The New Year immediately brought two novelties in public transport. However, only one of them is likely to earn the undivided joy of all passengers, while the other would have a harsh impact on the citizens living in the areas surrounding Budapest.
This Saturday it finally happens: the fonódó villamos (“interwoven tramline”) starts operation. The mammoth transport project was started in autumn 2014 and will provide north, central and south Buda with a continuous transport connection. This means specifically that passengers will now be able to comfortably cross from Óbuda in the north through Széll Kálmán tér and the BAH-node up until Albertfalva and Kelenföld in the south. Even a new fleet will soon await the passengers.
At the same time another permanent construction site in Buda, Bem tér, will finally be passable again, and a bicycle path will await cyclists, although it’s somewhat narrower than before and contains a small obstacle course just for fun.
No connection under certain postal codes?
The new dimension reached in the dispute between the metropolitan city council and the government is much less encouraging. Shortly before the end of 2015 a frightening headline was going around many news portals, stating that from the New Year the suburban trains (HÉV) will be put out of operation, no longer commuting to the Budapest suburbs.
The reason for this was said to be the failed negotiations between mayor Tarlós and the government over the redistribution of tax revenues. Thus, although the business tax is going to the capital, the government is now obliged, due to a decision made by Budapest, to finance the connections to the suburbs. Twenty-six municipalities are impacted by the decision.
Tarlós explained shortly before the end of the year that the Budapest public transport has a deficit exactly because it has to supply this “commuter belt” – all without the necessary support from the state. Moreover, the metropolitan districts will now only need to pay for the local transportation. Tarlós said the government had not provided anything yet, and had even reduced the resources made available.
No failures so far
However, none of the above described doomsday situations have occurred so far. Desperate commuters have not had to press themselves onto the poorly provided Volán buses, and there has been no passenger revolt at the city limits because train drivers refuse to drive further.
This is not likely to happen at all, if we believe what pro-government daily newspaper Magyar Idők has been stating. It referred to the Ministry of National Economy and wrote that primarily the capital and the surrounding municipalities have to agree over the regulations. The new law, the ministry continued, lays down the necessary foundations for a stable financing of the Budapest public transport.