Fewer and fewer Athens public transport passengers are paying for the service as ticket evasion in the Greek capital is taking on unprecedented proportions.
Transport companies are waiting for the installation of electronic ticketing machines, on which the Transport Ministry has placed all its hopes for a turnaround. But the e-ticket scanners are not expected before mid-2017.
The abolition of volunteer inspectors, the growth of the “Won’t Pay” (“Den Plirono”) movement and the rise in the number of attacks on stations, equipment, vehicles and employees of the capital’s public transport companies provide passengers with plenty of excuses for not purchasing or validating a ticket. This situation is reflected in the transport companies’ financial results, which show ticket sales dropping even though it is estimated that passenger numbers are growing.
Ahead of the installation of the e-ticket system and the transfer of the transport companies to the new privatization fund, the Transport Ministry appears to have chosen to leave the companies to their own devices. As the companies can expect to see job cuts when they are undertaken by the sell-off fund, with the aim of making them more attractive to private investors, it appears the ministry is protecting itself from the political cost of any intervention.
However, the option of doing nothing is costing the transport companies dearly. Estimates to date put ticket evasion costs at between 40 and 60 million euros per year, which could have covered the companies’ black holes.
This year has found the transport companies in a very difficult position, as they have been posting reduced sales compared to last year. In the first quarter of 2016, revenues from sales of tickets and cards came to 37.7 million euros, down 23.44 percent from the 49.2 million collected a year earlier. The worst performance was in March, with revenues shrinking 30.8 percent to 11.9 million euros.
The companies are expecting to end the year with losses of 77 million euros between them: STASY, the metro and tram company that until recently had no need of public financing thanks to its earnings, is expected to post losses of 32.5 million by year-end, while OSY (the company operating the buses and trolley buses) is projected to show losses of 44.68 million by end-2016.