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Transportation Authority Orders Removal of Budapest’s Renovated Metro Cars from Service After a Series of Mechanical Failures

Last Friday, Hungary’s National Transport Authority (NTA) ordered Budapest’s public transportation company BKV to immediately remove from service all of the renovated trains from the city’s M3 metro line due to repeated mechanical failures.

Budapest’s M3, the “blue” subway line, was opened to the public in 1976. The line reached its current length of 17.3km in 1990. This is the busiest metro line, with half a million passengers daily in the capital. The line connects the northern and southern parts of the city, and is also the metro line that runs closest to Budapest’s Ferenc Liszt International Airport.

As we have previously reported, the first reconditioned train was introduced on March 20th as part of badly-needed renovations to the Hungarian capital’s busiest metro line.

However, problems arose within a few days of the new trains’ arrival. Mayor Istvan Tarlós said at the time that such issues were impossible to avoid in the case of renovated trains. By the end of March, though, the Mayor’s tone had changed; any problems still persisting a month later would be unacceptable, he said.

The latest mechanical problem happened on Friday morning, when the doors of one of the reconditioned cars had to be forced open after a software failure. The passengers were not in danger, according to BKV head Tibor Bolla, but the frequency of similar incidents causes serious delays on the line.

The trains were renovated by Metrovagonmash, part of the Moscow-based railway machine-building group Transmashholding (Трансмашхолдинг) which built the original M3 metro cars in the 1970s. As it currently stands, the Russian firm has a contract to renovate 222 trains, at a cost of nearly 220 million euros.

An old blue train on the M3 line departs the station on March 20th, as a renovated train comes to a halt (Photo: MTI- Zoltán Balogh) 

BKV Demands Restitution from Russian Company

On the same day that the renovated trains were removed from service, BKV said in a statement that it was demanding that Metrovagonmash pay a fine of 800 million forints (2.6 million euros) for delivering trains that were, in the company’s words “in an unacceptable condition”.

BKV chairman and chief executive Bolla held discussions with the leadership of the Russian company and emphasized the unacceptability of the technical condition of the vehicles and demanded immediate action.

BKV said it would not send further metro trains for reconditioning to Metrovagonmash until the technical conditions are radically changed. The frequency of faults put regular passenger services at risk, it added.

The company said it was willing to make use of any and all available legal means within the contract to remedy the situation. BKV also added that, if Metrovagonmash fails to make significant improvements in a short time, “further radical steps cannot be excluded, the consequences of which will have to be borne by the Russian company.”

While the renovated trains have been in use every day, their “technical reliability” is “unacceptably low,” BKV said. The transportation company added that the majority of issues are minor ones that can be repaired within two hours, but that these nevertheless represent a serious problem in managing services for passengers.

Despite these issues, however, Bolla continued to insist on the safety of the newly renovated trains; speaking to Hungarian state television on Monday, the leader of BKV denied that the cars were unsafe. Rather, while

“one or two things aren’t properly calibrated, for example the doors…. mistakes that cause harm to passengers don’t really happen.”

Bolla said that the BKV had already asked its Russian partners to fix any problems, and expressed his hope that engineers will be able to resolve any and all problems within the next two weeks, and that the renovated trains will be able to reenter service soon.

LMP: Metro Renovation ‘Corrupt and Dangerous’

Speaking at a press briefing on Sunday, green opposition party LMP reacted to the problems currently plaguing Budapest’s subway system. In particular, LMP member and Budapest City Council Member Antal Csárdi claimed that the faulty nature of the M3 line’s renovated cars is

“typical of Fidesz politics: it is as dangerous for its users as it is corrupt.”

According to MTI, at his press conference Csárdi told reporters that, while the total budget of the reconstruction was originally set at 137 billion forints (…euros), that number was “calculated based on the overpriced metro 4 project.” In addition, Csárdi added, the project is now set to cost an addition 30 billion forints (…euros). The LMP politician claimed that this “overspending bleeds the city out,” saying that the authority had to dip into term deposit accounts and sell stocks to pay the costs. The trains were renovated for 66 billion forints (euros), a sum that would have sufficed to buy modern, safe and comfortable trains, Csárdi argued.

The faulty trains should be repaired as quickly as possible, or the city should terminate the agreement and start a new public procurement procedure, Csárdi said. The latter would serve the citizens of Budapest better, he added.

Via MTI, Hungary Matters, szeretlekmagyarorszag.hu, and index.hu

Images via MTI