BUSINESS

Italians seek explanations on Trainose

VANGELIS MANDRAVELIS

TAGS: Privatizations, Transport

Italian railway company Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, buyer of Greek service operator Trainose, is seeking explanations from Athens about Transport Minister Christos Spirztis’s statement on the new state railway service operator he wishes to create.

The new investor, which only agreed to acquire 100 percent of the Greek company last month, has asked both in a letter as well as through its representatives for an explanation for Spirtzis’s statements in Thessaloniki.

According to reliable sources, the Italian company is also requesting information regarding the heated exchange of statements between the Trainose administration and the railway operator’s unionists.

After the management of railway property company GAIAOSE implied that it might obtain an operating license to conduct railway transport, the minister stated that if any other body were to do so, it would be it would be parent company Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE), under certain conditions. However, the expression Spirtzis used was quite dubious, as he said that such an action would only be implemented if the Italians were to abandon Trainose’s passenger transport operations – and that the government couldn’t possibly leave the country without passenger trains.

Neutral observers say that Spirtzis’s intentions may have mainly been addressed to a domestic audience, such as his party and the unionists of Trainose and OSE. The latter have been quite vocal in spreading talk about the Trainose privatization project falling apart, saying the company will shut down due to the past state subsidies burdening it; they are said to claim that once that is done, the railway services would be transferred to another state corporation, either of the OSE group or outside it, along with the Trainose staff.

A source close to the privatization project said the wishes of party, union and ministry officials were no more than “midsummer night’s dreams.” For Trainose to stay alive, besides the write-off of state subsidies that exceeded 700 million euros, it will take some strong investment that the Greek state simply cannot provide. Yet it is for party political reasons that the government is keeping that scenario alive, to show it is not in favor of the privatizations it implements.

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