Viktor Orbán’s dirty political deal at the expense of the City of Budapest

Two years ago I wrote a post titled “Another Russian-Hungarian deal, good only for the Russians,” about the contract for 37 metro trains with 6 cars each to replace the by now almost 40-year-old Soviet-made metro cars servicing the M3 metro line. Their replacement was long overdue. The decision could no longer be postponed because of the frequent technical mishaps that could endanger lives. Soviet metro cars built in 1970 for the M2 line had already been replaced with brand new Alstom cars. The new M4 line also uses Alstom-built cars, and therefore it would have made sense to purchase the 222 metro cars for the M3 line from Alstom as well.

But this is not what happened. After years of often acrimonious discussions between the central government and Mayor István Tarlós, it was decided in the spring of 2015 that Budapest cannot buy new trains. The old rusted-out Soviet wrecks will have to be refurbished as a cost-cutting measure, and naturally the job will be done by the same Russian company (though subsequently renamed). The suspicion from the very beginning was that this Hungarian “favor” was part of the Paks II deal. After all, the Russian government would be giving Hungary a 10 billion euro loan to build a nuclear power plant, and therefore it was only fair that the Hungarians spend 222 million euros for the 222 metro cars. From the Russians’ point of view, it was a reasonable position to take, even though it was an unethical and illegal business deal. But what I find totally unacceptable is that Viktor Orbán, the great patriot, the prime minister of Hungary, lent his name to this thoroughly dirty deal that was disadvantageous to his own country. It was clear from the outset that the so-called refurbished, technologically outdated, non-air-conditioned cars are vastly inferior to the new super-modern ones even though the City of Budapest was going to pay almost as much for the refurbished cars as it would have for new ones.

But that’s not all. There is a twist in the story that makes the whole deal absolutely sickening. Many experts, after looking over the first cars that arrived in Hungary about a year ago, are fairly certain that these cars are in fact new. One could retort: what’s wrong with that? Actually, it sounds like a good deal. One pays only for refurbishing old ones and gets new ones instead. What a great bargain. Well, not quite. It seems likely that the manufacturer, Metrovagonmash, built a whole series of metro cars in 2008 which were not competitive with products built by Alstom, Siemens, Bombardier, etc. If the City of Budapest were to order new cars, Metrovagonmash couldn’t possible win the tender. Hence, the deal worked out by the two crooks, Viktor Orbán and Vladimir Putin. Under the guise of cost-saving refurbishing, the City of Budapest ended up with inferior new cars for practically the same price they would have paid if they had bought Alstom cars. This is how Viktor Orbán in the service of Putin was helping a Russian company in obvious financial straits. Because it has become evident lately that Metrovagonmash is ready to speed up production in order to be paid as soon as possible. They seem to need cash.

The old 1978 metro car

And the “refurbished” one

But now Metrovagonmash might be in trouble. After months of one technical failure after the other in the nine trains delivered so far, BKV (Budapest Közlekedési Vállalat / Hungarian Transit Co.) has lost patience. They refuse to accept any more cars and demand more than 800 million forints by way of penalty for non-performance. They also told Metrovagonmash’s management to come to Budapest to discuss the matter. And there will be a lot to discuss.

The first train with six cars arrived in Hungary during the winter of 2016, but the train still needed a lot of work. It made the long trip on existing railroad lines, which could have ruined certain parts of the train, including its engine, if it had been completed. So, the final touches were done in Budapest. Then, drivers had to be trained. At last, on March 20, the first train made its debut. But after a few hours the train had to be taken out of service. There was something wrong with the opening of the doors.

Ever since, there have been constant problems with the Russian trains. Although nine trains have been delivered, only four of them are actually being used. The rest are obviously not yet travel-ready, and those that are deemed so are under constant repair. It is bad enough when the doors don’t open, but it can be fatal when they open on the wrong side, as happened on June 13. Or, even worse, the doors open on both sides. Then it can also happen that the train is already on its merry way but the doors are still open. As one of the passengers said, “It was very frightening.” On June 14 the Russian engineers triumphantly announced that they had found the problem and from here on all will be well.

