The M6 motorway between Dunaújváros and Bóly and its continuation to Pécs named M60 were opened to traffic Wednesday. The 140 kilometre stretch of motorway shortens the journey time between Budapest and Pécs, 2010’s European Capital of Culture, by around an hour, to about two hours. While the previous road connection between Dunaújváros and Pécs, Highway 6, passed through the Mecsek hills, drivers now take a detour to some extent via Bóly to avoid the hills.
Nevertheless, the motorway planners decided to build four tunnels along the gently undulating stretch. These are Hungary’s only motorway tunnels so far, and looking at the picture at left you might wonder why the two tunnels were necessary at all.
Insiders such as the Szekszárd civil engineer Zoltán Pósta suspect the largest corruption scandal since the superfluous construction of the huge K?röshegy viaduct on the M7 motorway. Pósta had proposed an alternative route without tunnels, which he claims would have saved the state some HUF 50 billion (EUR 188.56 million). Following strong resistance Pósta quit his post at the Ministry of Economy and Transport in November 2007 in exasperation.
The tunnels were built, but during the first major rainfall the soft loess soil subsided, and one of the tunnels near Bátaszék caved in. The Austrian construction firm, which before then only had experience of building tunnels in the Alps, said that it was "surprised" by the properties of the loess. Critics suspect that the tunnels above all serve the purpose of filling various party coffers and private pockets. So far, however, there is no evidence to support such claims.
Mayor’s really lucky land sale
In other respects too the M6/M60 construction site appears to have been a breeding ground for corruption. The Budapest Times reported in 2008 on a scandal in the village of Szálka, where the mayor amassed considerable sums of money through the well-timed purchase and subsequent sale of two disused vineyards to the motorway constructors. The degradation of the vineyards bordering a nature protection area took place without authorisation and severely affected the only access road to the village. A civic initiative led by a German businessman resident in Szálka named Horst Wessel was unsuccessful.
Theft from worksite
Newspapers in the region reported numerous cases of workplace theft. For example lorry drivers employed on the motorway construction allegedly sold the fuel from their lorries at cheap prices to local residents, before filling up again at the public’s expense. Many items which were not nailed down disappeared, including a whole crane, according to media reports.
Last Wednesday, however, everything was forgiven and forgotten. Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai (pictured centre) hailed the motorway as a "symbol of progress and prosperity". The motorway as a whole cost some HUF 385 billion (EUR 1.45 billion), which the state will pay to private operators over a period of 30 years.