in the early hours of Tuesday. Motorists have been warned to exercise caution.