A prelude to transportation in the city
Transportation has always been an important element in the development of the City of Miskolc. Thanks to its favourable geographic location, it became an important hub of railways and highways.
The Diet of 1832 was the first to address the issue of building railways in Hungary, and the necessity of constructing a railway connection between Pest and Miskolc was also declared. The preparatory works, however, took longer than expected, and the railway station called “Miskolc” was only opened on 24 May 1859.
In 1860, the railway to Kassa (present-day Kosice) was completed, in 1870, the line that led to Pest through the town of Hatvan was opened, and the Gömör line opened in 1871. These years were an important turning point in the development of the city, and also had a substantial impact on the development of local transportation. The railway station was rather far from the city, and as a result, transportation to the railway gained much importance, making it necessary to find a solution to the problem of public transportation and goods freighting. The construction of Diósgyőr Ironworks started in 1868, and this also added relevance to the problem of city transportation. In the year when the first railway station was opened, the city was home to nearly 30,000 people, so the need for public transportation arose very quickly.
The first public transport vehicle set off in 1862, three years after the then Tisza Depot (today: Tisza Railway Station) was opened. The route was rather long, some 20 kilometres between Tisza Depot and Diósgyőr, and from the inner city to Tapolca. These first vehicles were highway vehicles hauled by horses, so-called omnibuses. According to contemporary records, only 36 one-horse and pair-horse street-coaches travelled in the city in 1871.
In an effort to solve local transportation problems, and encouraged by the success of the Pest Horse Railway, the city magistrates issued permits to private entrepreneurs Dr. Raffael Neumann in 1872 and to Lajos Presti in 1882 to replace omnibuses with horse-hauled railway cars.
The birth of the electric railway
Thanks to the gradually strengthening economy, industrial development and the increasing population of the city (tripling since the first railway line had been opened) made it necessary to follow the successfully example of the capital city and start preparing for tram traffic in Miskolc.
In preparation for the Millennium Celebrations, the city magistrate announced in May 1896 that the next year would mean a significant milestone in the history of Miskolc, as the first tram line will be opened. The assembly of the city representatives discussed the topic of launching trams in a heated debate, similarly to all previous issues related to transportation development.
An attorney, one Dr. István Csáthy Szabó successfully requested a permit from Minister of Commerce Ferenc Kossuth to organise, start and manage tram traffic in the city. The plans for the three main lines and a branch line were prepared on 17 May 1895.
Once all permits had been obtained and administrative procedures complete, a 9-month deadline was allowed for planning and constructing the tram rail lines, the tram depot, the office building and the generator building, and another 3 months were planned for the additional works. The rails were laid on 23.6 kg/m Vignol cross-sleepers and, on the sections with coating, on 33.6 kg/m Phönix wooden track chairs. The 30-metre long bridge crossing River Szinva in front of Tisza Railway Station, which is made entirely out of wood, was also erected at the time the tracks were laid.
The overhead wire system was supported by planed and coated single-arm oak and cast-iron columns. At the outer end-point in Baross Gábor Street, a three-track site was constructed along with a tram depot. The 550 V direct current needed for haulage was generated by the generator located there.
Miskolc was only second to Budapest in constructing a normal-gauge tramway. The one in Bratislava, opened in 1895, and the one in Szombathely, opened in May 1897 were narrow-gauge tramways. At the time, several cities had steam or horse-pulled railways (including Debrecen, Szeged and Kassa), but this does not concern the primacy of the normal-gauge tramway in Miskolc at all.
Traffic was launched on 10 July 1897, with 9 engines and 4 tow-cars. The 30-seater vehicles were 7,190 mm long, manufactured by Ganz & Co. Iron Foundry and Machine Factory.
At the time, the omnibus line was already 20 kilometres long, but the joint-stock company headed by dr. Csáthy operated the single-track main line that had three passing places and 15 stops along the following route: Tisza Railway Station - Zsolcai Gate - Király Street - Széchenyi Street - Városház Square - Hunyadi Street - Sörház Street - Verestemplom.
