The Hungarian government will spend HUF 10 billion (USD 40 million) renovating miniature railways across the country, reports index.hu. The development was announced by government commissioner for cycling and active recreation Máriusz Révész on Tuesday.
Révész noted that currently there are 21 operational miniature railway lines in Hungary that are getting more and more popular. According to Révész, in 2016 nearly 1.5 million passengers traveled on them. The commissioner justified the investment by noting that their maintenance costs are high, renovation is costly, and rails and vehicles have worn out in the past decades. “If we don’t spend enough renovating miniature railways, then in a couple of years some of the lines will have to be shut down due to risk of accidents.” he said.
Révész announced that the HUF 10 billion to be spent by 2020 will comprise:
- HUF 6 billion (USD 23.8 million) on railways operated by forestry companies.
- HUF 1.4 billion (USD 5.5 million) for lines run by Hungarian State Railways.
- HUF 2.5 billion (USD 9.9 million) on railways operated by third parties (such as the miniature railway in Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s hometown of Felcsút).
The government is a major proponent of such railways. Just last year it allocated some HUF 8.5 billion (USD 33.8 million) for miniature railway development. Maybe the most salient example of this fondness is the miniature railway line connecting Felcsút with Alcsútdoboz, namely from Orbán’s hometown to the place where his parents and relatives live. Built for HUF 850 million (USD 3 million) using EU development grants, the 5.7-kilometer line’s daily passenger load is a few dozen on average compared to the government’s estimate of 2,560 in the project’s feasibility study.
In September 2017, the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control visited the controversial project but has yet to officially comment as to the efficiency of the investment.