The Orbán government’s latest “unorthodox solution”: A unique toll system

The Hungarian public is fixated on everything related to cars and driving, especially when it’s a question of money. Announcements about gasoline prices are daily fare in Hungary. If the price of gasoline goes up or down a couple of forints, it’s big news. Hungary is a poor country, we must not forget. Perhaps the most serious crisis since the change of regime occurred when it was announced that gasoline prices would have to be raised substantially. A blockade of all roads nationwide by taxi drivers paralyzed the country for three days and forced a government retreat.

Therefore it’s mighty strange that the Orbán government, already under considerable domestic and foreign pressure, decided to introduce a new toll system–and a badly designed one at that, which is bound to encounter serious opposition.

The system is geographically based. Each county, and there are nineteen of them in Hungary, is a separate toll unit. A driver who plans to drive on a toll road but strictly within the confines of his county need purchase only a single “matrica/vignette.” A few decades ago that might have been reasonable. A trip from Pécs to Harkány was considered to be quite a journey, and going to Hosszúhetény was an outright adventure. But these days, even with lower gasoline prices, people with cars are a lot more mobile.

The maps the government provided to make car owners’ lives easier are confusing. Some of them even had mistakes. If I figure it right, a person driving from Budapest to Pécs on the relatively new superhighway will need four matricas. Admittedly, the new county matricas are a great deal cheaper (5,000 Ft. each) than the former pass that was good for the whole country at 42,980 Ft/year. But what a hassle to figure out what counties you’re going through each time you plan a trip and which passes you’ll have to buy before you venture outside your own county. Even worse, think about those occasions when you have to get somewhere quickly–a family illness, a business emergency, the funeral of a colleague. You don’t just gas up the car and go. You also have to make sure you have the appropriate passes.

Let’s take a not too far-fetched example. A businessman who travels frequently from Pécs to Budapest will have to buy three or four matricas. And let’s say his family also wants to visit an aunt in Somogy or in Zala. The expenses start adding up.

The suspicion is that the government eventually wants to stop issuing those matricas that are good for a limited period of time. They are handy when the family goes on holiday to Lake Balaton or the Mátra Mountains. For ten days they pay only 2,975 Ft.; for a month, 4,789 Ft.

Drivers had to purchase their matricas by January 1, but as of December 29 no matricas were yet available. The new system was introduced in a great hurry without adequate preparation, as even Gergely Gulyás, the honey-tongued Fidesz politician, had to admit. By Friday (January 2) the computer system handling the issuance of matricas at gas stations crashed. There were long lines of people standing in the cold and rain in front of the headquarters of the office that takes care of the country’s roads. Purchasing passes online was not any easier because the site couldn’t handle the traffic.

And confusion reigns. Csaba Hende, the minister of defense and a member of parliament for Vas County, is furious. Based on the information he received, he promised his constituents that M86, a road between Szombathely and Vát, was going to be toll free. Came the surprise the following day: anyone using this new road will have to get a county matrica.

Utpalyak

There are bits and pieces of roads–because this is what we are talking about–where the introduction of tolls makes no sense. Perhaps the most egregious example is the road to the Budapest Airport. A single trip a year to and from the airport would require a Budapester to buy a county matrica.

The attached map gives some idea of what I’m talking about. As you can see, M1 and M0 serve a very important function: to save Budapest from heavy thru traffic, mainly the thousands and thousands of trucks that cross the country toward the north, the east, and the south. It is hard not to notice that certain parts of a single highway are free while other parts are toll roads. The reason is that those sections marked in green were built with EU support, for the specific purpose of ridding Budapest of the heavy truck traffic that is environmentally harmful. The European Union demanded that these roads remain toll free. Well, on the map they are marked free, but the roads leading to these free sections are toll roads, so, contrary to EU intentions, truckers don’t get a free ride around Budapest. You may ask what the orange-colored sections signify. These three short sections are still within the limits of Pest County, but if you drive onto them, you must have a county matrica for Fejér County in the case of M1 and M7 or Nógrád County in the case of M3. The distances are small. The trip from Törökbálint to Pusztazámor, for instance, is only 17.3 km or 10.7 miles.

A civic group that already blocked the M1 and M7 superhighways for a minute in December is threatening the government with an ultimatum. They now promise a total blockade of all roads if the government does not withdraw the new county toll system by the end of February. They will also demand the resignation of the Orbán government. The organizer is Zoltán Büki, a businessman and Együtt-PM activist in the county of Nógrád.

