Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Millennium Subway

A subway is much easier to ride than a bus when foreigners try to scramble around an unfamiliar country. Taipei became friendlier to me when its MRT System opened in the late 1990s. I could go north or south, east or west as I pleased without any help from local friends. I look forward to doing the same in Kaohsiung on my next visit as a new KMRT System opened in late 2008. I happened to be in Montreal and was honored with a free ride when it opened its French rubber tire metro system in 1966.

I was excited when Edit, my Hungarian friend, told me that Budapest has one of the oldest subway systems in the world - the Millennium Subway. The decision to have a subway was made when three cities, Buda, Obuda and Pest merged into one in 1873 in commemoration of the 1,000th anniversary of Magyarok by Emperor Franz Joseph. It seemed Budapest was then competing with its rival city Vienna. Coincidentally, cities like London, New York and Chicago were all planning underground railways, but using steam locomotives. The change from locomotives to electric vehicles came after 1900, London in 1902, and New York 1904 (Interborough Rapid Transit – 9th Ave line).

For Hungarian metro, two local firms and German Siemens & Halske AG worked together to build the line entirely from the surface using a cut and cover method. Called Franz Joseph Line, the length of line is 3.68 kilometers of which 3.22 kiloneters ran underground. The service started on May 2, 1896. Therefore this line subway is petty shallow, just about 5 meters deep. You can jump into a car in under 10 seconds if you so desire.

Today, the subway system has 3 lines totaling 32 kilometers, color coded in yellow (Millennium line), blue (opened 1976, north to south), red (opened in 1970, east to west) and one line under construction scheduled to open in 2012. Daily users total 1.3 million people.

In 2002, this Millennium line, along with the Andrassy ut running on top of the subway got the World Heritage designation. Andrassy ut is an iconic boulevard, compared with Paris’ Chanselise, linked with notable spots like Opera House, the House of Terror, Memorial Houses of Franz Liszt and Lolton Kadraly, Heroe’s and Elizabeth Squares.

There's a subway museum you can visit near the Deak Frerenc Station where you can view some of the original cars.

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