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Budapest Tunnel for Sale

At 7:53 AM this fine morning, my old friend Mike Smithing and I each had a swig of Unicum and unfurled a banner over the Budapest Alagut. And then we ran like hell.

Felt like high school all over again.

Click photo to enlarge
Click photo to enlarge

For immediate press release

April 1, 2004

Colliers International has been instructed by the City of Budapest to offer the Budapest Tunnel for Sale to prospective investors. The Budapest Tunnel will be sold through a two round tender. Complete tender documentation is available for purchase from Colliers International from April 5, 2004. Bids submissions for the qualifying round must be delivered to Colliers International’s offices at Mammut 2 by 13.00 on April 30, 2004, exactly 147 years to the day after the tunnel was first opened to vehicle traffic.

The Tunnel Company was formed in 1851 to realize the Budapest Tunnel and construction commenced on February 10, 1853. The tunnel opened to pedestrian traffic while still under construction on March 6, 1856, and the first vehicles passed through the 350 meter tunnel on April 30, 1857. The Budapest Tunnel charged tolls from its opening through 1918. Pedestrians originally paid one Krajcar and horse carriages paid three Kajcar. While these fees were relatively minimal, as are those proposed for the privatized tunnel, the Budapest Tunnel generated 5,968 Ft. in revenue for its owners during its first two months of operation.

While exact traffic figures are not available, the Budapest Tunnel is used by approximately 10,000 vehicles per day. Colliers preliminary research indicates that it should be possible to charge tolls in the range of 150-200 Ft. per use without significantly decreasing current traffic levels. At the same time, increasing the toll to 500 Ft. per use is projected to decrease traffic to some 7,000 vehicles per day which will significantly increase revenue while decreasing maintenance costs associated with the pollution.

The Budapest Tunnel was significantly damaged during the Second World War, however it was repaired in 1949 and was fully renovated in 1973. The Budapest Tunnel is a protected historic landmark and renovation works can only be performed with the approval of the Monument Authorities. Fortunately, only minor cosmetic modifications are necessary and the Monument Authorities have granted preliminary approval for the replacement of the current mosaic tiles with a more attractive, easy maintenance surface. 

The minimum price for the Budapest Tunnel has been set at 100,000,000 EUR + VAT. This sale price includes the tunnel, interior road surface, gates at both ends of the tunnel and the original gate-keeper’s offices at the Chain Bridge end of the tunnel which are suitable for renovation to high-end residential or office use.

For details contact: Michael P. Smithing, Managing Director, Colliers International (Hungary) Ltd.

Steven Carlson | East Euro Current News | Apr 1, 2004 | Comments (2)


I sent this URL to a bunch of Hungarian friends, one of whom I later saw last night. I asked her what she thought, and she wasn't especially amused. I took a guess, "Is it because the guys who did it were Americans?" Bingo. "How would you feel if some Hungarians hang a 'For Sale' banner on the Statue of Liberty?" I tried to explain that the symbolism of the Statue of Liberty was a bit different than a tunnel, and mentioned the proud tradition of selling the Brooklyn Bridge, but it was lost on her. What is it with Hungarians and a distinct lack of self-irony?

Anyway, Kudos, Steve. I think this was fucking brilliant!

Rick Bruner | Apr 2, 2004

Mike and I were concerned about exactly that issue. Oh, no! The foreigners are selling out our country! That's exactly the reaction we DIDN'T want.

That's why I decided to lead the story by getting on the phone to every local journalist I knew to tell them it was a joke.

It was all in good fun and it was TOTALLY about shameless publicity. Why the hell not?

We were lucky because MTV1 ran it on a show called Repeta. They did a phone interview with Mike -- completely humorous -- and showed footage of the police removing the banner.

Mike and I love this little country, warts and all, and I'm happy to say that quite a few Magyars were laughing with us.

Steve Carlson | Apr 2, 2004