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Pat S. Conti
Guest

Hysterical! Pat

#yiv7317252470 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv7317252470 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv7317252470 a.yiv7317252470primaryactionlink:link, #yiv7317252470 a.yiv7317252470primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv7317252470 a.yiv7317252470primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv7317252470 a.yiv7317252470primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv7317252470 WordPress.com | Eva S. Balogh posted: “The Hungarian public is fixated on everything related to cars and driving, especially when it’s a question of money. Announcements about gasoline prices are daily fare in Hungary. If the price of gasoline goes up or down a couple of forints, it’s big news” | |

Ron
Guest

I do not understand this toll system. If I go from Budapest to Balaton (Siofok) I need to have four county stickers (valid for one year) or I can take one 10 day, or one month national sticker.

But if I have a National sticker do I need a county sticker? And what if I have a small van (qualified as D2)?

But all roads (except parts of M1 and M3 were financed with EU money). the M2 from Budapest to Vac was financed with Phare money (the round way of Vac was done by Itenera Spa an Italian Company and the other part by Magyar Asfalt. Until recently their signs were on the Viaducts. The same applied to M5, and parts of M6.

LwiiH
Guest

I’m pretty much forced to buy the year pass and did so on jan 1st. The option to buy the pass wasn’t avaliable on the 30th. So now I’m confused.

steve397
Guest

Un-bloody-believably stupid, I cannot believe it. They, the Orban Government are scoring many a goal mostly into their own net. No wonder Hungary is one of the foremost champions in the suicide rate statistics.

Member

THe map is fantastic for something. It shows us how much money is pouring into Hungary while Fidesz and their friends are marching against the EU.

Ron
Guest

OT Recently, a new HUF 10,000 note was introduced, and it is beautiful (I like it). The last couple of weeks when I did shopping I noticed that people made various comments on this note in the shop. They like the note, but they do not understand why Hungary changed it. The old one was good enough?

In general they do not agree the money spent on the new note, and they blame VO for it People are no longer afraid to voice their opinion in public. That was a change compared to the previous years.

Ron
Guest

Completely off topic. I have not seen Tappach lately, and wonder what he thinks of the recent stable forint, excellent growth figure for 2014, and December 31, figures in general.

According to XE.com Hungarian rate compared to the EUR will be over 318 on Monday. I think you will see a total collapse of the economy in January.

Guest

@Ron: According to banknotenews.com, the new 10,000 forint note has additional security (against counterfeiting?). All of the banknotes are due to be upgraded by 2018….I also have been missing Tappanch’s contributions.

gdfxx
Guest

Jozsef Attila is one of my favorite poets, I only like Ady Endre more. To Kirsten: I agree with others, certain expressions changed their meaning substantially over the history. Words that Peto”fi Sa’ndor used during the 1848 revolution sound totally false when used by FIDESZ/jobbik.

gdfxx
Guest

Sorry about the above comment being sent to the wrong post.

Paul
Guest
I am puzzled by much of this. For a start, surely most Hungarian motorways (certainly the more recent ones) were built with EU money? The last time I drove in Hungary was before 2004, so presumably the motorways that existed then had been built without EU money. But the motorway ‘network’ then was a fraction of what it is now – basically the M1, a small part of the M7 and M3, and a short section of what was to become the M0 (there was also the recently built M5, but this was a private toll road – the only motorway I have ever driven the full length of without seeing another car on our side!). So all the motorways built since then (practically all the network) must have been built with EU money – and should therefore presumably be free? My other significant confusion is why have they done this? They must have a reason – even Orbán doesn’t cause all this fuss just for the hell of it. Was it an attempt to raise more money? (If so, I can’t see how it’s going to raise enough extra to make the fuss worthwhile.) Or was it a genuine… Read more »
Paul
Guest

As for banknotes – it is normal practise for countries to replace their notes with new designs every few years, especially ones that are frequent targets of the counterfeiters. If anything, Hungary always seemed rather slow on this – Hungarian notes seem to be replaced far less often than (for instance) UK ones.

On a funny aside to this, as I do most of my shopping with cards or online, I rarely see large denomination notes (above £20), and their designs often change in-between me using them. The upshot is that I actually have no idea what UK notes of £50 and above currently look like – or even what the denominations are!

During one of our longer stays in Hungary a few yeas ago, the £20 note was reissued and the new note was a completely different colour and design (and even possibly size!) to the old one. I was blissfully unaware of this. and when I got some money out of an ATM at Gatwick on our return, I genuinely thought I must have somehow selected the wrong currency!

cheshire cat
Guest
Paul, my (English) husband and I giggle, because every second year when we drive to or in Hungary, there is a new way of charging than the time before. It’s booths and pay-when-you-drive-off one year, then it’s stickers next year, back to booths with satellite stickers next, then no-booths satellite stickers and now this. Yes, some people will benefit if they only drive from Gyongyos to Budapest twice a week eg, but why make the M0 a toll road, it’s beyond me. And it looks like so many of their half-baked ideas: they urgently need some money, so think of something seemingly clever, simple and explainable. They make it a law without thinking it over, doing some studies or discussing it with experts. Then introduce it at once without organizing the maps and the stickers. Now that there is such a mess, they say you can postpone buying the stickers until February and use it “retrospectively”, whatever that might mean. I’ve read that in Germany, Bavarians want to introduce tolls on motorways, because a lot of foreigners use it, as motorways are free in Germany, but not in Austria etc, and they feel overwhelmed. The German government have been thinking… Read more »
buddy
Guest

