Police officers will be replacing private security guards at the Greek capital’s metro and ISAP electric railway stations, according to an agreement reached between the Citizens’ Protection and Transport ministries.
The Hellenic Police (ELAS) will supply a force of 200 officers whose sole task will be to guard commuters and public property, as well as to cover security gaps that have been observed on the public transport system.
The measure is expected to result in savings of 4 million euros for the cash-strapped Transport Ministry, while the agreement also includes some perks for ELAS, such as free transportation for its staff.
The initiative was announced on Friday during a joint press conference given by Transport Minister Christos Spirtzis and Citizens’ Protection Minister Nikos Toskas, just a day after unidentified vandals damaged new electronic ticket machines at the Panepistimio metro station in central Athens, the latest in a spate of such attacks.
As it takes an average of five days to repair the machines, there are fears that the vandals’ actions will encourage commuters to travel without tickets as inspections have stopped since the electronic ticket was introduced.
At the same press conference, Spirtzis and Toskas provided details of a scrap metal racket that cost the Hellenic Railways Organization more than 1 million euros in damage.
Officers have arrested 19 suspected gang members and eight OSE employees, and are also looking for another 11 individuals.
The gang is believed to have started stripping metal elements from train stations and rail lines in February 2015, selling their loot through one of the members, who is a scrap dealer.
The OSE workers, meanwhile, are accused of taking money to allow the gang access to railway equipment.