The single-track branch-line had 7 stops and no passing places. It ran along the following way: Búza Square - Szeles Street - Tetemvár - Kazinczy Street - Szemere Street - People’s Gardens. People’s Gardens was at the time one of the most popular leisure parks of Miskolc, frequented by local citizens mostly on Sundays and bank holidays. The trams ran here with very few passengers on weekdays.
Once the branch line to Hejőcsaba had been constructed, passenger traffic to Szeles Street was discontinued. When the single-track tramway was opened, only three passing places were built, but a year later, on 1 October 1898, in an effort to improve traffic conditions, another two were added. From then on, 2 trains ran as an additional line between Gömör Railway Station and Városház Square. These two lines were marked by a red and a red-white disc, respectively, which is very different from the current practice.
After tram traffic had been launched in Miskolc, the benefits of electricity provision were first enjoyed in the field of public lighting. In 1898, Miskolc Electricity Co. wanted to expand the scope of its contract with the city so that it would provide electricity not only for tram traffic but also for lighting. The city magistrates approved of the proposal, but the gas factory and two private entities (Tasziló Göche and Soma Henci gas manufacturers) appealed against the decision, claiming to have exclusive rights to providing lighting. The appeal procedure delayed the introduction of electric lighting in Miskolc by nearly two years, but after that, the provision of electricity and operating tramways were always in the same hand up to the nationalisation of the companies. The converter station in Diósgyőr still provides electricity to the public.
At the time of opening tramways, the issue of extending the existing main line to reach Diósgyőr was raised again, but Miskolc Electricity Co. (MVV) was not planning to expand its grid. The decision was justified by the minimal daytime traffic, although the workers of the ironworks who lived in nearby villages had to walk up to 10 kilometres every day.
The plan came true in 1904 as a result of a public cooperation. Ödön Miklós MP urged the government to construct the railway. His negotiations were successful, and the capital requirements of the Diósgyőr line were provided in 1904 in the form of a joint-stock company. An engineer from Budapest, Emil Török was appointed to manage the implementation, and he transferred the rights obtained to Miskolc-Diósgyőr Suburban Railway Co. (MDV) incorporated on 16 December 1905. Fifty-two percent of the stocks were owned by the state. The single-track line between Verestemplom and Diósgyőr was tested by the administrative inspectors on 5 July 1904. The line was opened not as a highway railway but as a suburban railway, probably because Diósgyőr was an independent village at the time.
The 6.8 km east-west line was built along the route that still serves as the backbone line. The trams accessed the entrance of the ironworks from either direction through the 1.7 km-long so-called “giant lop track”. The track itself was made of 20 and 23,6 kg/m Vignol rails.
Traffic was launched on the mixed (steam and electric) line on 11 July 1906. The tracks ran along the highway, electric supply was provided by trolley wires. There were 16 stops. At the Verestemplom terminal, a manually operated switch-plate was installed, while in Diósgyőr, a north-south loop track was constructed from Táncsics Square on the fieldlands, because the steam engine rains that ran here only had a driver’s cab on one end. This is why it was later impossible for them to travel as far as Tisza Railway Station even though there was great demand for such service. Near the present-day main square of Újgyőr, a 608 m2 three-track depot was built with a wooden structure. The 550 V haulage electricity is supplied by the generator and rectifier units located here. Ganz supplied three electric trams of an identical design as the MVV vehicles, as well as 3 steam trams and 4 trailer coaches. The steam engines had an output of 80 HP, with the land-type boiler placed on the larger front-side deck of the trams. Trailer coaches were 9,680 mm long, and similarly to the steam engines, had a body wider than the average (2,700 mm). Miskolc Electricity Co. did not take the risk of operating the railway despite having obtained a guarantee from the Ironworks with much difficulty, but rather saw the new railway as a competitor. Any potential competition between the two railways would have had an adverse effect on tram traffic in Miskolc. The solution came when MDV, a company with a lot of enthusiasm but substantially less professional expertise transferred the management of the railway along with the tracks laid so far, the vehicles and all equipment to MVV. As per the contract, MVV performed general management, maintenance, traffic, commercial, train haulage and material handling services on the lines owned by MDV. The only task left to MDV was the management of the company.
