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EU urged to probe Felcsút railway, as few use it

European Union bodies have been asked to investigate a tourist railway built in Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s hometown of Felcsút with EU funds, because the line served a tiny fraction of the passengers it was supposed to during its first month of operation, according to reports.

Some 80% of the cost of developing the railway was covered with €2 million in EU funding, and according to plans it was supposed to carry 2,500-7,000 passengers daily, according to a report in U.K. daily The Telegraph. In the first month of operation, only 30 passengers used the nostalgia train, according to reports.

Opposition party Dialogue for Hungary MEP Benedek Jávor said he reported the case to the EU’s anti-corruption body OLAF and demanded an investigation.

Built as a tourist attraction, the small-gauge railway passes near the 3,500-seat Puskás football stadium in Felcsút, which has a population of 1,700. The stadium had been built at the urging of Orbán, and is very close to his family home in his hometown. Many have said the stadium was an impractical project that should not have consumed public funds. They are now saying the same about the short rail line that was apparently built to serve tourists to the stadium, and to the lesser-visited area around Felcsút.

Jávor said he believes the government knew the passenger figures would never get this high. “It was crystal clear even at the time of submitting the application that the estimated numbers are totally absurd and unrealistic,” Jávor said, according to The Telegraph. He insisted that the case needs to be investigated by the relevant EU bodies.

The prime minister has dismissed objections to the short train line. “Nothing was ever built on cynicism. If we listened to critics, nothing would ever be done in Hungary, but rails have to be set down,” Orbán said at the opening of the railway, according to The Telegraph.