That turned out to be false optimism. A week later a new/old train arrived at the Western Station metro stop but the doors didn’t open at all. The train arrived later than expected and was absolutely jammed. During the next 12 minutes, the driver asked for patience and apologized for the inconvenience several times. Eventually he announced that the train must be shunted in order to enter the station again when the doors are supposed to open. As time went by, the passengers expressed their dissatisfaction not only with the train but with the government. They said nasty things about Lőrinc Mészáros, Fidesz, the stadiums, and claimed that conditions were better in the 1980s. As time went by, panic set in. Some women cried, others, the more claustrophobic types, were so eager to get out that in two of the cars strong guys tried to pry open the emergency exit. That, by the way, was quite a feat, given the less than satisfactory construction of the emergency exit. Several men were required to turn the handle that was needed for the operation.

This incident was the straw that broke the camel’s back. BKV will not send more old cars Russia to be “refurbished,” it is claiming a penalty for non-performance, and they talk about future severe sanctions. Erzsébet Gy. Németh, DK member of the Budapest City Council, who was the only representative who voted against the deal initially, demanded that István Tarlós break the contract with the Russians. In any case, the Közlekedési Hatóság (Transport Authority) has withdrawn all six refurbished subway trains from use.

Erzsébet Gy. Németh, being an opposition politician, also demanded István Tarlós’s resignation. Although I find Tarlós an objectionable person, this time I must say that this whole dirty deal is not his fault. He had no choice. The old cars were becoming dangerous; the City had to take out a loan, which couldn’t be done without a government guarantee. The guilty one is Viktor Orbán, who perhaps one day will have to answer in court for what I consider to be abuse of power by knowingly forcing a disadvantageous deal on the City of Budapest for political gain. According to the Hungarian penal code, if he is found guilty, a three-year jail sentence is the minimal punishment. Wouldn’t that be nice, after the scores of innocent people he dragged into court on trumped-up charges?

As I was reading the description of what happened in that metro car where the doors wouldn’t open, I was thinking that there have been occasions in world history when something that ordinary sparked a revolution. The fact that people verbally abused the government in a country where fear is palpable is remarkable by itself. Slowly we may be edging toward a moment when dissatisfaction will burst into action.

June 25, 2017
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Member

Tarlós and the City Council should have resigned when the leader of the Fidesz band of corrupt thieves, the criminally insane viktor forced down the deal on their throat, stating, that they will not take part in endangering the life of the people and will not be part of the gross corruption and payola the viktor organized. Now they all deserve jail sentences.

dos929
Guest
This sorry saga is typical of the state of the ‘governance’ by the regime. Hungary is ruled not by expert politicians but by a bunch of common criminals with a mentally disturbed chief at its head… The story of the M3 metro is no different from every shady deal that emitted from the government with a centralised power the likes of which doesn’t exist in any democratic country anywhere. One cannot expect professional decisions from a regime that abolished most of the ministries that dealt with the appropriate areas of responsibilities using experts and instead nearly if not all decisions are made by a small group of criminals. This is why where everywhere in the western world the use of renewable energy is rewarded, in Hungary it is penalised. This is why the Hungarian health system is broke, this is why the infrastructure of the country is nearly beyond repair, etc… The often mentioned stadium-building and sport related mania of Orban is typical of wasting the human and financial resources of Hungary of which the story of M3 metro is just the tip of the iceberg. When the capital of a country can’t maintain even renewing the painted road and… Read more »
gruffalo
Guest

I think the current below picture shows the Alstom cars and not the refurbished Russian ones.

Ferenc
Guest

This is a M3 refurbished onecomment image

gruffalo
Guest

Orban’s carzy anti-Budapest politics can be best shown not by this decision (though it was bad enough that he chose the obsolete Russian technology) but that the Swimming Championship cost 127bn HUF and the Puskas Stadium’s budget currently stands as 200bn (and the construction of the superstructure has only just begun).

A totally new subway line could’ve been built from the price of only these two projects.

Although Metro line 4 was expensive (due to corruption) it is still used by over 100k people per day, meanwhile the stadiums stand empty most of the year.

But Orban viscerally hates Budapest and will do everything he can to cause damage to Budapest and discomfort to the people of Budapest.

Saint Facetious
Guest

It’s surprised me endlessly that regardless of how much Orban is a joke to the rest of Europe, and that he so clearly a robber baron, that Hungarians have kept him around this long without much unrest at all. How many straws does it take exactly?

