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Hungary may have to repay EU support for metro line 4

Hungary might have to repay a substantial part of the EUR 600 million in EU funding it received for the construction of metro line M4 due to the failure to implement a congestion charge in Budapest, according to an environmental NGO.

Hungarian non-profit the Clean Air Group (a member organization of the European Federation for Transport and Environment), letters sent to Hungarian officials by the European Commission indicate that, while the Hungarian government has asserted that the preparation of the congestion charge is ongoing, in practice not much has happened. 

A letter from the European Commission, signed May 22, says, “…there were no tangible supporting documents attached [to the letters of the Hungarian government], thus we are not in a position to confirm that the beneficiary has fulfilled all commitments they have made at the approval of the project. This situation puts the expenditure already certified for the project at risk of recovery.” 

The metro line itself was put into operation in April 2014, while the congestion charge has never been implemented. That is despite the fact that the charge was one of a number of measures the Budapest Municipality committed itself to in order to ensure there were enough passengers on the metro to make it economically viable. 

Clean Air Action Group’s transport policy officer Márton Vargha warned in a press release sent to the Budapest Business Journal about the risks of avoiding the implementation of the charge. 

“Clean Air Action Group has been proposing for years the implementation of a distance- and pollution-based urban road pricing system in Budapest, but to no avail. Now the Hungarian government risks not only that tens of millions of Euros must be repaid, but is also missing the opportunity to reduce the serious congestion in Budapest, to improve the city’s air quality, and to get revenues for upgrading transport infrastructure and replacing obsolete public transport vehicles.”