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Underground of the World


Budapest underground

Dubai underground is distinguished by luxury, Moscow underground boasts serving  9 million passengers per day, Copenhagen underground is said to be the most convenient while Budapest underground is famous for...ubiquitous ticket inspectors. They became world famous after premiere of Nimrod Antal’s movie titled “Ticket inspectors”, depicting gloomy and absurd atmosphere of  underground city life. Everyone who travelled by that underground  had to meet Antal’s movie main characters and notice how effective they are while dealing with fare dodgers by setting a trap for them in escalator exit area where there’s nowhere to run.

Both inhabitants of a 2-million capital of Hungary and tourists are satisfied with rather small, but efficient and practical city’s underground transport.  Although it comprises 3 lines (4th  is under construction) and the full length of railway tracks is slightly more than 30 km, it enables quick and easy journey to the most strategic locations in the city. The underground lines run via bus and train stations, showplaces, leisure spots, Danube banks and commuter rail called HEV.

The oldest, yellow line of the Budapest underground – M1officially called Millennium was open in 1896. It was the first underground line on the European continent at that time.  The purpose of this line was to celebrate 1000 years anniversary of Hungarian country. The first purpose of the line was to facilitate the transport to Budapest City Park that was a venue for a big exhibition of Hungary history and achievements. It was decided the line would be built under ground in order to preserve elegance of Sugar Avenue (at present called Andrassy Avenue). The line length (shallow tunnel just several meters under the surface) was 4.4 km. It ran via Pest, along Andrassy Avenue to Danube bank. Walls of the station (there are 11 stations) are tiled with granite and decorated with majolica. Wagons were manufactured by Schlick and Siemens. Ride with the old-fashioned train with Art Nouveau décor is a compulsory attraction for every tourist visiting Budapest. UNESCO listed the line as World Heritage Site in 2002.

There is Budapest Metro Museum with an old-fashioned train located at entrance of Deak Ferenc Square platforms where 3 underground lines intersect – red, yellow and blue. One of the most famous passengers of the train was the emperor Franz Joseph. The museum is located on the original and currently closed platform of millennium underground with a traditional décor of XIX century.

The red line, M2 (10.5 km, 11 stations), was planned to be open at the beginning of XX century but it was postponed until 1970. It was caused by war actions. Then, building works carried out in the 50’s were disrupted by brutally suppressed Hungarian uprising in 1956 and enormous damages in Budapest. M2 runs through River Danube and I links Obuda and Buda with Pest. For over 600 years those 3 districts were separate cities. The line enables easy access to train stations – Keleti (western) and Deli (southern), and it is linked to HEV suburban train. Opening of the red line was an attraction for both adults and children who wanted to travel on newly built escalators endlessly.

The blue line, M3, completed in 1990 is the longest underground line. It is 17 km long and it has 20 stations. All the stations are located on north-south route axis. The style of stations is quite monotonous, walls are covered with polished stainless metal in different colors – red, orange, green, etc. Similarly to two previous stations, M3 is under extension works. Among new planned stations there is Ferihegy 2 airport.

In 1987 full documentation for the fourth underground line was ready. The line was planned to be built with ZSRR support. Deep economic crisis followed by political changes and gradual economic integration with European Union created new opportunities. In late 90’s Hungary were granted around 300 million  Euros out of European support fund in order to build fourth underground line.

The green line, M4, currently under construction, connecting rail stations Kelenfoldi and Keleti is planned to be open in summer 2010. In 2006 French company called Alstoma won a tender for rolling stock supply, including 170 Metropolis cars. The production takes place in Polish Alstoma factory in Konstal, Chorzow. We use similar cars (style and technical parameters) on Warsaw underground line. M4 is going to be equipped with system enabling complete Automatic Train Control. The plan includes two construction stages; during the first stage, 10 stations will be built and during the second stage – 4 stations. Distance between stations will reach 1470m. The highest situated station will be 96 meters above sea level and the lowest 74 meters.

Hungarian press has reported disruptions and interruptions in building works repeatedly caused by lack of funds, not meeting the deadlines by suppliers, and technical fault of French cars.

However, deadline for works completion in summer has not been changed yet.

Alstoma is supposed to provide new number of trains for other Budapest underground lines with still operating old and wonky trains of different make; mostly of the USSR and Russian, but also Siemens and Hungarian company Ganz. Successive stations are gradually undergoing modernization and computerization, cars exchange and installing new automated security systems.

An interesting detail here is that Budapest underground has Anti Graffiti System created with the use of AGS technology, protecting the walls from dirt and helping to remove graffiti easily. This technology was applied to protect numerous valuable buildings such as Roman Coliseum and Paris Notre Dame.

The underground trains run from 4.30 AM to 11.30 PM every 4-5 minutes, during rush hours trains run every 2-3 minutes. Maximum speed of the train is 70km/h. Distance between individual stations is in 400 -1500m range. There are two clocks on every station showing current local time as well as time from the last train departure.  There are the same tickets for all means of public transport available at the station counters as well as ticket machines. There are single tickets, section tickets, transfer tickets and section transfer tickets. The most convenient for tourists is a 48h or 72h Budapest Card. The first one costs 6300 and the second one costs 7500 forints. The cards enable free public transport in Budapest as well as discounts in museums, restaurants, etc.