Will Hungary have to repay EU money because congestion charging was not implemented in Budapest?
Hungary might have to repay a substantial part of the 600 million Euros of EU funding for the construction of metro line 4 in Budapest, because it failed to implement a congestion charge. The Hungarian government and the Budapest Municipality has been promising such a system for years, but now the European Commission has to make a final decision whether the project was financially justified.
In order to receive EU funding for the construction of metro line 4, the Budapest Municipality committed itself to implement several measures, including a congestion charge, in order to have the sufficient number of passengers on the metro to make it economically viable. The metro line was put into operation in April 2014, but the congestion charge has not been implemented ever since, and the number of passengers has remained quite below the number foreseen by the Municipality.
The Hungarian environmental NGO Clean Air Action Group (a member organisation of the European Federation for Transport and Environment, T&E), which has been urging the implementation of urban road pricing in Budapest, asked for and received the correspondence between the European Commission and the Hungarian officials on the topic.
From the letters it is evident that the Hungarian government asserted several times that the preparation of the congestion charge is ongoing, but in practice not much happened. Moreover, the latest letter from the Commission, signed on 22 May 2018, states the following: “…there were no tangible supporting documents attached [to the letters of the Hungarian government], thus we are not in a position to confirm that the beneficiary has fulfilled all commitments they have made at the approval of the project. This situation puts the expenditure already certified for the project at risk of recovery.” So, it might happen that Hungary will have to repay part of the EU money.
“Clean Air Action Group has been proposing for years the implementation of a distance- and pollution-based urban road pricing system in Budapest, but to no avail. Now the Hungarian government risks not only that tens of millions of Euros must be repaid, but is also missing the opportunity to reduce the serious congestion in Budapest, to improve the city’s air quality, and to get revenues for the upgrading of transport infrastructure and for replacing obsolete public transport vehicles” – said Márton Vargha, Transport Policy Officer of the NGO.
The letters received from the Commission can be downloaded here:
The photo was made by Ferenc Susánszky (CAAG) on 23 July 2018. It is a typical sight each morning on Budaörsi út – a road on which congestion completely disappeared with the opening of metro line 4 according to the justification of the investment