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Budapest Metro marks 125 years as world’s 2nd oldest underground railway

By Marcelo Nagy

Budapest, Aug 19 (EFE).- A beacon of modernity at the time, the city of Budapest had a functioning underground metro line in 1896, years ahead of major global cities like Paris, Berlin and New York.

The underground railway service in the erstwhile second capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now the capital of Hungary, is pre-dated only by London’s underground, which began operations in 1863.

The Budapest Metro was the fruit of a raft of development projects to mark the city’s 1,000th anniversary and its inauguration was presided over by Franz Joseph I, who was the Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary.

The emperor lent his name to the new system, which for years was known as Franz Joseph Underground Electric Railway Company, according to Erzsébet Pásztor, the PR director for the metro’s current operator, the Budapest Transit Company.

Franz Joseph took an inaugural ride in a specially-constructed carriage.

Contrary to London’s steam-powered underground locomotives, Budapest’s metro system was the first to run on electricity.

The original yellow entrance gates for the inaugural M1 line still dot the luxurious Andrássy Avenue to this day, having escaped World War II practically unscathed.

In the older stations, commuters and visitors alike find themselves immersed in a space much unchanged since 1896, with the original tiles and metal pillars still in place.

“Foreign visitors appreciate it a lot, it is a pearl,” Pásztor says.

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