Hungary bets on railway infrastructure development for both urban passenger transport and for ensuring direct railway connections between Hungary and the ports of the Mediterranean Sea and those in Eastern Europe. The country believes that the current railway infrastructure investments will attract the interest of transport operators and players from the markets in Central Asia and the Far East. The objective of the Government in Budapest is to develop Hungary’s railways by investing in infrastructure and signalling and in upgrading the rolling stock. In the past years, investments have focused on installing modern safety devices, traffic control modernization, main network electrification, introducing modern passenger cars in interurban transport and improving the access to railway transport of disabled people. Special attention has been paid to improving passenger services by introducing free internet in over 700 cars and, since April, in five rail stations of the railway network, Déli (South Budapest), Keleti (East Budapest), Nyugati (West Budapest), as well as in the rail stations of Debrecen and Keszthely cities.
The Government in Budapest plans to transform Hungary in a key transit country for transports on the east-west axis. Hungary has to boost efforts in international freight transport and to improve connections with the Trans-Siberian Main Line. Hungary has the advantages of its geographical position, advanced infrastructure and the Government’s commitment to develop the railway network.
Moreover, using non-reimbursable European funds and the funds available through the Connecting Europe Facility plays an important role in developing the railway infrastructure and the interoperability of Hungary’s railway network.
In the next pages, in the interview with Madame Ilona David, President and CEO of Hungarian Railways (MÁV), you can read about broad interest information on Hungary’s role in the Wider Black Sea Area and details about MÁV’s latest projects.
Railway PRO: Can you tell us in a few words what is the role of railway transport in Hungary, as related to the national and regional economic development objectives and compared to the other transport modes?
Ilona Dávid: Nowadays railway transportation is popular again as it undergoes a renaissance in Europe as well as in Hungary. The Hungarian Government declared that the public transportation, especially the railway mode has an outstanding role and in parallel it allocates sources for the implementation; among the top national goals one can find the public transportation, and within this objective the deve-lopment of guided land transport mode. The priority of the railway mode in case of the suburban and long-distance transportation has been stated by the Hungarian Parliament in the Passenger Transportation Act two years ago, which was one of the first among the European legislation.
In the course of our everyday operation, current and planned future-oriented development planning, we experience that the government is in favour of public transportation, especially of railways.
Our railway company has taken several steps in the past years and we will conti-nue to do so in order to deserve this trust. MÁV Co. – for the first time after decades – have achieved a positive operating result of HUF 2.9 billion in 2012, and thanks to the gradual improvements, the number of passengers has been growing for many years.
In addition to the cost efficiency, pro-cess management and service development measures, the public contribution provided on a contractual basis, also had a significant role in bringing the good operating results not only on company but on group level.
Railway PRO: What are MAV’s near-future priorities and how much are estimated investments worth considering the fact that we are under 2014-2020 programming period? Can you tell us about the rail infrastructure rehabilitation and upgrading investment programme for this period?
Ilona Dávid: First of all, I would like to stress the importance of MÁV Co.’s Multi-Annual Contract for rail infrastructure quality in effect until 2015 that provides predictability in case of infrastructure financing while the long-term rail passenger Public Service Contract with the State has created an anticipated framework. The ten year-long contract that entered into force on 1 January 2014 includes provisions relating to the coordination of time sche-dules, financing and the rules for calculating justified operating costs not covered by the incomes. This means that we can plan the gradual increase of the service level within the given budget.
Railway PRO: Can you outline the most important projects that are to be launched in Hungary in order to improve rail traffic and rail lines capacity?
Ilona Dávid: The Hungarian Government pays special attention to the development of the railways – significant modernization has been and is still being carried out on the TEN-T network. Giving priority to the railway transportation has not only theoretical but tangible results and this will be so in the future as well: Hungary will use the resources of transport operational program and funds of Connecting Europe Facility for railway development purposes between 2014 and 2020. We are focusing on the planned infrastructure development by which we aim to eliminate the bottlenecks and to reduce travel times. Moreover, the rolling stock will also be modernized. For example, 42 new motor units from Stadler will start its operation this and next year, 700 passenger coaches will have free Wi-Fi internet access, and 300 coaches used in suburban traffic will be renewed. Furthermore it should be noted that the prototype of self-developed IC+ coaches are also being put into service.
