Budapest mayor "continues to punish" motorists
Budapest will reopen its iconic Chain Bridge spanning across the Danube on Friday under conditions that are not in line with the agreement signed with the government. Motorists will not be allowed to return to the bridge, elthough this was an explicit prerequisite to the government's support: the total or partial restriction of motor vehicle traffic shall not exceed 18 months. Nevertheless, Mayor Gergely Karacsony's decided to continue to punish Budapest motorists, even though a subsidy of HUF 6 billion is at stake.
Authorities have finally issued a temporary traffic permit for Chain Bridge, which is undergoing renovation: from Friday afternoon on 16 December, crossing the bridge will be allowed for public transport buses, taxis, bicycles motorcycles and mopeds, but motorists driving private vehicles will be prohibited from using it, reads a statement from the Centre for Budapest Transport (BKK). With “Budapest’s livable and homely future” in mind, it is only right that residents living in Budapest should be allowed to decide after a six-month trial period, whether or not motorists can return to the bridge in the future, Mayor Gergely Karacsony has said.
However, Budapest’s left-wing mayor persistently fails to add that the municipality and the government have signed an agreement on a subsidy of 6 billlion forints, on the condition that the total or partial restriction of motor vehicle traffic shall not exceed 18 months.
After poorly scheduled and protracted reconstructions, the closure of the Danube embankment on the Pest side and the recurring threat of introducing a congestion charge, the persecution of motorists has entered a new dimension, and Gergely Karacsony would rather let go of 6 billion Hungarian forints in order to decide who can use the Chain Bridge, one of the country’s iconic edifices,
the Hungarian Vilaggazdasag writes.
“[The government] supports the Municipality of Budapest in the execution of the full and simultaneous reconstruction of the (Szechenyi) Chain Bridge and the Castle Hill Tunnel in Buda, with the least possible restrictions of the capital’s traffic and the fastest schedule that is technically possible, on condition that the total or partial restriction of vehicle traffic on this road section shall not exceed the duration of 18 months,” the Hungarian Official Gazette says, verbatim. The bridge was closed to motorists in June last year. Back then, it was promised that it would be reopened in December 2022. In fact, when the bridge’s iconic stone lions were re-installed this October, it was also stated at the press event that traffic on the bridge would be permitted again by the agreed mid-December deadline.
Zsolt Lang, the government commissioner in charge of the complex development of the Central Hungarian Economic Development Zone, confirmed to Vilaggazdasag, an economic paper, that Budapest fails to comply with the government’s decision by planning to reopen the Chain Bridge under conditions that pedestrians and individual motorists cannot use it. The government has agreed with the leadership of the Municipality of Budapest to support the full reconstruction of the Chain Bridge with 6 billion forints, he added. “The government’s decision on this includes clear conditions in return for its support. One of these is that “the total or partial restriction of vehicle traffic on this road section should not exceed 18 months.” By planning to open the Chain Bridge tomorrow under conditions that neither pedestrians, nor individual motorists can use it, the Budapest Municipality is in defiance of the government’s decision.
We would like to emphasize that the six-billion-forint government subsidy for the Chain Bridge is conditional on the complete lifting of restrictions on vehicle traffic. We call on the mayor to respect the agreement with the government,”
Mr Lang told the news outlet.
The renovation of the Chain Bridge started in March 2021, and if the capital’s administration had not cancelled the tender procedure launched under the previous mayor, Istvan Tarlos, it could have saved around 5 billion forints. In addition, the contract was finally signed with a significantly reduced technical content, since the agreement signed by Mr Tarlos covered not only the Chain Bridge but also the nearby tram underpass at Szechenyi Istvan Square.
Mayor Karacsony also claimed that the previous public procurement tender was launched, and then annulled, by the previous city administration. However, this is not what happened, as former Mayor Istvan Tarlos had initiated only a price review procedure in September 2019. The tender was declared inconclusive during the current mayor, Gergely Karacsony’s term.