Coming from a small city in Ireland, public transport is not something that is integral to keep the city running smoothly. In fact at times the public transport system can be more of a hindrance than a convenience. The The term “they are like buses, you wait for ages for one and then 2 come along together” is often applicable to the Irish transport system. To be honest a lot of the time you are better off walking.
Even in our Capital, Dublin, a city with a similar population to Budapest the Luas (tram line) has only been in operation since 2004. So maybe we missed the boat or tram if you will on sophisticated transport systems. Given Ireland’s less than impressive history in public transport you can imagine the feeling I got when arriving in Budapest. Having fully functioning tram lines night busses and the Metro was completely alien to me. Obviously the efficiency of the systems struck me immediately but what surprised me most about the metro was the vibrancy and activity that goes on underground every day.
Apart from the main purpose of getting punters from A to B it has huge historical significance as well as acting as a meeting hub, where stall holders flog their produce and musicians try their new works. To fully understand the success of the system and the vibrancy you have to delve slightly into the history of the Metro. It is the second oldest metro system in the world. (Second only to the original lines of the London Underground).
Opening in 1896 it was originally built to carry passengers to get from the city centre to City Park to buy food. (Interesting to see now it has come full circle and you can actually buy food in most of the Metro stations). The significance and importance of the Metro to the city is there for all to see. You only have to walk down the steps or hop on one of the never ending escalators to see how many people rely on the service. It appears to be the heartbeat of Budapest so much so that The Metro station was the setting and inspiration for the 2003 critically acclaimed dark-comedy Kontroll. Although the real life ticket checkers don’t quite display the same eccentricity as their fictional counterparts.
The History of the Metro since it first opened its doors in 1896 to the various line extensions through the 19070s and 80s as well as the Iconic Line 1 being named a world heritage site in 2002 is significant. It is significant because it proves tried and tested systems work. It is nearly 120 years old and it’s still expanding both as a transport hub and place of business and leisure. As the Budapest transport system expands and improves, let’s hope we can emulate it in some way in Ireland. To be honest though it might be quicker to walk.
1st Photograph Courtesy of Jessica Leen.