In the first wagon of the Athens-Thessaloniki train passengers are drinking coffee and eating in the dining area. The train will arrive to its final destination exactly in 4 hours. The employees of the private company responsible for the train’s canteen are discussing about the arrival of a new train that will soon make the same trip in 3 hours. After more than 30 years of endless projects on the country’s main railroad, finally Greece has its first fast train. But why did it take Greece so long to have one? The answer is complex, and contains stories of corruption and mismanagement – in combination with some lack of vision.
OBC Transeuropa here presents a data-driven investigation on passenger trains in Greece. We collected and analyzed data about the routes, the stations and passengers’ complaints, and we interviewed the key players in this game.
TrainOSE: the only operator for all passenger trains
The only operator for passenger trains in Greece is TrainOSE SA. It used to be a subsidiary of the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE); in 2008 it became an independent state-owned company, until its privatization in September 2017, when it was acquired by the Italian national railway company, Ferrovie dello Stato, for €45 million.
We asked TrainOSE for data on passenger traffic, but they replied that there are no statistics or numbers. However, according to Eurostat, Greece is one of the few EU member states where the number of passengers has been decreasing in the last decade, along with Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia.
In accordance with the law 3891/2010 and its amendment (L. 4070/2012), TrainOSE’s responsibilities include the provision of rail traction services for the transport of passengers and goods, and the development, organization and operation of rail-freight and rail-passenger services, as well as other transport services by track-based modes. TrainOSE also has the right to conduct bus transport services. However, the law states that the development of bus transport projects must be approved by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport.
The passenger train market in Greece is a monopoly, since TrainOSE has the exclusive right to operate rail services for passengers. This is supposed to change on December 2020, when the EU’s 4th Railway Package is to be incorporated into the Greek legislation, according to the Hellenic Competition Commission . The EU Commission sent a