I was in Prague last week, I’m enjoying access to EU passport lines while we still can. I glanced at the non EU member’s line, half would have given their right arm to be in the EU queue and here we are embracing the opportunity of being left out in the cold.
I slept in an airport hotel the night before flying out. The shuttle bus to Terminal 3 was a tenner. I downloaded the UBER App onto my smart phone. Mohammed, the driver, turns up seven minutes later in a Prius and drives me there for six quid.
Uber is a intriguing app; the passenger can rate the driver, the driver can rate the passenger. It’s like Tinder, but with clothes. Mohammed tells me, if an Uber driver averages less than a 4.5 (out of 5), they are called in for customer service training. It’s a call they cannot ignore for fear of being shut out of the booking process. I like this app, very much. I also liked Mohammed, I gave him a 5* rating and a tip.
I’ve been in Prague before and a cab driver over charged me, I know this because a woman staying at the same hotel, who’s cab pulled up behind mine, and who had left the same venue I had travelled from, was charged considerably less.
So this time, I decided to use public transport instead of a cab. Roaming charges were recently dropped across the EU and along with Google Maps, this has transformed getting around for all of us (until 29th March 2019.)
I opened Google Maps, entered the hotel name and was given clear directions on how to get there. Number 119 bus from Prague Airport, transfer to the Metro B line, change at the station Muzeum to the A line. Get off at the next stop, turn right and walk for three minutes. Total travel time, 25 minutes, total cost, £1.50.
For the next three days, I zipped around the capital of the Czech Republic by Tram, Bus and Metro. It was great value, less than a tenner for a three day pass. It was easy to navigate. With Google Maps and no roaming charges, it was incredibly efficient.
A successful integrated transport system is one where Government, Transport Providers and Tech firms operate together. Getting from A to B is seamless when all three collaborate.
I photographed the temporary removal of a public work of art in Birmingham yesterday. Iron: Man is being placed into storage and cleaned before returning to the city next year a few metres away from it’s previous site. The move was necessary to accommodate the expansion of our own Tram system.
The art work by Sir Anthony Gormley OBE reflects the industrial heritage of the West Midlands, and I suspect the six ton piece would smile at the irony of being shifted for reasons of progress. And an expansion of a public transport system is exactly that, progress.
One of the objectives of the West Midlands Metro Mayor, Andy Street is to tackle productivity. Germany does in four days, what we do in five. One sure way of increasing productivity is tackling congestion. The Government’s commitment to this region in funding the Metro expansion sends a clear signal they are willing to invest in the region. This is a good investment.
Throw in a city that embraces smart phones, Google Maps will get citizens and visitors around the place easier and quicker. Productivity increase can be ticked off the Mayor’s ‘to do list’ as he heads into the Conservative Party Conference next month.
The abolition of roaming charges across the EU is something the UK needs to buy into post Brexit. Visitors from the continent will be able to access the ever increasing public transport network without having to think about eye watering overseas mobile data charges.
Landing back at Heathrow, I took a black cab back to the hotel instead of an Uber. I clipped the passenger door and cut my eye. As I paid the cabbie the £12.80 fare whilst holding a tissue to my bleeding eye, he short changed me and drove off. I still have the scar, what I don’t have is his name or the ability to rate him. I’ll stick to Uber from now on.
Jas Sansi is a freelance photographer based in Birmingham @jassansi 07930 837 505