ECONOMY

Bargain hunters snap up special railway deals

Just a few days after the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) announced a series of special offers for specific train services, demand for the discounted tickets proved particularly impressive.

Some 600 tickets were sold online alone during the four-day period beginning on August 14, the day after OSE?s subsidiary, operator TrainOSE, announced a series of discounts for the sale of some 45,000 tickets.

Ranging from 9 euros, 19 euros and 29 euros (economy) to 39 euros (first class), the discounts apply to the following services: Athens-Thessaloniki-Athens, Thessaloniki-Alexandroupoli-Thessaloniki and parts of the Larissa-Volos-Palaiofarsala-Kalambaka service, for both fast Intercity and red-eye services.

Though the special offers were announced in mid-August and with little promotion – for the time being at least – consumer reaction was swift, given that the cost of traveling from Athens to Thessaloniki, without a discount is 36.30 euros for a single trip or 58.10 euros return.

Meanwhile, TrainOSE also announced a 25 percent hike in the price of tickets issued less than 48 hours before departure, a move aimed at giving the company a better idea of capacity, but which is considered unfair with regards to travelers who are obliged to make last-minute travel arrangements.

In this case, the 36.30-euro fare for the Athens-Thessaloniki Intercity service goes up to 45.40 euros and 72.60 euros return. Still, travelers buying tickets a minimum of two days before departure will receive a 15 percent discount for tickets issued at OSE counters or by phone (on tel 1110) and up to 20 percent for return tickets. A further 10 percent discount is added to tickets issued online at www.trainose.gr, with the online system expected to be revamped in order to deal with increasing sales activity.

The special offers aim to reduce the cost of running the train services by achieving more bookings.

?It has been calculated that the cost of a single train service amounts to around 5,500 or 6,000 euros, covering fuel, rolling stock, infrastructure and part of administrative costs,? noted Theodoros Tolias, operations director of TrainOSE suburban railway. To achieve more cost-effective operation, says Tolias, the company needs to cultivate the mentality among customers of reserving in advance, a tool that gives TrainOSE an idea of capacity and allows it to react by, for example, offering discounts on remaining seats when services aren?t full.

When it comes to cancellations, these should be made at least 48 hours before departure for passengers to receive 100 percent of the fare back in the form of a voucher for future travel. When cancellations are made 24-48 hours before departure time the refund comes to 50 percent. There is no refund for cancellations made less than 24 hours before departure.

OSE also announced that it will be reimbursing passengers in case of delays. For a 31- to 60-minute delay passengers will be reimbursed 25 percent of the ticket?s original price, a 61- to 90-minute delay will result in a 50 percent refund and a 91- to 120-minute minute wait will mean 75 percent off the original fare.

Passengers who experience delays of over two hours will be refunded the entire amount of the fare. Previously, passengers whose trains were delayed by more than 90 minutes were entitled to an additional ticket of the same value.