What’s happening to Hungary’s new toll system?
This story was updated, see below. For the latest news click here.
Hungary’s new electronic toll system looks set to miss its July 2013 start date. A contract to build and operate the system, reportedly the biggest public procurement project in years, was due to be signed in early January but the date passed without a signature.
The deal was already controversial since the second bidder had publicly doubted whether the winner could fulfill the work at the stated price.
It is unclear so far if a fresh tender will be announced or whether the winner will be given more time, possibly thirty days. A later announcement that the deal would be signed on 15 January also passed without confirmation.
The pay-as-you go tolls were to apply to vehicles over 3.5t though passenger cars could join voluntarily six months later. Hungary last re-jigged its road tolls in 2008 when it abolished its sticker vignette system in place of a paper coupon applied for at border outlets via telex. The system is governed by number-plate recognition cameras.
Drivers can buy 1 day, 4 day, weekly, monthly or annual coupons. In May 2012 we paid £8.50 for a week’s ticket. For the official Hungarian motorway’s site in English click here.
Meanwhile, the European Commission says it would launch legal action to prevent the cancellation or delay of a congestion zone in Budapest. A CZ proposal was voted down by the city council last summer. EU loans made to extend Budapest’s metro system were dependent on the CZ. Budapest is 1,070 miles from London.
Update: On 19.01.13: Hungarian financial website Portfolio reported that the winning supplier had withdrawn its tender. It also reported a government spokesman saying the e-toll project was still on track to start 1 July 2013.
A useful new road Finland-Russia
Okay, it’s one of the tiny number of road programmes in the current Trans-European Transport Network plan. Hamina, pop 25k, is an important port; home to one of Google’s three European data centres; an historic and rare star-shaped fortress city (like Palmanova near Trieste), and just 20 miles from the Russian border. It also gave its name to a class of carbon-fibre stealth ‘missile boats’ of the Finnish Navy.
But the real significance is that the new road will plug one of the gaps in the important 270 mile Helsinki-St Petersburg E18.
Even on the Finnish side, only half of the 113 mile road from its capital to the border is motorway. The bypass will be completed by December 2014. The entire section will be upgraded by 2017, part of the Nordic Triangle project to link the Scandinavian capitals.
The Russian side – the ‘Scandinavia Highway’ – is only motorway for the 35 miles out of St Petersburg. Otherwise this route is two lane with occasional overtaking lanes.
In August 2011, the Russian government announced plans to improve the road to three lanes each way. When complete it will link to the new M11 ten lane, 420 mile highway St Petersburg-Moscow, opening in time for the 2018 World Cup.