A few facts and figures about the Hungarian Railways fares
Just for the sake of transition from Sándor Frederikusz to MÁV (Magyar Állami Vasút) let me return briefly to the publicly financed MTV (Magyar Televízió). According to Friderikusz the people who work there have neither the motivation nor feel that they have a stake in running the company. The reason, says Friderikusz, is that "MTV remained a socialist mammoth factory without the slightest recognition that capitalism had arrived." The same thing can be said about MÁV and many other state-owned companies, and just as MTV is always in the red, so is MÁV. At least MTV is moving into new, modern quarters and will be equipped with state of the art electronic apparatus. The same cannot be said of MÁV where most of the stations that are over 150 years old haven't been renovated in at least 50 years, where most of the railroad cars have been in service for countless decades, where the engines are old-fashioned, where the rails are in an outright dangerous condition, where the allegedly modern and elegant Intercity express train's average speed is 68 km/hour. Or at least this is what I managed to figure out on the basis of information provided by MÁV-START (passenger service of MÁV) on the Internet. And a first class "pleasure trip" between Pécs and Budapest (216 km) on the Intercity will cost you 4,380 Ft ($23.00 or €16.60). I compared this service to the Metro-North New Haven-New York off-peak rates (no first-class service available). It costs $13.30 (for tickets purchased online) to travel 68 miles (109 km). The rates are comparable. The Intercity is 11 cents/km, the Metro-North 12 cents/km. Metro-North isn't self-sufficient, but its balance sheet isn't a disaster.
On the Metro-North line there are discounts for seniors, children, and the disabled (50% off-peak). By contrast, Hungary offers discounts to the world. Let's start the long list. Children under the age of six don't pay anything as long as there is an adult with them. The fare of a child between the age of six and fourteen is half the regular price. Ten or more kindergarten children with two adults will pay only ten percent of the price. Then come the students. Up to the age of eighteen or until the child finishes high school and has a valid student ID the state will pick up 90% of the cost of a season ticket. This discount is valid only for travel between the student's residence and his school. However, this same student can have a 50% discount for generalized travel. Those students who are doing a high school correspondence course will also have 50% off in travel between his place of residence and the school. (Could someone explain to me that if he is doing a correspondence course why he needs to travel?) Groups of students under the age of 10 (10 children or more with 2 adults) will have to pay only 50%; if a group is made up of students over the age of 10 then only one extra adult will get them 50% off. We have another interesting category: anyone who is under 26 years of age will have a discount of 33% between 8 p.m. Friday and Sunday midnight. This discount can be used not only by Hungarians but also by all citizens of the European Union. I guess this is for the college students who instead of studying or having a grand time with their friends decide to spend the weekend at home. And perhaps for sports fans or those attending rock concerts. Then we move on to the truly ridiculous: the disabled servicemen and the war widows. Disabled servicesmen and war widows? In 2008? The last war ended 63 years ago. Considering that everybody over 65 travels free this particular category seems superfluous to me. Blind and deaf people pay only 10% of the fare. The same 90% discount applies to the mentally disabled, their escorts and/or visitors. The same discount goes to families with at least three children. So if one or two parents with least three children of their own decide to take a little train ride then instead of the $23.00 between Pécs and Budapest they will pay only $2.30 each. But that is not enough. If a youngster under the age of 18 is accompanied by one or two adults, the adults will get 33% off the price.
Then there are the discounts attached to age. Anyone 55 or over will get 20% off. Anyone who is a pensioner (regardless of age) will have 50% off at least 16 times a year and twice a year he will be eligible for a 90% discount. Over the age of 65 it's free! Entirely free! Not only for Hungarians but for all EU citizens over the age of 65 traveling by rail in Hungary. One can travel all day long if he wishes 365 days a year!
And finally, Hungarians living in the neighboring countries. All the following categories can have discounts if they have something called "Magyar igazolvány" (Hungarian ID, the brainchild of the Orbán government) or have a piece of paper testifying that they have relatives in Hungary. If these visitors from another country are over 65 they can travel without charge as many times as they wish. Four times a year they will have a 90% discount even if they are under 65. Groups of children under 18 once a year will have to pay only 10% of the fare. Students will pay half the price.
And pray, tell me, who pays the full fare?