On December 1906, a direct connection was launched between Tisza Railway Station and Diósgyőr. Joint management ensured the harmonisation of timetables and the possibility to establish the foundations of a uniform transportation policy. With the increase in traffic, it became necessary to extend the engine fleet, therefore MVV installed haulage engines in three carriage trucks. By 1907, MVV and MDV transported 1.8 and 1.2 million passengers a year, respectively. Trains were always overcrowded, and the quality of service suffered. As an emergency measure, MVV terminated the service to People’s Gardens in 1908, and redirected the engine to the main line. Under the pressure of numerous press articles, MVV held a meeting on 13 May 1908, where two important items were on the agenda. One of these concerned the urgent need to purchase new vehicles, and the other, the extension of the Hejőcsaba line.
Miskolczi Napló, a city newspaper reported from the board of directors’ meeting of 22 October 1909 as follows: “The current Diósgyőr terminal is not suitable and at the wrong place. Therefore a decision has been passed about its relocation. The loop track will be demolished, and the operation of steam engines discontinued. The relocated terminal will operate with electricity, and new carriages will be purchased in the very near future.”
The original line went around the village, but the new plans were for the tracks to cross the residential areas, and the terminal was constructed near the bridge on River Szinva, through Árpád Street, by the village hall. This means laying down approx. 400 metres of new tracks. A terminal passing place was also created for trains with more than one hauled carriages. The works started on 1 May 1910, this is the date the steam service was terminated. The trains transporting the workers were hauled by two new, 10,500 mm long, TS 100 type Ganz electric engines with five windows and 2x75 HP engines each. Steam engines were reconstructed to operate as hauled carriages.
The village of Hejőcsaba has always a maintained very close connection to Miskolc. Its fast development made it necessary to spend 112,000 crowns to extend the tram line that had terminated at People’s Gardens to go as far as the crossing of the ironworks railway line and Pesti Road, which at the time was a level crossing. Since MVV expected the line to be utilised greatly, the positive decision was quickly made. The implementation plans were also quickly prepared, and the administrative test run was completed on 20 November 1908.
The public could first travel on this line on 7 July 1910. The number of passengers varied greatly due to the economic crisis of the 1930’s and the World Wars. The extension of the railway tracks in both directions, which connected two nearby villages to the city of Miskolc, happened decades before these three were officially united, and offered a fundamental contribution to the uniform transportation network.
When the tramway was opened, the barrier of Gömör Railway Station crossed the tracks of the trams. The railway crossing thus disturbed tram traffic on the main line, and due to the barrier, traffic had to be halted regularly for up to 15-20 minutes. Added up, the delay could go as high up as 90 minutes a day. The issue of the barrier was constantly on the agenda of the city magistrate, but no progress was made, once for lack of funds, another time due to arguments between the parties. What experts feared in connection with the Gömör crossing as far bask as in 1897, eventually happened on 1 December 1912. A freight train crashed with tram Nr. 23 (celebrating its third birthday on that day), and completely destroyed it. Since the accident happened early in the morning, only the driver, the conductor and a passenger were on the tram. The conductor and the passenger jumped off when they noticed the danger, but the driver suffered serious injuries. Yet, forty years had to pass after this accident for the subway in Bajcsy-Zsilinszky street to be built and trams to be rid off the Gömör barrier.
