Budapest’s fourth metro line could be finished by spring 2014, city mayor István Tarlós told right-wing daily Magyar Nemzet on Monday. He said “extraordinary” steps had been taken by the city council in the last few weeks to ensure construction is completed on schedule, including changes in the management of the directorate of DBR Metro, the company that oversees the project.
Tibor Radnay, former technical director of management and engineering company Metróber, is to replace the CEO of Budapest public transport company BKV at the head of the directorate. His deputy will be a lawyer with expertise in the area.
The construction of the line, the city’s fourth after yellow line one (completed 1896), red line two (opened 1970) and blue line three (opened 1978, completed 1990) has been overshadowed by endless failed deadlines and allegations of corruption.
Though already in the air in the early 1970s, plans for a fourth line only emerged in earnest in 1995 but lack of funding support from the government meant their cancellation until the project was revived after 2002.
The foundation stone was laid in 2006 with the original aim for completing the first phase in 2007-2009, but deadline rescheduling became routine because of payment disputes and construction delays. A project summary published last December estimated the construction to be 70 per cent complete.
The new line, colour-coded green, will connect Kelenföldi train station in Buda’s south-west with Keleti train station in Pest, serving 10 stops including Szent Gellért tér (square), Fõvám tér and connecting with metro line three at Kálvin tér in its first, 7.4km phase.
Original plans were to extend the line to the east until District XIV’s Bosnyák tér in a second phase of construction with further extensions to the east and the west mooted for a third phase, but construction and investment fatigue mean it could take years, if ever, before the entire line is completed.
Failure to complete all three phases could mean Budapest loses its EUR 181 billion European Union subsidies for the project. The rest of the work is financed 79 per cent by the Hungarian state and 21 per cent by Budapest.
Tarlós said “scandalous” contracts signed under previous city councils, with a liberal mayor from 1990 to 2010, caused the cost to balloon to HUF 400 billion (EUR 1.34 billion). He said the biggest factor behind the increase was the use of subcontractors instead of a general contractor, because contracts were signed with 17 subcontractors in 2005 and 2006.
Tarlós singled out for criticism a EUR 109 million contract signed with Siemens, whose intervention in building the energy-providing equipment and automatic train and station supervising system was delayed following a legal dispute involving carriage supplier Alstom, which is demanding over HUF 10 billion (EUR 33.65 million) in compensation.
Alstom signed a EUR 247 million contract in May 2006 to provide 22 trains for metro four, plus a further 22 to replace the crumbling fleet on the second line. But BKV tore up the contract in October 2010, alleging that “Alstom failed to do all that was expected of it in the interest of fulfilling the contract” after the public transport company upheld a ruling by the National Transport Authority that found the vehicles’ breaks failed to comply with Hungarian safety rules.
The trains were eventually cleared in October 2011 after a compromise and a new contract signed. Tarlós said at the time that the new trains would be ready to run from the end of 2012.