The Hungarian Railways (MÁV)

Tuesday evening the weathermen vaguely talked about some snow for Wednesday, the first day of work in 2008 when about 100,000 people were supposed to use commuter trains going to Budapest to work.  Eighty lines were cancelled, but there were two problems: only about one inch of snow fell and MÁV Start (this is the branch of MÁV dealing with commuter trains) forgot to tell the public about the cancellation. A minor detail.

Because MÁV and its affiliated companies are owned by the Hungarian state, the "mishap" immediately became a political issue. Another blot on the "incompetent" Gyurcsány government’s already tarnished image. Never mind that the new minister, Csaba Kákosy (SZDSZ), immediately fired all five members of the board of directors of MÁV Start and that another five people from the board of directors (including a couple of trade union leaders) might get pink slips. Fidesz is not satisfied. They demand the resignation of the minister himself. There is nothing new in that: the largest opposition party every two weeks or so demands this or that minister’s resignation.

On Wednesday and Thursday everything seemed relatively simple. As it was reported, the minister can fire these people and that’s that. Well, not quite. Both MÁV and MÁV Start undertook their own internal investigations. The problem seems to be that they cannot decide who the culprits were. According to one article I read, there is nothing surprising about the confusion: the company’s structure is a virtual maze. The decision making process is so complex that even the chief honchos can’t quite understand the hierarchy within MÁV and its affiliates. According to the latest report, MÁV has finished the investigation which will be soon made public: they decided that the real culprit was MÁVINFORM, another affiliated company. I assume that this company is responsible for informing the public about changes made in schedules. (I would be curious to know how many people work in MÁVINFORM!)

Finally, a telling tale about the MÁV’s operational skills and the state of the company. The spokesmen for the company keep talking about the meteorological reports on the basis of which the company decided to cancel eighty lines. However, according to the usually well-informed on-line newspaper Index, the company for years hasn’t been receiving official meteorological reports because MÁV decided not to renew the contract with the National Meteorological Service!

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MAV employs 5,000 HR people and 3,000 lawyers, that tells you all you need to know about this company.

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