ECONOMY

Intercity bus network to be overhauled in time for 2004 Games

Transport and Communications Minister Christos Verelis said in Parliament yesterday that a bill now at the discussion stage provides for the overhaul and upgrading of the country’s intercity bus network ahead of the Olympic Games of 2004. According to the new provisions, the regional or district boards (KTEL) which, under the present system, merely coordinate individual private operators, will be replaced by companies. Tax and other incentives will be introduced to ease the changeover and the government will provide 30 billion drachmas through the budget’s Public Investment Program for the renewal of the fleet, the modernization of infrastructure and facilities, including automated ones. The conversion to company status is set for September 2003 at the latest and buses with over 23 years in service will have to be withdrawn by the end of the same year. This will involve 4,100 intercity and 755 city buses, which represent 80 percent of the total. The new buses will have to have been less than five years in service if secondhand, and may not include models more than 13 years old. The new companies will have to build up reserves with a view to financing a further renewal of fleets and the construction of new stations and facilities. The bill introduces a Consumer Rights Charter and a new regulation for staff. Special provisions are made for isolated islands and for possibilities of collaboration involving different KTELs, local government authorities or individual operators. The bill also provides for the establishment of privately operated Vehicle Inspection Centers (KTEO), but only for private cars. KTEOs may be set up by car repair shops in different locations but not by car dealerships. Greece already has three mobile operators: Vodafone subsidiary Panafon, Telecom Italia Group’s Stet Hellas and OTE Telecom’s CosmOTE.