Not sure what you guys are all complaining about here, everyone that Híradó talked to thinks the new system is fab!

http://youtu.be/vInqDq6rN1E

tinshed (@tinshed)
Guest
And then there is the tourism aspect to consider. Driving across the motorways in Europe can be fraught for the tourist as every country has their own system. Even Germany, where motorways are free, has its “green” sticker for cars of an appropriate environmental standard that allows them to park in designated cities/areas. That being said I was impressed when driving in Hungary last year that we could order and pay for a 1 month ‘matrica’ online. We were able to choose the start and end dates well in advance of actually arriving in Hungary. It was fast, easy to use and accurate. This was in stark contrast to Slovakia where we needed to buy a sticker at a shop at the first available opportunity once we crossed the border. So how will the unwitting tourist cope with this new system in Hungary? Badly I suspect. As I said above having a national ‘matrica’ makes a lot of sense for the traveler as it provides flexibility. I am sure there are few if any tourists who will be attuned to county boundaries when planning their trips. This is what happens when you have a system where there are few, if… Read more »
Istvan
Guest

It is my understanding that the European Union has created what is called the EFC-directive, which attempts to standardize European toll collection systems. Is Hungary is totally non-compliant?

Systems in every EU nation deployed after 1 January 2007 are supposed to support at least one of the following technologies: satellite positioning, mobile communications using the GSM-GPRS standard or 5.8 GHz microwave technology. All most all toll roads from Illinois east in the USA are electronic and most of the toll roads recognize each other’s transponders. The cost for the tolls is deducted from people’s credit, debit, or stored value card. The Hungarian sticker system seems way behind the times.

TeamBritanniaHu
Guest

Reblogged this on hungarywolf.

lajcsika
Guest
While this is exactly the type of idiotic tax against which Fidesz in opposition would organize a national referendum, organize demonstrations, write countless articles, give countless interviews, issue special newspapers like the infamous Magyar Vizsla etc. the Hungarian opposition is completely mute. Fidesz gave the coup de gras to MSZP when the referendum initiated by Fidesz about the HUF 200 (ie. one US dollar) doctoral visit fee and three other similar tax issues were successful. (The Constitutional Court also helped, but that’s another issue). This crazy toll system is a god-given opportunity to the opposition, yet they are still apparently eating their beiglies and doing nothing. When we know that it was the (eventually monthly USD 4 (four)) net tax issue which could inspire the most people to attend any demonstration, not vague notions like “democracy” and “poverty” and “constitutionalism”. Have I mentioned that the leftist/liberal opposition is lazy? Of course this would be a great opportunity too to finally be able to target the suburban demography which is overwhelmingly right wing / conservative and thus normally unavailable to the leftist opposition. The current opposition must be (A) on Fidesz’ payroll, (B) full of complete idiots, or (C) both. Actually,… Read more »
lajcsika
Guest

The reason for the tax is the significantly decreasing excise tax/VAT on gasoline (as the underlying price of oil has decreased). This is a substitute, though an idiotic one in every sense.

Guest

@Istvan:

The Hungarian “sticker” is virtual i e electronic, the licence plate is stored in a database somewhere. Austria still has those stickers though which are really inconvenient because there’s a rule that you shouldn’t have more than three stickers on your windshield – and it’s very messy to scrape the old stickers off .

I’ve written somewhere about the German idea of a “sticker” only for foreigners which of course is against EU law – is it a coincidence that this idea also comes from a Bavarian “Christian conservative”, namely our CSU traffic minister Mr Seehofer? It’s really typical that those Bavarians want to take extra money from foreigners while they are those who have the most tourists in Germany.

Re the new Hungarian system:

The Fidesz government needs more money, so they try to sell this idea to the “stupid Hungarians” that the new stickers will be cheaper for them – soon they might announce that the stickers for foreigners who “just drive through Hungary” will be more expensive …

And a general observation re the way Fidesz does its taxes etc. We have a joke in Germany:

Why make it simple when there’s a complicated way to do it?

