Will Hungary have to repay EU money because congestion charging was not implemented in Budapest?
The European Commission might claim back EU subsidies of tens of billions of Hungarian Forints from Hungary, if they will not reach an agreement regarding the missed implementation of a congestion charge in the capital city, Budapest – revealed Clean Air Action Group based on an exchange of correspondence. The Hungarian government and the City Council of Budapest have been only making promises for years, however the European Commission has to finalize the accounts already.
The issue is related to the construction of Metro line 4, for which the City Council of Budapest requested and received subsidy from the EU. Transport projects are eligible for EU funds only if they are economically efficient, therefore, Budapest promised that it would incentivize residents with various measures to use the new metro line – including the introduction of a toll for driving into Budapest, a so-called congestion charge. In the meanwhile, Metro line 4 has been completed, however, the congestion charge has not been introduced, and the economic efficiency of the investment is questionable based on the number of passengers.
CAAG, a long-time advocate for the introduction of a congestion charge (in the form of a distance- and pollution-based urban road toll), requested – and obtained – from the European Commission the correspondence which was conducted on the subject with the Hungarian authorities.
Based on the correspondence, the Hungarian government has confirmed to the Commission several times that the preparation and implementation of the congestion charge was in process, however, no real progress was made. The case is getting delicate, as according to the latest letter of May 22 2018, the Commission was not convinced that the conditions for the new metro line construction subsidies had been fulfilled. Therefore, the subsidy will probably have to be partially paid back.
CAAG has been advocating the introduction of a distance- and pollution-based road toll system in Budapest for years, however neither the Budapest City Council, nor the government is taking it seriously – commented Márton Vargha, the transport expert of CAAG. „They are not only risking to pay back tens of billions Hungarian Forints of EU subsidies, but they are also losing the chance to put an end to traffic congestion, to have much cleaner air, and furthermore, to obtain funds for the renovation of roads and for the replacement of old buses and trains.”
See the link to the letters below.
CAAG's recommendations for the congestion charge can be read 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
Translated by Katalin Tarr