Hungary to place its motorway network in 35-year concession

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Vehicles are seen at the M1 highway, 80 km west of Budapest, March 15, 2013. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh

BUDAPEST, June 14 (Reuters) - Hungary will overhaul the management of about 2,000 kilometres (1,240 miles) of its motorways and public roads, awarding a 35-year concession contract, according to a tender published on Monday in the official European Union gazette.

The Tenders Electronic Daily posting, which was first reported by local news web site, says the concession entails the planning, renovation, construction, control, operation and financing of the network for an annual fee.

The winner of the contract would build and renovate hundreds of kilometres of motorways, including more than 100 bridges and other items.

According to a government statement, Budapest follows the example of other European countries and expects the deal to be budget neutral as toll revenues should be sufficient to finance the concession fees.

Infrastructure development has been rapid in Hungary in recent years under the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, and the premier has been criticised as many of his associates received hefty chunks of public tenders.

That includes his childhood friend Lorinc Meszaros, a former pipefitter who has become the country's richest individual with a net worth well in excess of 1 billion euros, according to several estimates.

Orban faces a tightly contested election for the first time since assuming power in 2010 as six opposition parties joined forces to unseat him.

The government also spun off the management of higher education and moved to sell government-owned real estate at a discount, prompting critics to accuse it of selling out state assets and trying to assure control beyond its term. read more

The government has denied those charges, saying it acted in the name of efficiency.

Meszaros has been a winner in the construction of a railway expansion on the Belgrade-Budapest line, a Chinese-led and financed project that is part of the "One Belt One Road" initiative to ease China's access to European markets.

Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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