The Ljubljana Escalator building site (source)
The infamous Ljubljana Escalator will officially start operating tommorrow. The project started way back in 2001 when then Mayor Viktorija Potočnik during one of her fits of grandeur announced that Ljubljana will get an escalator to the Castle hill. The project costs were initially estimated at around SIT 600 million (€ 2,1 million). For various reasons (including the fact that she was ultimately responsible for the fiasco of SIB Bank and the fact that she promised a new football stadium and repeatedly failed to deliver) Vika Potočnik lost the elections of 2002 to Danica Simšič, who put the escalator project on the back burner.
As going got tough for Mayor Simšič she revived the project, hoping that it would be finished in time for the elections. Of course it wasn’t and the fact that the costs now soared to SIT 1,7 billion (€ 7 million) might have contributed to the fact that she lost the elections of 2006 to the incumbent mayor Zoran Janković.
Thus “Zoki” as he is popularly know will preside over tommorows official unveiling of the escalator, hopefully bringning to a more-or-less sucessfull end someone’s pet project. A couple of thought on the issue:
Ljubljana doesn’t really need an escalator to the Castle hill. While I agree that the capital city must have some sort of glamour, the escalator will hardly achieve that. Despite the fact that it is apparently high-tech (and has already broken down during a test run, trapping people inside) it is not a landmark and I cannot imagine scores of tourists barging down on Ljubljana just to take the 2,5 € ride to the top of the Castle hill. Especially not when Ljubljana sports a lovely (even somewhat mooshy) train service from the Triple Bridges (Tromostovje) to the Castle – that is to say from one landmark to another.
But now that we’ve got it, there is no use bitching about it. Sure, we could use a couple of more apartement buildings, but hey, they decided to spend the money… Ah, therein lies the rub… If this project fails (i.e.: doesn’t create profit), heads will roll. One of the most prominent heads on display (should an unfortunate chain of events occur) will most definitely be the head of Darko Brlek, general manager of Festival Ljubljana. This city-owned company won (or – some say – lost) the tender to manage both the Castle and the escalator. And should there not be enough fat German tourists to fill the city coffers, the manager of the Castle might face decapitation – in a political sence, at least.
Nothing like that is obviously going to happen to Mayor Janković, of course. Not only is he still in his bullet-proof stage, when little can hurt him, but he also made sure that people remember who is actually responsible for the project. Despite the fact that he maintans his anti-political facade, he acted in the shrewdest political manner, as he invited both former mayors to the grand opening, sacrificing a litlle limelight just to make sure people remembered who concocted the whole thing. Cunning little bastard…
Oh, and if you want to see how the thing looked like just before the opening, check out Jonas’ post.