Budapest reportedly shunts congestion charge into the slow lane

By bne IntelliNews May 23, 2016

Risking yet another face off with the EU, unnamed officials claim the Hungarian government will not introduce congestion charges in Budapest before the end of 2018, local press reported on May 23.

Hungary agreed with European Commission (EC) in 2009 to introduce congestion charges in the capital – which see drivers pay a fee for driving into the centre of Budapest – in exchange for EU funds for the construction of the city’s Metro Line 4. However, the government seems to be more willing to pay fines to the EC than to risk losing popularity before the next set of elections, which will come in early 2018.

"It is sure that citizens would not be happy about the introduction of congestion charges, and they would blame the government,” an unnamed politician of the country’s governing Fidesz party told Origo.hu. The populist Fidesz is less popular in the capital than in the other parts of the country, and does not want to risk losing more voters in Budapest, the official added.

Istvan Tarlos, mayor of Budapest has repeatedly emphasized that he does not agree with the introduction of the congestion fee, but it is inevitable due to the agreement witht eh EU executive. Although the original deadline was 2013, the introduction of the fee has been delayed due to the lack of some infrastructural requirements.

Hungary might be fined HUF15-20bn (€47.3-63.1mn) for further delays, Origo.hu’s source claimed, adding that "paying a fine to the EC would cause less political damage” than introducing the fee.

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