BUSINESS

Gov’t rail talk raises eyebrows

ILIAS BELLOS

TAGS: Transport, Privatizations

Just a couple of days after the signing of the concession of railway service operator Trainose to its Italian peer, Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, the government is speaking about the creation of a new state railway company through Gaiaose, the railway properties company supervised by the Transport Ministry.

Athanasios Schizas, Gaiaose’s chief executive officer, announced that his company “will proceed with the acquisition of a railway license,” and added that it has drafted a plan for the renovation of carriages, estimated at 40-45 million euros, so that “within three years it will be on a par with the average level of developed European states.”

“We will not compete with Trainose,” he explained, before noting that, “to all intents and purposes, the Greek state has to have a railway license in its possession.”

Gaiaose’s planned move is seen by some transport industry insiders as “at least inelegant” and quite indicative of why the investment climate in Greece has been undermined.

The market is even more concerned by information that agencies of the Infrastructure and Transport Ministry have raised the issue of ensuring the lease of the locomotives and carriages from the stock of the Greek state which is entirely owned by Gaiaose. In the context of this demand, the same information points to the ministry also raising the issue of Trainose’s 50 million euros in annual subsidies for servicing unpopular routes, which constitutes a public service obligation.

Although transport sources estimate that the matter of the 50 million euros may be cited as a means of pressure to the Italian side, it remains quite clear that Trainose was sold off with the subsidy contracts signed and sealed for the next five years, so the buyer is legally covered.

But if the above information proves accurate and the issue does blow up, it could derail the smooth completion of the Trainose sale to Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, a project linked to the write-off of a Trainose debt to the state amounting to 750 million euros.

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