Observer
Guest

A quip attributed to PM count Teleki (1930s) may explain:

One can plow the Hungarians’ back, as long as the plough is “national” ( nemzeti). In modern words, mention nemzeti and their pants drop, absolute suckers for that.

dos929
Guest

Saint Facetious » It is a similar problem to that of North Korea… and the answer is the same; namely if the basic rights of the citizens are taken away by a dictatorial regime coupled with fear of your existence then your freedom of action is limited. Sure, Hungary is not North Korea (yet), but it is not the people of Hungary that keep Orban in power, only those 2 out of 9-10 million citizens who vote for him and his party. Once the regime destroyed all means of democratic opposition and changed the electoral rules so that they can have a 2/3 majority with 40% of the votes, and when actually only about 25% of the eligible voters voted for them, you cannot expect overturning the regime by democratic means. But indeed, not many more straws left before an uprising may end their rule…

Bastiat2
Guest

I often use the M3 line when in Budapest and, although these old cars are very noisy, they seem to work quite well. It seems to me that they were built in the days when Russians still made durable goods (think of the AK47 for example). Apparently, not anymore, typical of a company on the verge of bankruptcy, whether Russian or not.
Is it not true that several years ago, the same Viktor tore a contract with the Russians to build the new metro line and now completely reverses steam. What is the skeleton in the cupboard that Putin is aware of?

Istvan
Guest
You are totally correct about the Russian AK 47 being a brilliant weapon, that was well made. Your reference to the AK 47 brings up other interesting issues. In 1958 when the Russians introduced the AKM version of the gun the quality declined because of the use of what is called a stamped steel receiver. But it was far cheaper to produce than the earlier milled receiver. Since your average solider could replace this part without significant tools and skill it’s eventual failure was largely irrelevant, except of course in a combat situation when it would be deadly. But there are warning signs it was coming if the solider is alert. I think the same reality may actually apply to the Russian metro cars. Long term or in the case of the Hungarian cars even short term reliability is traded for efficient and lower cost production. Amazingly the Chinese have managed to produce the most cost effective and high quality AK 47 in the world. Receivers were milled out of blocks of high ordnance steel using modern CNC machinery which guaranteed ultra-precise tolerances on all the components. All parts were then carefully polished before the high luster bluing was applied.… Read more »
wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘corruption’

It would appear that so far the electorate just doesn’t seem to appreciate the consequences of its malevolent effects on all layers of society. Perhaps the rail fiasco will wise them up.

Continued corruption is a rx for disaster as they cede rule to not a public or transparent government but a private one which seems to have its own contrary as well as multiple goals when it comes to producing and engaging in ‘good’ government.B

And perhaps even the army could not escape that state of affairs as the pervasiveness of corruption flows through government cubicles and positions.
There must be a time for all this to come to some sort of closure and revitalization. Too bad there isn’t say some ‘gyogyszer’ to be used for healing.
So what has to be asked then is ‘Hol vannak az orvosok?’

Jean P.
Guest

“You are totally correct about the Russian AK 47 being a brilliant weapon…”

I can’t help it but to me the expression “brilliant weapon” is utterly disgusting. Please find another forum for you gun worship.

Member

The skeleton is, Orban was a communist party informer. A spy against his own people. All the hard evidence seems to have been systematically destroyed inside Hungary, but not in Russia.

Observer
Guest

Someone wrote that for the price of 222 “refurbished” Bud city could have bought 185 new Alstom cars.
The quality and technological superiority of the latter is undisputed and the current mishaps are a frightening indicator of other quality/reliability problems to come.

But, as dos929 noted, no “professional decisions” are made in such regimes, voluntarism and corruption reign supreme, merits (or facts) don’t count. Remember the pathetic pFid action against the Alsrom cars ordered by the Demszky administration, their brakes somehow didn’t meet the Hun standards !!

wrfree
Guest

During the Kadar years when we get out of politics at least one service worked very well and that was train transportation. ‘On time virtually all the time’. My late uncle who was an engineer and could fix almost anything was exceedingly proud of how his train ran on trips to and from Budapest. I could see the pride in his trade.

Today it appears the illiberalists are doing worse than the commies. The nosedive in transportation is just one of many which is well corroborated. Tough on the work force.
On top of perhaps losing life and limb due to shoddy workmanship there’s alot of time wasted and income lost. But it’s not Russia’s problem as a bit of productivity sinks in the Magyar economy. Russia: still sticking it to its ‘buddy buddy barat’.

Member

Must disagree with you on that one, up to a point.

When 26-year-old David Vitezy, a distant relative of Orban’s, took control of BKV in 2010, I thought it was a disgusting example of nepotism. Incredibly, he did excellent work. He created the BKK, ratioinalized the bus and tram lines, kept ticket prices under control (they had skyrocketed under Demszky), improved public outreach and imposed discipline on the staff.