The development of tram traffic during the times of RVKVSZ
In 1909, the management of transportation in Miskolc was taken over by a Budapest-based joint-stock company called Joint-Stock Company for Tramways and Highway Railways (RVKVSZ), which was the legal successor of MVV. For simplicity, the company with the long-winded name was simply referred to as the “Trust”. Encouraged by the high business profits and increasing passenger numbers, the investment programme for constructing a second nearly 4 kilometre long track between Tisza Railway Station and Városház Square was approved of on 8 September 1911. The city of Miskolc entered an agreement with the company, which in 1912 seemed advantageous. The company agreed to lay down the second track and also to replace rails with Phoenix (trough-type) ones. According to the documentation, the tracks were planned to meet in front of the portico of the theatre. The administrative test run was completed on 22 May 1914. MVV was also planning for a network expansion. The 3 kilometre long single-track line between Hejőcsaba and Tapolca Bath was performed on 23 July 1912. The plans for a 2.3 kilometre long single-track section from Búza Square through Szentpéteri Gate to the new public cemetery were being prepared, and the permit for preparatory works on the new line leading to Felsőzsolca had also been issued.
In 1913, MDV requested a permit for preliminary works aimed to extend its line to Lillafüred, but the implementation of these plans was rendered impossible by World War I.
As a result of the economic boom that characterised the times before World War I, the number of people that travelled by tram increased substantially. In 1912, MVV and MDV transported 3 and 2.2 million passengers, respectively. In an effort to increase capacities, MVV launched a four-window tram equipped with 2x32 HP GE 58 type haulage engine in 1914, then another two in 1915. The increase in passenger numbers encouraged MDV to purchase new vehicles, too. In February 1910, the company obtained three five-window engines, in 1914, a high-performance haulage engine and in 1916, a four-window engine and a used open-deck carriage.
It was during World War I that the connection track to the state railways (MÁV) was built by Gömör Railway Station. The development of the tram network stalled during the war, since all capital went to the military industry, and skilled workers joined the army. The tram companies served passengers with 19 vehicles each. In 1918, over 18 million passengers travelled by tram, which meant that the lines were always overcrowded. Between Tisza Railway Station and Diósgyőr, five-window engines regularly hauled two carriages to transport workers more efficiently.
In the last years of the war, due to a serious shortage of coal, a restriction was placed on energy consumption, which also affected tram traffic. The additional service between Gömör Barrier and Városház Square was discontinued, and all trams ran less frequently after 8pm. In a response to the Spanish flu epidemic, the city magistrates ordered that trams be disinfected as from 24 October 1918. In order for the order to be carried out, the distance between Tisza Railway Station and Diósgyőr was divided, and a new interim terminal was installed at St. Anne’s Church. MDV trams ran from here to Diósgyőr, and MVV ones to Tisza Railway Station.
The economic crisis that followed the war had a negative impact on passenger numbers. The capital required to quickly improve the worsened technical conditions of the tramway was not available, and the lack of credit resulting from inflation had an adverse effect on the already much-needed operation and maintenance works.
As per proposal 342 of the Minister of Commerce made on 11 December 1923, the National Assembly passed Act XX on 17 June 1924 which, with effect of 1 January 1922, classified MDV as a highway railway. The bill did not affect the benefits received by Miskolc-Diósgyőr Highway Railway Co. (MDKV) as an operator of a suburban train service.
The development of the tramways stalled between the world wars. On 6 March 1923, MVV purchased two new vehicles. A new engine was supplied by Ganz and a used one from Szeged Highway Railway Co., a four-window engine identical with the type H trams used in Budapest that was ten years old at the time. In 1923 and 1928, MDKV also launched a four- and a five-window engine, respectively.
On 14 November 1927, a new passing place was opened on the Városház Square – St. Anne’s Church line, and the route of trams that ran through the inner city was extended to the original terminus. The “Glósz” passing place was opened on the St. Anne’s Church – Ironworks line on 18 December 1928, then, after lengthy negotiations, direct tram traffic between Tisza Railway Station and Diósgyőr was resumed in 1931. On the 1.3 km long section of the branch line between Búza Square and Széchenyi Street, the tracks were removed, and the line connected to the main line at the Széchenyi Street – Szemere Street junction with a narrow bend.
