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Mayor tells of improvements, both past and future

In a talk with the American Chamber of Commerce in Hungary, the mayor of Budapest explained some exciting plans for development of the capital.

Mayor István Tarlós speaking to AmCham on May 19. (Photo: MTI/Noémi Bruzák) 

Budapest has become a better place to live thanks to the development projects that have taken place in the past few years – and new projects will improve things even more, Mayor István Tarlós told a May 19 business forum hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce.

Before talking about future plans, Tarlós presented a lengthy checklist of achievements, including the completion of M4 Metro line. He noted, however, that the M4 came with strings attached: The European Union funded the project on the condition that a congestion charge will be levied against drivers in Budapest. Currently there is a law that forbids its introduction. “The ban must be lifted by the end of 2017, otherwise the city will face heavy legal consequences,” the mayor said.

Public transportation as such saw some major upgrades as well. Among other things, 850 buses have been replaced out of a 1,300-strong fleet since 2010, while tramlines one and three have been renovated. Hundreds of ticket machines have been put into operation thanks to an EIB loan, and a fully functioning e-ticket system should be up and running by December 2017. Popular destinations such as the Budapest Zoo and Margaret Island enjoyed important facelifts. On the island alone there are 33 ongoing projects.

Five- and ten-year plans

And it doesn’t end there; more large-scale projects are underway as detailed in the papers entitled “Budapest 2020” and “Budapest 2030”, respectively. The renovation of M3 Metro line is a super urgent matter. “Metro cars will be only upgraded, though, since the budget of HUF 137.5 billion does not suffice to cover their replacement; the focus is instead on the improvement of the metro infrastructure,” Tarlós explained.

One of the biggest undertakings is undoubtedly the arrangements related to flood protection. Measures have already been taken to make sure the Danube bank is better able to cope with floods, but more is to come, especially on Margaret Island and in the Csillaghegy area. Responding to criticism by environmentalists, Tarlós said: “Some trees must be chopped down, but wait and see what the riverbank will look like.” A heat generating waste management recycling facility, designed to handle 250,000 tons of waste per year, should go some way to appeasing the greens.

The bath renovation program should also continue. Rudas has earned the first five-star bath title in the city, and Gellért can look forward to a similar ranking, while Széchenyi has been earmarked to have its machinery refurbished. Tarlós highlighted three more projects in the pipeline that rely on EIB loans of HUF 92 bln in total. “The Chain Bridge and the Castle Tunnel should be renovated from this money, the fogaskerekű [Cog-wheel Railway] should be extended in both directions, and Blaha Lujza tér awaits complete reconstruction,” he said.

He warned, though, that further success might be subject to a change of attitude, in particular on the part of politicians and journalists. “The practice that everybody criticizes one another for every little tiny detail needs to stop. There is too much hatred out there. The overall atmosphere in the city can improve only if this change happens,” Tarlós said.