Vitezy’s appointment is one of the only Fidesz policies of which I approve. It was a shame when Tarlos fired him. He was ostensibly too popular or Tarlos considered him too big for his britches.

I cannot imagine the M3-Russia flap occurring on his watch.

The reality
Guest

David Vitezy is also a distant relative of the liberal Gabor Demszky, who was the former mayor of Budapest. Isn’t it funny?

Observer
Guest

On the political side – it seems Putin has Orban by the b…s (whether it is a proof of Orban receiving cash from the Russian mafia in the 90s or knowing about Orban’s foreign bank accounts).

In addition to the Russian relation, Orban’s inept forrays abroad invariably resulting in embarrassing failures, e.g. Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Saudia, China, Turkey and even with the US/Trump, all show that he is well out of his depth there. Not so surprising considering that Felcsut/Hun countryside is his mullieu.

Whatever the causes, this deal alone merits a decade in jail (by the Zuschlag, or Sukoro standards), and centuries for his orgy of corruption.

Observer
Guest

On the political side – it seems Putin has Orban by the b…s (whether it is a proof of Orban receiving cash from the Russian mafia in the 90s or knowing about Orban’s foreign bank accounts).

In addition to the Russian relation, Orban’s inept forrays abroad invariably resulting in embarrassing failures, e.g. Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Saudia, China, Turkey and even with the US/Trump, all show that he is well out of his depth there. Not so surprising considering that Felcsut/Hun countryside is his mullieu.

Whatever the causes, this deal alone merits a decade in jail (by the Zuschlag, or Sukoro standards), and centuries for his orgy of corruption.

bimbi
Guest

Funny place Hungary. When terrorism is the subject, suddenly a host of “terrorism experts” are ready to pontificate on the Fidesz controlled media. Sadly, where real (engineering) understanding and knowledge or the negotiation of contacts are concerned, the experts seem thinner on the ground, witness the M4 farce. However, when it comes to engineering and big decisions Mr. Orbán doesn’t need experts since his astute judgement is always up to the task, whether in rail engineering or economics of power supply, and especially when dealing with the Russians.

Inevitably, there are always shadows of corruption and quid pro quo associated with the deals. At least Mr. Orbán’s ideas are spreading through the EU. Today the execrable prime minister of the UK has offered a bribe of a billion pounds to be paid over two years to the region to buy the support of 10 Northern Ireland MPs, belonging to the DUP and thus associated with the protestant terrorist movement there, in order to keep her in power in Westminster.

Both May and Orbán would call such deals “political pragmatism”, but
don’t it just stink?

Ferenc
Guest

… like Mr.Skunk and Mrs.Badger… terrible smell…

blinkyowl
Guest

M3 metro line is used by half a million people per day. Each and every one of them experiences firsthand its Third World conditions and could compare it to M4. I wonder why no protest has been organized. Fraction of the half a million could put pressure on the mafia-government, especially by repeated demonstration. M3 could be one of the matters that unites for even the Orban fans would enjoy safe and comfortable public transportation.

Ferenc
Guest

And if some serious dangerous situation will occur with the metro M3, which I very sincerely hope will not happen, I can image some smashing slogans/billboards/etc.to appear, things like:
“Fidesz says they keep Hungary safe, only best don’t use the M3 metro”
“It’s safer to stay in the stadiums, than going with the M3 metro”

Observer
Guest

FYI
Strikes are practically illegal in Hun now since a minimal scope of services has to be agreed upon (and provided). In several negotiations it was set as 90%.

Jean P.
Guest

A few hundred Metro train drivers could could work wonders if they decided to strike until safe conditions are established.

ambator
Member

At the bottom of the justified dissatisfaction is the obvious fact, that Budapest produces more than 40% of the national GDP, but the government returns to the city only 5 days worth of the city’s contributions. Also obvious that when it comes to the opportunity for the government to choose between helping, or harming the city of Budapest, they always and without any exception, choose to harm. They have lost all electoral support already in Budapest and as far as the mayor Tarlós is concerned he gave up months ago any hope of running for his job at the next election.

The reality
Guest

Budapest didn’t produce anything, unlike Western great cities, Budapest has no serious industrial ring around the city. Don’t count the GDP, but concentrate on the GNI.

Observer
Guest

The irreality

Fool or liar?
Just as the genious who would make Hun “the manufacturing engine of Europe”, perhaps by strongarmed workers with hammers and smokestacks …
Bad news is this was the 1950s…

The reality
Guest

Wrong. All rich Western countries have extremely strong industrial muscle.