As a result of the critical economic situation of the country as well as inappropriate financial management, the city of Miskolc became insolvent in 1931. RVKVSZ made a generous contribution and lent 4.5 million pengő to the city. Afterwards, however, the “Trust” made no investments whatsoever even though it had basically unlimited capacity for development, since as a creditor, it could dictate to the city.
The adverse effects of the preparation for the war could be felt on the business of the tram companies from the mid-1930’s. In 1935, the “Trust” was negotiating about network expansion proposals, and the idea of establishing a line to Tapolca Bath was raised once again. The two companies combined ran 199 thousand trams in 1938, serving 3.9 million passengers and using 641 thousand kWh electricity. The number of travels per year per person was 52 at the time in Miskolc, 63 in Debrecen, 49 in Pécs, and 27 in Szeged.
The 10 small engines owned by MVV and the three similar engines owned by MDV were no longer suitable for service due to their poor haulage output and the unsuitable arrangement of the passenger area. Trams became increasingly more crowded, and the existing fleet was no longer sufficient to satisfy the demand. The increasing traffic made it necessary to develop the vehicle fleet. In an effort to alleviate the situation, MVV constructed the first integrated trams from two discarded small engines in 1937.
In order to increase capacities, two engines were leased from financially struggling Szeged Transportation Co. in 1938, and another one in 1941. In 1940, the second integrated tram was launched, and this one had a 63.5 HP TR-4.5 type haulage engine rather than the old standard 40 HP TB-5.
In the early forties, war economy had a good impact on employment in the city, which meant an even greater demand for public transport. By 1943, the number of passengers reached 12.1 million. This is three times the 1938 figure. Altogether 41 trams were used to transport passengers. In an effort to increase capacities, discarded obsolete engines had their trolley arms tied down and ran as carriages. On the main line, trams typically ran with one carriage. It is worth noting that in 1943, two “Bb” type and in 1944, three “N” type engines were transported to MVV from Budapest. By 1944, two more integrated trams were home-made using the material from discarded engines.
The timetable was not modified until the later years of the war. From 6 October 1941, trams ran every 13 minutes to the Ironworks and every 26 minutes to Diósgyőr. Every second tram departing from Tisza Railway Station terminated at the Ironworks, and every fourth, in Diósgyőr.
The air raids and the siege of Miskolc left the facilities of MVV heavily damaged. Passenger number were on the increase despite he air raids up until 17 November 1944, when traffic was suspended and resumed only on 21 December 1944. By 1945, 8.5 million people travelled by tram. MVV was lent five “Ht” trams from Budapest. Three engines were returned in 1946, and the remaining two in 1947. Despite the appalling lack of materials and parts that persisted in the entire country after the war, MVV workers repaired war damage by the spring of 1947, having made the depot, the workshops and some of the trams operable once again. Since the Szinva Bridge had been destroyed near Tisza Railway Station, the terminal was temporarily relocated to the control site until the bridge was rebuilt in 1947.
The facilities of MDV suffered only lightly during the war. Both the buildings and the trolley wires were relatively undamaged.
The number of passengers transported by MDV nearly quadrupled since 1938. Traffic arrangements were as in the preceding years, MVV and MDV trams mutually used each other’s tracks so that passengers did not have to change at the St. Anne’s Church terminus.
In the years following the war, tram traffic was the least developed technologically and with regards to its technical conditions among all the major cities in the country. Passenger numbers grew continuously, yet traffic was still handled on single-track lines.
Social development posed new challenges to tram traffic in Miskolc. Since the economic conditions had solidified and employment had grown, 16.9 million passengers used the trams in 1950, more than ever before.
