OSE to get back on track

The Transport Ministry yesterday unveiled a three-year plan aimed at streamlining the national railway organization OSE, which includes staff cuts, a review of routes and fare prices and improved safety measures. OSE is in financial strife with debts at the state-owned enterprise expected to rise to over 12 billion euros at the of 2010 from some 7 billion euros at the end of last year. Presenting the agenda, set to be completed by 2011, Transport Minister Costis Hatzidakis stressed the urgency of the reforms needed to keep the service afloat. «The situation is exceptionally bad; we do not expect miracles. Spectacular progress cannot be made from one day to the next,» the minister told reporters. Hatzidakis said there will be a staff cut of 2,000 to 3,000 people, out of a total of 7,000 employees, via a voluntary departure scheme by 2011 as the railway organization struggles under the weight of a massive payroll. According to government data, OSE staff costs last year reached 400 million euros, while total revenues for the same period were only about 100 million euros. It was not clear how much such a staff cut would cost OSE or how the move would be financed. Plans also include hiring 100 train drivers to cut down on costly overtime pay. There will be a review of ticket prices given that fares have remained at the same levels since 2000 despite the increase in fuel costs, added Hatzidakis. The ministry is expected to make changes to routes, some of which are serving the needs of only a handful of people. Given the particularly high number of rail accidents in Greece, the government also announced it would hire experts from France’s national rail service, SNCF, to make safety assessments of the national network.