City Council took possession on Tuesday of the first of 22 new Metropolis metro trains ordered from the French firm Alstom. Mayor István Tarlós and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán attended the ceremonial handover at the Puskás Ferenc Stadion stop on the Metro 2 line. National Economy Minister György Matolcsy and National Development Minister Zsuzsa Németh were also there to shake hands with Alstom bosses over the completion of a EUR 150 million deal that was nearly derailed.
The EUR 247 million initial contract with Alstom to provide 44 metro trains to the capital was signed in May 2006, with delivery in May 2008. Half of the trains were intended to replace the old M2 line fleet, which had acquired an unwelcome reputation for breaking down or bursting into flame. The other 22 were intended for the chronically behind-schedule new M4 line, still under construction.
However, shortly after a 2010 election which saw the governing centre-right Fidesz party oust a long-standing left-liberal coalition from the town hall, public transport company BKV tore up its contract with Alstom. The city council, which owns BKV, cited a ruling by the National Transport Authority (NKH) which found the trains’ brakes failed to comply with Hungarian safety rules.
Alstom argued that the same brakes were used in the metros of cities worldwide, such as Singapore, Buenos Aires and Barcelona. By the time the contract was unilaterally broken, the company had already manufactured 22 carriages for the M2 line. When BKV tried to have the contractual down payment returned, Alstom sued the public transport company.
A French court initially ruled in favour of Alstom but the verdict was overturned at appeal and the firm ordered to refund BKV. A new contract was signed in October 2011 after Alstom altered the brake system, and last month the Hungarian authorities approved the trains. State news agency MTI reported a rapprochement between the two parties on Tuesday, and that possible future partnership was discussed.