The modernisation of tramways started in 1950, when a party and government resolution was passed to the effect that Miskolc should be developed to become the number two industrial city of Hungary. In the planning phase, the establishment of a trolley service was also considered, but quickly rejected due to peak hour demand. A decision was then made to give the main line a full overhaul and to lay down a second track. Implementation was launched on 17 June 1950. Since traffic was still on the increase, temporary measures needed to be taken during the reconstruction works. The trams heading towards the inner city from Gömör Railway Station was separated from the section between the two railway stations as of 20 February 1952. Although the need to change trams meant a decrease in the quality of service, the barrier, so far the greatest obstacle to tram traffic, was also eliminated.
The tracks leading to the Ironworks were 6.2 km long, made of 59.7 kg/m trough type rails placed in the middle of the road covered with macadam. This section was completed in four phases. The part between Eszperantó Square and the Ironworks was opened to the public in mid-1951. The tracks from Baross Gábor Street to Ady Bridge were opened on 15 April 1952. The new tracks ran along a better route to Tisza Railway Station, through the subway in Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Road that led on from the end of Széchenyi Street.
Traffic started from Ady Bridge across the inner city to Eszperantó Square in November 1952, and a bit later the section between Baross Gábor Street and Tisza Railway Station was also opened. The square in front of Tisza Railway Station was rearranged, and a loop track constructed to allow the turning of trams. A modern staff room was also built for the workers.
According to the timetable, the time needed to cover the distance between Tisza Railway Station and the Ironworks was reduced from 37 minutes to 27. The improvement was substantially more in real life, however, since the barrier no longer hindered traffic, and the unavoidable delays due to waiting in the passing place were also excluded from the scheduled travelling time.
After the first section of the double-track line was opened in August 1951, the main line was divided into two. This was also the time when the services were first numbered:
- Line1: Tisza Railway Station – Ironworks
- Line 3: Ironworks – Diósgyőr
At the same time, Hejőcsaba trams got nr. 2 and those running on the new branch line to Tatárdomb became nr. 4.
In 1951, a 1.5 km long single-track branch line was built using 34.5 kg/m Vignol rails to transport workers to the industrial estates on Tatárdomb. Utilisation, however, was poor from the start. The results of this investment fell far short of the expectations.
Shared company – shared problems
Up until the end of the 1940’s, tramways were operated in an unchanged structure. On 18 March 1948, the management of MVV was assumed by the state, but despite this fact tramway operations were performed by two formally independent companies until 1 April 1950.
On this day, however, the two tramway companies were united, and the fully independent Miskolc City Tramway Company established, which was finally managed by the City of Miskolc itself. When the new company was formed, electricity supply and transportation functions were separated.
Possibly the greatest change in the history of public transport in Miskolc occurred when, on 1 July 1954 the executive committee of the city council was the first in the country to unite the two so far independent companies, Miskolc Tramway and Miskolc Motor Vehicle Transportation, thus creating Miskolc Transportation Company.
The ambitious economic programme of the 1950’s meant a whole new deal of challenges to transportation in the city. Traffic to Csabai Gate increased substantially because of the opening of the Technical University of Heavy Industry and the health centre as well as two new hospitals and the construction of the residential estate in Petneházi Street. The Hejőcsaba line was no longer able to deal with this demand. The first idea to solve this problem was to build a double-track line to Tapolca. Preliminary plans had been prepared by 1953, but due to city arrangement considerations, this proposal was rejected in 1957. The trams with limited passenger capacities and running on a line with three passing places were unable to properly service the residential estate, the hospital and the health centre. Since the nearly 50 year old tracks and electricity supply devices had to be reconstructed, the issue of whether the line should be kept at all was raised. When the section of Carriageway 3 running through the city had been modernised, tramway traffic was terminated here on 19 August 1960.
The modernisation of the section of Road 22 between Miskolc and Eger that ran though Diósgyőr was commenced in 1959. During this time, the tramway tracks had to be relocated.
The single-track line in Diósgyőr was no longer capable of serving the newly constructed Kilián residential estate, even with the assistance of the new bus lines in this area.
