NEWS

Transport ticket inspectors too thin on the ground

Transfers of staff from public transport organizations to other parts of the civil service, carried out over the past few months as part of a broader drive to boost efficiency in the public sector, have radically compromised authorities? ability to crack down on fare dodging by slashing ticket inspecting staff, Kathimerini understands.

Just 35 staff are working as inspectors on the Athens metro, tram and the Piraeus-Kifissia electric railway (ISAP), according to the firm that manages the fixed-rail modes of transport, known by its acronym STASY. This is down from 90 employees before the transfers.

The head of STASY, Constantinos Vasileiadis, told Kathimerini that they were doing what they could. ?Ticket inspections are still being carried out, and regularly, to the extent that 35 people can serve three modes of transport.?

The Athens Urban Transport Organization (OASA) said that there had been an increase in penalties issued to commuters. ?The number of people taking the risk of boarding public transport without a validated ticket is rising,? it said in a statement.

Ticket inspectors tend to focus on fixed modes of transport as their closed infrastructure facilitates the arrest of offenders. But the rate of fare dodging is thought to be highest on buses and trolley buses -- with some 40 percent of passengers believed to travel without a ticket or with a fake ticket.

Bus and trolley bus travel is monitored by a force of around 600 public transport staff who work shifts in their spare time in exchange for a commission on the penalties they issue. This incentive is believed to be to blame for the excessive zeal displayed by many bus and trolley bus inspectors.

The transfer of thousands of public transport employees into other parts of the civil service or into early retirement has also taken its toll on the frequency of public transport services, and hundreds of daily bus and trolley bus routes have been abolished.

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