Early Metro Network Plans

The European continent’s first underground railway line was opened in 1896 but it was not until 1970 that the first true metro line was completed. The great distance in time seems all the more surprising in light of the fact that the need for the construction of an underground express railway network had been recognised by professionals as early as at the beginning of the 20th century.

The underground express railway was designed before the First World War based on Western European examples, probably including London, Berlin and Paris. Each of the early Budapest metro network plans were based on a particular vision of urban development. The rearrangement of the urban structure by constructing boulevards and avenues was aimed at rationalising the urban fabric. The envisaged metro line network, on the other hand, was structured so as to follow the changes above the ground. Actually, their proposed routes designated the directions in which the metropolis was intended to grow. 

The majority of the plans envisaged connections for passengers to change lines either under the Franciscans Square or Deák Ferenc Square. Nearly all plans included an underground connection between Buda and Pest, the line under Rákóczi Road and connections between the railway terminals; South-Buda was, on the other hand, ignored for quite some time as it was still relatively undeveloped.

Budapest’s metro network principle was developed in 1942, heavily relying on previous concepts, for example, the network plan created by Kornél Zelovich in 1931. The downtown sections of the expressway network were intended to be constructed in the form of what is known as a “tube railway” running deep underground. The commencement of its construction was prevented by World War Two, although soil samples were already taken in 1943 at various sites of the capital city. Thus Budapest lost some 30 years in regards to metro line construction.


“The idea underlying the design of the system was that express railways should assume the function of local transport primarily in densely populated and completely built-up urban areas and possibly take over the electric railway services operating on the surface within the town’s boundaries.”

Budapest municipality councillor Baron István Babarczy on the capital city’s metro network concept, in 1942.


(1)    Mór Balázs developed the first designs of a metro line network for Budapest in 1897: he proposed an east-west and a north-south line, connected with one another and the already existing Underground Railway (now commonly referred to as the “Small Underground”).

(2)    Szilárd Zielinski’s 1901 plan of a Budapest underground express railway (metro) and surface railway line network.

(3)    Kornél Zelovich’s 1931 concept comprising three new metro lines in Pest, together with the connected suburban railway (HÉV) lines.

(4)    The concept adopted in 1942 provided for the construction of three new metro lines which would have constituted a complete network together with the Underground Railway, which would have been extended in both directions.