Letter to the Editor: Bad memories of Bratislava public transport

The 'Black Sheriff' strikes again.
illustration: Ján Svrček

Dear Editor,

Re: Culture Shock: Women and children first? Not on the bus [Vol. 5 No. 21, May 31 to June 6].

I too have very bad memories of public transport in Slovakia. Good and regular public transport in Slovakia is a foreign concept. The service is simply appalling. For starters, even at the main station where they sell tickets, the employees speak no foreign languages and are unable to give basic information about prices and schedules.

If you get on the bus or the streetcar, you will often see the 'Black Sheriffs' [ticket checkers]. Without showing their credentials, they ask travellers to show their tickets in an unfriendly tone; travellers react in a servile manner.

The price of tickets, for a resident of a western European town, is not expensive - perhaps related to the poor quality of the system. But when we take into account all the negatives, these tickets are far overpriced. The busses and the trains are extremely old, and afford little in the way of comfort. Trams need immediate repairs and modernisation.

The first time I was in Bratislava, I waited an age for a night bus, which in the end came but did not stop to pick me up. Later I understood from what I read in The Slovak Spectator that my experience was nothing out of the ordinary; bus drivers only stop when you flag them down. A would-be passenger standing at a signed stop does not interest the bus. Tough luck! Škoda!

Bus drivers in Bratislava are a category unto themselves. They drive as if they were competing in the Formula 1 Grand Prix. In the summer, they often drive with open doors even when the bus is crammed and there is a real danger that passengers may fall out.

It's funny, but the Bratislava Public Transport Authority passes are really a technical marvel. They issue weekly, monthly and tri-monthly passes with electronic chips - chips that work except on the ticket checkers.

Thomas Muller,
Bremerhaven, Germany

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