In aid of the countryside

The Transport Ministry tabled a bill in Parliament yesterday for the creation and operation of commercial logistics centers, aimed at the development of a system of combined transport in areas of the country with railway stations, ports and airports. «Commercial logistics centers will contribute to the rationalization of transport, become an instrument for growth and will operate in areas with transport infrastructure or secure access to them,» Transport Minister Michalis Liapis said, as the bill opens the way for attracting investors toward transport expansion. The main innovation of the draft law is that it classifies the centers as small, medium or large, depending on their size and their distance from a transport station. Private entrepreneurs interested in participating in commercial logistic centers will be funded by the Transport Ministry or the EU. Their participation must be at least 25 percent of the total investment. «A further incentive for investors is the reduced bureaucracy involved,» Liapis said, stressing that «the centers will boost development in the countryside and create new jobs where the problem of unemployment is more intense.» The first center will be created at Thriassio Field (near Elefsina), with Thessaloniki, western and eastern Greece following in the ministry’s strategic planning, although no specific areas are mentioned in the bill. The bill also regulates for the first time the setting up of regular seaplane transport for the Greek islands, allowing for airports to be created on water surfaces (sea and lakes), and defining the mode and terms of the operation of terminals. The state will receive 5 percent of the fare, while passengers will not be charged for the modernization and development of airports. Existing seaplane airports will continue operating with the same permit for another six months. In order not to discourage potential investors, the licensing process for construction and provision of equipment at the seaplanes’ operating spaces will be covered by a presidential decree. Finally, the draft law provides for the operation of private coach companies for public transport on the Aegean islands. Liapis hopes that with the consensus of the other parliamentary parties, the bill will become law by the end of March.