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French firm pitches subway plans to city

Plans to construct a 30 billion Slovak crown ($70 million) metro for Bratislava were unveiled by the French-based joint venture Matra Transport International (MTA) on June 25. According to MTA Senior Vice President Antoine Massabki, if all goes according to schedule, the first leg of the metro, stretching from the Bratislava district of Petržalka to the Hotel Forum in downtown Bratislava, could carry its first passengers within six years.
The abrupt announcment may have surprised city residents, who were told by Bratislava mayor Jozef Moravčík after his election last December that Bratislava's dreams of a subway would have to be put on hold for at least two years.

Plans to construct a 30 billion Slovak crown ($70 million) metro for Bratislava were unveiled by the French-based joint venture Matra Transport International (MTA) on June 25. According to MTA Senior Vice President Antoine Massabki, if all goes according to schedule, the first leg of the metro, stretching from the Bratislava district of Petržalka to the Hotel Forum in downtown Bratislava, could carry its first passengers within six years.

The abrupt announcment may have surprised city residents, who were told by Bratislava mayor Jozef Moravčík after his election last December that Bratislava's dreams of a subway would have to be put on hold for at least two years.

MTA, a joint venture between Matra and Siemens, presented their "light, absolutely safe" metro plans at a press conference. According to Massabki, the system is French-designed and similar to subways currently operating in large cities around the world such as Paris and Chicago. The system is fully automated, operates without a driver, and is quick - under the proposal, a train would enter and exit a station every 60 seconds.

MTA first began discussions on a Bratislava metro in 1991 with former mayor Peter Kresánek, Massabki said. "A lot of money has been spent to bring us to this day where construction of the metro is ready to begin."

The metro, which would have two lines - one from Petržalka to Ružinov and the other from Dubravka to Rača, criss-crossing the city centre - will cost the city upwards of 30 billion Slovak crowns, a sum which would not have to be paid back until the first line begins operation. The city would then have a ten year window in which to pay off the debt. While Massabki said the conditions were favourable, the total sum has been deemed by many, including Mayor Moravčík, to be too expensive for the cash-strapped city.

If the plan is approved, construction on the first line would begin within 1.5 to 2 years, while the first trains would run after a further 4.5 to 5 years, Massabki said. MTA will wait for an official response from the city before proceeding. Massabki said he was "reasonably optimistic" that the city would approve the project.

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