Once upon a time, the 100E Express Bus used to whizz us to and from the Airport
Updated: Oct 9, 2020
The 100E express bus was a Godsend for the cost-sensitive traveller when the Budapest Transport Centre (BKK) introduced the service a year or two back. For Ft 900 – around $3 - a bus would whizz you between Ferihegy - ooops, sorry, Liszt Ferenc International Airport - and Deák Ferenc tér every half an hour, later changed to every 20 minutes at peak times.
Photo: The 100E at Ferihegy - BKK pic
A real good deal. About the only folks that didn't give it a like were the taxi drivers. Sad.
Except the real good deal turned out somewhat less so in April, when, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and an almost total collapse of airport traffic, BKK understandably withdrew the service.
Only trouble was, they didn't withdraw the sale of tickets on-line, so would-be 100E passengers continued to buy them in advance when flights resumed, only to turn up at the stop and find ... no bus.
It seems some 16,000 soon-to-be-disappointed passengers clocked up sales Ft 14m ($47,000) in tickets for this phantom service.
Now, according to business daily Világgazdaság, the Government Office of the Capital City of Budapest has initiated proceedings against the BKK for continuing to flog tickets for the non-existent bus – as reported in the daily English-language news bulletin Hungary AM.
Which only seems right and proper – and about time too, you might think to boot.
Except the government office (whose senior staff probably wouldn't deign to use anything so common as a bus to the airport - they surely have nice cars and drivers to do that) is not only late spotting the problem, it never spotted it in the first place.
According to the BKK's own website, it was the Közlekedő Tömeg Egyesület, an association of transport enthusiasts, ie a bus and trainspotting NGO, who pointed out the error.
The BKK is, quite rightly, apologising to its frustrated non-passengers, and offering refunds – though of course how many actually bother to apply is open to question.
Not only that, but the BKK owned up to the problem on September 25, almost a fortnight ago.
Which is when I started to wonder what exactly is going on here. We have to remember the BKK is a Budapest-owned institution, and the Government Office is, well, owned by a government which has, since the city fell to opposition control, been acting in a less than friendly way to City Hall.
The BKK certainly appears to have been incompetent and in error. But given that, when informed of their mistake, the authority owned up and began efforts to correct the situation, you have to ask what this is all about.
Initiating legal proceedings against the BKK, tying up management time and with the possibility of a fine at the end of it all - will benefit who exactly? Apart from a bunch of lawyers acting on the case, which citizens of the city, or indeed visitors, will gain from any such procedure?
True, $47,000 in income for a phantom service is not a bad little earner – and I'd have been furious to be one of the passengers caught out. But in truth a) it's not benefiting anyone personally and b) it's not even small change in the veritable ocean of frauds and scams that have been going on here for decades, even if only half the allegations are true.
In view of this, I suggest if the Government Office goes ahead with these proceedings, another enquiry ought to be launched into the Government Office itself for negligence, asking why it took them six months to actually discover – probably off the BKK's own website – this heinous wrongdoing.
In fact, better still, an enquiry ought to be launched as to why this office – it occupies a massive block up there in Angyalföld, Budapest XIII - actually exists at all, since its tasks could - and some would say should,- be under the control of the Budapest City Council – a body of representatives elected for the task of running and developing the Hungarian capital.
Abolishing this office, which probably spends $47,000 on loo paper and window-cleaning expenses alone each year, would arguably be of far better value to the public than dragging the BKK through the courts for its negligence in scamming 16,000 travellers for that same amount.
Perhaps Finance Minister Mihály Varga could suggest this to PM Viktor Orbán next time they have a friendly tête-à-tête about cost saving to pay for the extra expenses created by the coronavirus pandemic.
PS - The budget-conscious traveller can still make it to the airport for a cost-effective fare. In fact, the option to use the M3 Metro to Kőbánya-Kispest, then change to the 200E bus has been available for years. And it's even cheaper than the 100E - the price of two regular bus tickets, which is, these days, Ft 700 I think. But you do have to walk 100m from the metro station to the bus station. On average, it takes about 40 minutes from Deák Ferenc tér to the airport terminals.