On 13 January 1964, an over 60 year old dream came true, when a direct double-track line was opened between Tisza Railway Station and Diósgyőr. The opening of the new track made it possible to rearrange tram lines, to accelerate traffic and to make timetables more balanced. The following lines were then created:
- Line 1: Tisza Railway Station – Diósgyőr
- Line 2: Tisza Railway Station – Ironworks
- Line 3: Ironworks – Diósgyőr
- Line 4: Tatárdomb Junction – Tatárdomb
Demand for public transport skyrocketed, the bus fleet soon proved insufficient, and the better part of traffic along the east-west line was served by trams.
To illustrate the increase in traffic, consider that while there were 43.8 million passengers in 1955, this figure rose by 80% in the next ten years. The year of 1965 was the busiest in the history of trams in Miskolc, when some 79.5 million people chose this means of transportation, and all this at a time when the carriages used, dating back to the beginning of the century, were already greatly worn. Despite the enormous performance, there were numerous complaints concerning public transport, especially trams.
By the early 50’s, the modernisation and expansion of the tram fleet had become an urgent need. The double-track lines made it possible to launch engines with two carriages, which were capable of transporting more people at the same time. Due to the lack of investment funds and manufacturing capacity, however, only trams discarded in Budapest were purchased and renewed up until 1962.
The majority of the trams launched in the 50’s were discarded quickly, thus the composition of the fleet changed rapidly. Engines type 1100, 1300, 2100, 9500, and BHÉV M IV were purchased from Budapest, along with carriages type 4100, 4700, 5300, 5480, and 9450. The trams originally used in Kosice that had been transported to Germany during the war were completely reconstructed after being returned to Budapest. These were launched in Miskolc in 1951. Between 1958 and 1962, the practice of using trams already discarded in Budapest continued. This was the time when carriages type 4300, 4600, and 4900 arrived in Miskolc, enabling the discarding of the oldest carriages. The new and then modern articulated trams only appeared in Miskolc in 1962, and they were a welcome addition due to the dynamically increasing passenger numbers. The first FVV tram was given traffic ID 100 and was launched on 3 October 1962. In the following four years, another 10 such vehicles were purchased. The last FVV tram, being the 56th in Miskolc, got traffic ID 174, and started its first trip in May 1978. After this procurement, all trams with hauled carriages were removed from traffic on 27 June 1977, and it is since then that only articulated trams serve the city.
A figure to illustrate the increase in demand for public transport: in the year of the unification of the companies, buses and trams transported nearly 60 million people. By 1969, this number has grown to 130 million. This was a particularly difficult period in the history of the company. In addition to a serious lack of funds, there were too few drivers and conductors, as well. Due to dire financial situation, and following the example of the Budapest Transportation Company despite the protestation of drivers, conductors were no longer employed first on some vehicles and then, as of 1 July 1971, at all. In order to facilitate passenger flow on the vehicles, passengers could then use all doors to get on and off the vehicles. The passengers were greatly pleased with this change, and the practice seemed to be successful, but as a result of a severe drop in revenues, the company was forced to change the system and only allow getting on through the first door in 1996.
Trams played a dominant role in public transport in Miskolc for nearly eight decades. Up until 1977, they had a larger overall capacity than buses. While the bus division was developed dynamically, however, the number and transportation capacity of new trams decreased. By 1993, the share of the divisions in the entire capacity was 16.6 % for trams against 83.4 % for buses.
By the early 80’s, tram rails were in such condition that track reconstruction bore no more delays, since failure to complete the works could easily have led to the termination of tram traffic. In order to continue running trams at any cost, but pressured by the lack of appropriate funds, the company management decided to perform high-priority maintenance works on the track sections that are in the worst condition and are the most likely to cause an accident. The replacement of rails started, and the old macadam was also replaced by sheets of modern reinforced concrete.
Experts agreed that although the rejuvenation of the tram fleet was an urgent task, the entire track network had to be reconstructed first. The advantages of the fixed route and the great transportation capacity can only be made full use of if there are modern, high-capacity trams running on good quality and safe tracks. To this end, costly track reconstruction works were started in 1983. The renovation of the 9.6 km of double tracks and 2 km of single tracks took 11 years. The works were performed in several phases and caused a lot of difficulty to those travelling in the city, whether they used private or public transport. Traffic organisers, controllers and drivers had a great deal of work cut out for them during these years.
