ECONOMY

Four open-top buses have turned into white elephants for OASA

four-open-top-buses-have-turned-into-white-elephants-for-oasa

Over six years ago the Greek state spent 1.6 million euros on four open-top double-decker buses, with the aim of having the Athens Public Transport Organization (OASA) use them for tours of the capital for visitors, but the vehicles were never put to use and have remained idle ever since as the plan was shelved just before their delivery. Now their commercial value is falling and OASA sees it increasingly unlikely that it will ever recoup any of the money paid for their acquisition.

In February 2009 the government made the order for the four double open-air buses worth 400,000 euros apiece with the aim of expanding the operations of the number 400 bus line, which used conventional Athens buses to link the various sightseeing attractions in the center of the capital but had not met with particular commercial success.

After the change in government in 2009, OASA’s new administration decided to suspend the 400 bus route, as a private coach company was operating a similar service. OASA officials then said that the No 400 could never compete with the private company, which offered a better quality service, and that this had never been OASA’s intention.

Although the organization had already purchased the special vehicles and already had the route in place with the conventional buses, it never made any effort to strengthen its share in the tourism market segment. According to official data, its average daily passenger traffic amounted to just 11 people over the last couple of months of 2010, and the numbers were in constant decline.

When the decision to suspend the line was made, OASA had to find a way to use the expensive equipment, with one idea being to employ the double-deckers on high-traffic routes so as to serve more passengers, as in London. However, as a result of their size they were unable to move in many of Athens’s narrow streets.

In 2012 there was a tender to lease them, but OASA unionists blocked the move. Another tender was held this year and the Larissa public transport firm was said to be interested in using the four buses for tourism purposes outside the central Greek city. But that has fallen through too, as the company withdrew its offer.