New blueprint to put national railway on the right track

Transport Minister Costis Hatzidakis is proposing radical changes to the strategy and operation of the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE), in a blueprint revealed by Kathimerini. The proposed measures include voluntary retirement for about 3,000 employees of the state group, a cut by half of next decade’s investment program, the privatization of the Proastiakos suburban railway of Athens, the end of routes generating the biggest losses, restructuring of the company’s debt and the breakaway of train carriage subsidiary TRAINOSE. OSE officials suggest that trains travel at a cost of 10,000 euros per departure and often carry just a handful of passengers. The focus on alternative routes, such as one parallel to the Egnatia Highway, has disorganized the company and added more debts, its officials say. Other proposals by Hatzidakis include merging all the subsidiaries in the group, apart from ERGOSE, the company implementing public works for OSE, better utilization of the group’s property and cuts in excessive salaries. The target numbers for the size of OSE staff should be between 2,500 and 3,500 employees with another 1,000 at TRAINOSE. The voluntary retirement package will be organized along the lines of that implemented at OTE telecom. There is no actuarial study for this project, but estimates put its cost at about 800-900 million euros. Last year OSE had 9 euros in losses for each euro of revenues, according to its officials. It borrowed 1.12 billion euros last year to cover its deficits and this year it will have to borrow another 1.6 billion euros for the current year’s deficit, as well as additional spending. One-third of operating costs is taken up by salaries, another third serves existing debt, leaving just a third is for the other expenses.