However, the modernisation performed between 1983 and 1990 made the better part of the track network suitable for running the long-awaited modern trams. Track width had been increased from 3 to 3.2 metres, and negative refeed cables had been laid, which were absolute prerequisites of launching the Ganz trams first promised in the late 1980’s, since those had a body width of 2.5 metres.
The tardiness of Hungarian vehicle manufacturers encouraged the company management and the local government to contact CKD TÁTRA, a renowned company with a long history. The first step was taken in the summer of 1991, when Tamás Csorba, then mayor of the city, and the company management started negotiations in Kosice concerning the rent of a modern 8-axle tram to run and test in Miskolc. The test run started on 9 October 1991 and was scheduled to last for three months, but was extended due to the explosive success. Since traffic and technical characteristics proved better than expected, further negotiations were commenced with the manufacturer and the original owner of the vehicle. In 1992, a contract was made with the assistance of VARIMEX export-import company regarding the purchase of 10 TÁTRA KT8D5 articulated trams from Kosice Transportation Company (DPMK). The first tram was the one rented in the autumn of 1991 that had been running in the city ever since, and the remaining 9 trams were of the same type, operated in Kosice since 1989 or 1990, i.e. for 2-3 years.
The trams launched in autumn 1992 ran on the already modernised tracks of Line 2, replacing the old FVV vehicles. The purchasing of new trams made the reconstruction of the Diósgyőri tracks even more urgent, since the 30 year old structures constructed in 1963 were not suitable for the modern trams. Since the late 1980’s, there had been a speed limit of 20-30 km/hour in effect on the section between Újgyőr Main Square and Diósgyőr Terminus due to the high number of faults with regard to direction, level and wear of the rails.
The last, but equally important phase of the track reconstruction started on 28 April 1994. The local government approved of an investment grant of nearly HUF 540 million. The City of Miskolc did not possess such funds, therefore it successfully applied to the Environment Protection Fund for an interest-free loan of HUF 158 million and a non-refundable grant of HUF 158 million. An additional HUF 220 million was obtained from a bank loan.
The entire supporting structure and the rails were reconstructed, and for nearly 400 metre, the tracks now ran on Nagy Lajos király Road, which had recently been rebuilt to have two lanes in each direction. A modern safety control device was installed at the new terminus. The loop track, used since 1964, as well as the single-track line running along the side of Blaha Lujza street for nearly 90 years then were demolished. The last stage of the track reconstruction was concluded on 19 November 1995, when Károly Lotz, Minister of Transportation, Communication and Water Affairs officially opened the nearly 4 km long renovated track between Újgyőr Main Square and Diósgyőr Terminus.
When the modernised tracks were opened, the vehicle fleet running on Lines 1 and 2 was also reorganised. TÁTRA trams were moved to Line 1, and the old articulated trams returned to Line 2.
In 1995, the local government of Miskolc and MVK Rt. jointly submitted an application to the Environment Protection Fund to obtain funding for the purchase of new GANZ-HUNSLET trams. During the assessment of the application, it was discovered that the HUF 225 million grant provided would be enough only for 3 trams rather than the 12 planned for. Considering this fact, the company requested that it be allowed to use the money to purchase trams that are used but in good condition. This way, 6 TÁTRA KT8D5 type trams could be bought. The Environment Protection Fund approved of the change, therefore the replacement of obsolete FVV trams could be continued in 1996.
With the track reconstruction having been completed and the purchase of TÁTRA trams, it is the declared objective of our company to change the local residents’ travelling habits, and encourage them to choose trams instead of buses on the east-west line. The expected changes in travelling habits and thus demand will make it possible to decrease bus capacities that run parallel to trams today, and to change the current traffic conditions.