It is true for the USA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_the_United_States

And for Germany and UK.

Observer, Nowadays industrialist use industrial robots and automatisation instead of “hammer and strong men”

Industrialization level is not measured by the ratio working human force, but by industrial output per capita. Because we are not living in the 1950s-1960s!!!!

Member

Orbán has a visceral hatred of Budapest and I bet at this very moment he is rubbing his hands at the thought of its citizens suffering. He is an evil, mentally disturbed sadist, there is no other explanation for the inhuman war he wages on innocent women and children at the refugee concentration camps. He positively enjoys inflicting pain on the weaker and defenceless.

Apart from one or two nouveau-riche ghettoes on the Buda side largely populated by his kind of gangsters, the city now detests him and his criminal mob.

Problem is the unthinking and, yes, cowardly countryside where people still slavishly follow the party-line for the price of a few bags of potatoes at election time

Ferenc
Guest

re: refugee camps
For almost all Hungarians the camps are out of everyday sight.
What about a demonstration at a good location in Budapest (e.g.before parliament, or Heros Square), where a camp is build and people play how the refugees are treated (not exagerating things, but really based on eyewitness reports).By showing their operation in Budapest it will be very in your face and understandable what’s going on there and each person has to make up his/her own mind, if it’s acceptable!
Additional something similar could be done at the Sziget Festival and also near the “Uszo Monstrum” at the time of the world championship.

petofi
Guest

Ok Ference, you try leading a little demonstration before the parliament. And I’ll tell you you’re future: you’ll be studying your belly-button in a prison, isolation cell for the next 12 months.

petofi
Guest

The fact is, Viktor rules all…and, he gets first choice of the canine delicacies too.

petofi
Guest

Hey, Melania!

Has Viktor invited you yet to the Friday night canine cook-outs??

petofi
Guest

I think I know where Viktor is taking his billions when he finally de-camps…Africa. There are some fine, wild-dog delicacies over yonder–a tad chewy but mighty tasty nonetheless!

petofi
Guest

I think Viktor should designate Melanie as an honorary, special citizen of Hungary!

petofi
Guest

(Just riffing, kids. Enjoy.)

Melanie Zuben
Guest

petofi,
What a brilliant idea! 🙂

And he should honor YOU with the “Sh#t Stirrer Extraordinaire” medal, (made out of gold), with a Turul head in the middle, holding a bag of “Kalocsai Paprika -csipòs” – in its beak . . . OMG, I must stop this out of control imagination of mine!

Ferenc
Guest

Thanks, for your “advice”.
What can you suggest to make the Hungarian public better aware of what’s going on?

Melanie Zuben
Guest

Ferenc,
The public is NOT stupid. They know ” what’s going on”. Some like it, others don’t.
You do have a website, don’t you?

Ferenc
Guest

Melanie, no problem with your reaction, but to make things clear my comment was meant for petofi’s “advice”.

Now yours: The public is HELD stupid about the treatment of refugees in the camps aka.prisons open to Serbia!
Do you know how many times fair info is given in the public/state media, and how many times security specialists can have their say there about anything else in relation to refugees/migrants/etc?
I can guarantee you the first item is zero and the second an overload of manipulated and exagerated figues!!
So the best way to inform the public about how the HU government treats refugees/migrants is to present this treatment in a manner as close as possible to real life.

Observer
Guest

A great part of the public acts stupid – vote for Fid (except for the corrupt ones, they are just criminals).

petofi
Guest

Orban hates Budapest because people keep small dogs.
There’s precious little to chew on those little bastards–

Member
“BKV” has just announced that there will be a direct airport bus from Deak to the Airport. What is the relevance to the post you may ask? Well, the two present alternatives to getting to the airport from the centre are by taxi (approx. 25 USD if you find an honest driver) or by “blue” M3 metro to Kobanya and from there, then a bus to the airport (approx. cost 3-4 USD). Now…miracles of miracles we hear that the long suffering tourists and locals heading to the airport will have a regular state of the art bus to take them all the way there. Not only that, but running from next Monday. The fascist regime never move that fast unless it is to physical abuse migrant women and children on the border or to steal hand over from from Brussels. So…a sudden burst of humanity and efficiency (for the right reasons) from the sadist dictatorship? Of course not. Imagine the embarrassment of the fascist regime, if tourists were stranded on a metro system that is a death trap just waiting to happen?Please God no, but imagine the international outcry if one of those trains were to catch fire? And it… Read more »
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