Greece’s railway sector only accounts for 1 percent of all journeys travelled by passengers and 1.5 percent of freight transported per kilometer, leaving its rail market even smaller than that of Luxembourg, data from the country’s Rail Regulatory Authority (RAS) has shown.
In Luxembourg, which is roughly the size of Pella prefecture in northern Greece, rail accounts for 4.7 percent of all passenger kilometers and 2.2 percent of tonne kilometers. Even countries that are much smaller in terms of size and population like Estonia and Croatia transport more people and freight per kilometer than Greece, the laggard in rail transport in the EU.
The national rail market has considerable growth potential, however, as evidenced by the Italian acquisition of rail operator TrainOSE and its interest in the railway carriage maintenance company Rosco. On top of that, other companies are also interested in utilizing the domestic rail network.
Founded in 2016, Rail Cargo Logistics Goldair, a joint venture between the Austrian Rail Cargo Group (the freight division of Austrian state operator ÖBB) and Greek transport and storage company Goldair, was the first such operator to be licensed in Greece, after TrainOSE and Stasy, the company that manages fixed-track forms of public transport in Athens.
Rail Cargo’s first trains ran some weeks ago. The company is focusing on the freight market and is expected to offer services on the Piraeus, Aspropyrgos, Thessaloniki and Idomeni routes.
The second such company to receive a license is Piraeus Europe Asia Rail Logistics (PEARL), which provides rail logistics support and other freight forwarding services to and from Piraeus and other Greek ports provides rail services chiefly in the interest of Chinese company Cosco. The company, which is also focused on freight transport, has not yet commenced services.
As it controls 95 percent of the internal market, TrainOSE is not expected to face stiff competition from any new carriers.
Freight transport by rail is the least developed sector of the rail market, with revenue not surpassing more than 20 percent of the total. According to the RAS, of the Greek rail sector’s revenues of 62 million euros in 2016, only 12 million related to freight. This situation is due largely to the country’s focus on developing road-based passenger and freight transport. Indeed, until recently, the country’s largest port, Piraeus, had no rail connection. Even though it has long had a rail link, the line to the port of Thessaloniki needs a major upgrade.