eszti
Guest
Hello all! Just to give a slightly different perspective… For a start, there are only 8 counties that have autopalya, or highways, so the most you pay for a yearly national pass is 40 000 Forints, not 19×5 as suggested above. For everyone outside of Budapest who travel across the country frequently, this is cheaper than the old system, as even to travel through four megye/counties sets us back 20 000 forints for the year, instead of the monthly 4800; you could argue that you then don’t mind buying the occasional 10-day matrica when necessary if we have an unplanned or emergency trip. Complicated, yes; cheaper for rural Hungarians, yes; incomprehensible as to why many lead-in or ring-roads also become subject to payment, yes! Budapest-dwellers lose, of course, as free travel on the M0 and M2 ceases. So taking Eva’s example above, from Pecs to Budapest will still only cost 2800 forints if the trip is a one-off; if it is regularly made by a family living in Pecs then it does turn out cheaper. Our main problem to date has been the lack of unbiased or clear information. For example, the Q&A page of the National Autoroute company (Nemzeti… Read more »
miki
Guest

You can still buy the old national vignettes.

http://www.toll-charge.hu/Toll-tariffs/Pricing-2015/

So it does give people who only travel within a part of the country a cheaper alternative, or do I misunderstand something?

Making all the access roads to the obligatory toll-free part of the M0 toll roads is really showing a big middle finger to the EU and showing the Hungarians that this government will take as much as they can get from their pockets as they can get away with.

I think we are still waiting for the explanation how changing the M0 into a toll road is only affecting foreigners.

Guest

I have just returned from Hungary. I could again experience my (sometimes) stupid father-in-law’s reaction. We were talking about this crazy new toll system but he cannot take any criticism of Hungary, certainly not from someone (my wife) who has left the country. He was defending the measure but when we asked him if he would buy a matrica to go from Békásmegyer to the shopping plaza in Káposztásmegyer like he used to, he said no, he most likely will shop nearby. My wife expects this new toll system will hurt the large foreign retail chains like Auchan, Bauhaus, Tesco, etc; something Fidesz would certainly approve of — killing two birds with one stone.

Article 7
Guest

This demonstrates one of the most glaring features of this government – ineptitude.

It it occur to anyone else that this is the beginning of controlling and keeping track of the movement of people?

And, of course, now they want to restrict the freedom assembly. Funny how that comes in the middle of all the dissatisfaction with the current government.

Bowen
Guest

This reminds me of the MOL Bubi rental bikes now installed around Budapest. Unlike other cities, like Paris or London, where you just insert your money, take a bike, and go, you can only pick up a bike in Budapest by going through several bureaucratic hurdles, trekking to a faraway office to buy a “valid Bubi card” (!) or wading through several confusing, dense webpages in dire need of a proofreader.

Needless to say, I’ve not seen these bikes used much in Budapest.

Ron
Guest

EUR HUF 319.90 at 9.00am today. Currently, 319.19. http://www.xe.com

Kavé
Guest

Buddy: that Magyar TV1 news clip featuring an enthusiastic supporter of the new toll stickers was, in fact, a hired actor from the Móricz Zsigmond theater in Nyíregyháza (previously seen on the craptastic reality show X-factor!) The FIDESZ connection is Vidnyánszky Attila, who formerly directed the Nyíregyháza theater to replace Alföldi Róbert as director of the National Theater.

http://444.hu/2015/01/02/az-m1-hiradojaban-megint-sikerult-egy-szineszt-megszolaltatni-az-utca-egyszeru-emberekent/

Reminds me of the fake video of Orban and Pinter picking up “Transylvanian” hitchikers along the road during a snow storm a couple of years ago, and delivering them to their transportation, a semi truck from the FIDESZ favored Waberer company, which conveniently has a depot next to the airport.

//hungarianspectrum.org/2013/03/17/snowstorm-in-hungary-government-incompetence-reigns/comment-page-1/#comments

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Oh well. Hungary is famous for creating puzzles, perhaps it’s time to remember they’re also good at solving them.

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PS: indeed I also hope Tappanch is alive and well somewhere.

Kation
Guest
Bowen: There are several problems with Bubi, but it has taken many years and constant tweaking with the system, as well as changing the road system until it became a success elsewhere. There was a long article why Citibike in NY (until now at least) has been a huge mess. In Hungary cars are superior and car owners feel superior, that’s the number 1 rule of politics. Biking is getting to be ‘normal’, but especially with cheap gasoline it will take time till it will be considered usual. Secondly, Hungary is poor and so the likelihood that valuable bikes will be stolen is very high, which almost necessitates cumbersome methods. The rules will evolve and change. However, note that Budapest is a not entirely flat like Amsterdam or Copenhagen are, Buda is pretty hilly which makes biking a challenge to and fro Buda. Moreover, most Western European capitals have rather mild, oceanic climates and so not even winters are very cold. In Budapest, although the climate is clearly warming, the winter (especially the evenings) are rather chilly for biking. I wouldn’t worry about the long-term success of Bubi. I’m sure the toll system will be more user friendly over time… Read more »
un bert
Guest

As I hear from traders there’s jihad on the fx market.

Forint is down — but that’s what Orban wants, so no worries.

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