NEWS

Athens transport at mercy of vandals

TAGS: Transport, Crime

Ongoing efforts to crack down on fare dodgers on the public transport system with the introduction of electronic systems are being undercut by vandals attacking ticket validation machines in buses and newly-installed barriers at metro and train stations on an almost daily basis.

There have also been incidents in which ticket inspectors were physically assaulted by groups of young men – the usual culprits in these vandalism sprees – putting more pressure on authorities who have already been accused of lacking the will to protect public property or of outright incompetence.

According to recent data, 127 machines (80 new ticket validating machines, 41 ticket barriers and six ticket dispensers) have been destroyed in Athens since authorities started to install the new systems last summer – 42 were destroyed in the last 16 days alone.

According to estimates last summer, fare-dodging costs the public transport system between 40 and 60 million euros per year.

The Infrastructure Ministry and the Athens Urban Transport Organization (OASA) have so far limited themselves to blaming the police for not doing enough to stop vandals.

In response to a barrage of incidents last March, police had dispatched motorcycle units to patrol metro and electric rail (ISAP) stations. The measure did lead to a drop in attacks at stations, but those on buses spiked, sending authorities back to the drawing board, where they devised a new plan that went into effect last Monday to take a firmer stance towards offenders.

“Tackling the issue remains our number one priority,” a high-ranking police official who declined to be named said, while sources told Kathimerini that, in recent days, some 200 plain-clothed policemen have hit the streets on the lookout for vandals.

However, there were more incidents on Wednesday night, when four ticket validation machines were damaged on buses in central Athens. The first machine was damaged by two individuals who hopped on bus number 021 at Kaningos Square heading for the district of Gyzi. A few minutes later in Galatsi, four individuals got on bus number 054 and smashed three machines with hammers. Another bus attack also reportedly took place in Ilion, northwest Athens, on the same night.

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