Railway PRO: Foreign Trade State Secretary Peter Szijjártó said that the Government plans to transform Hungary into a key route for east-west transportation. What are the next steps in this respect?
Ilona Dávid: Due to its favourable economic-geographical location and transport infrastructure, Hungary plays an important role in the development of relations between the European and Asian partners. Thanks to the radial railway network, our country has good potential to carry out transit transportation, in which the major destinations connect Western Europe and countries of Commonwealth of Independent States/Asia, as well as Western Europe and the Balkans. Hungary is in favour of the development of rail transportation mode on a long–term and is in favour of strengthening the European Union’s Eastern relations focusing on the policy of opening to the East. Our transport policy is in line with all of this: we are definitely focusing on the strengthening and speeding up of the policy of opening to the East in case of railway transportation as well. Several transcontinental routes of the European rail network cross Hungary.
Railway PRO: Also, could you tell us what are the next steps especially in making a better use of Hungary’s access links to the Trans-Siberian Railway?
Ilona Dávid: Our aim is to draw the attention of the stakeholders, active on the east-west freight market, to the favourable transit and logistics opportunities of the region. In this spirit, we hosted the plenary meeting of the Coordinating Council on Trans-Siberian Transportation International Association to which 250 delegates from 25 countries arrived to Budapest. Hungary offers excellent connection between the Trans-Siberian railway line and the countries of Western and Southern Europe. Hungary has taken and is taking a number of steps in order to reach an increased proportion of transport from the regions of China, Russia, Japan, Korea and Kazakhstan through our country, especially through the border crossing of Záhony-Chop. Záhony is one of Central Europe’s largest railway transhipment areas, Hungary’s “Eastern Gate” and one of the main meeting points for the standard and broad gauge network where several million tons of freight are being transhipped, handled, and stored. This transhipment area has significant free capacities.
Railway PRO: Can you give us a few details about Hungary’s “opening to the East” policy with the special focus on the planned construction of the V0 Budapest Southern bypass railway line?
Ilona Dávid: By the development of railway infrastructure, by ensuring the interoperability and reliability of the railway lines we aim to increase the quality of ser-vices for the freight forwarders. Focusing on the key directions, serious steps have been made to plan the construction of V0 Budapest Southern bypass railway line as well as to modernize the Budapest -Belgrade railway line so to reach track speed of 160 km/h on double tracks. Hungary as a link between Asia and the EU has taken an active role in the creation of EU freight corridors. The success of our work shows that the European Union’s, rail freight corridor No. 7 has started its operation under the coordination of MÁV Co.. This is one of the EU’s success stories in creating competitive rail transportation network. Thanks to the harmonized work of the infrastructure-managers, ministries and authorities concerned the transit of goods is seamless for corridor trains through seven countries on the Prague-Vienna/Bratislava-Budapest-Bucharest-Constanta and Vidin-Sofia-Thessaloniki-Athens axis. In addition, our country with France, Spain, Italy and Slovenia took part in the creation of the Rail Freight Corridor No.6 that starts from Almeria to Záhony, to the Hungarian-Ukrainian border where the broad and standard gauges meet.
Railway PRO: What is MAV’s opinion about the liberalisation of domestic passenger transport, now perfectly in operation given the vote on the 4th Railway Package? Speaking about the 4th Railway Package, what do you think the advantages and disadvantages of the effectiveness of the Fourth Railway Package are, considering the point of view of a state-owned operator?
Ilona Dávid: With regards to the libera-lized freight business, we have many years of experience, as we provide track access and related services for nearly forty railway undertakings. At this stage, the experts of MAV Co. continuously follow the changing drafts of the 4th Railway Package and connecting directives. As regards to the passenger transportation, MAV Co. will of course comply with the future directives of the European Union and the subsequent Hungarian legislation. However, I think it is our duty to ensure the punctua-lity of the trains in all circumstances and to provide a continuously improving service for the satisfaction of passengers.