ECONOMY

OSE reforms given the green light

The government has given the green light to streamline the operations of the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) in a bid to ease the financial strain the heavily indebted transport company is putting on state finances, said Transport Minister Evripidis Stylianidis. «Our target is to move ahead boldly with streamlining,» the minister told reporters after a Cabinet meeting. OSE has weighed heavily on the government purse strings, with total debts of 9 billion euros expected to balloon to 11 billion by 2011, according to official estimates. «Greeks are paying around 2 million euros a day to maintain a network that has unfortunately deteriorated due to choices in the past,» said Stylianidis. OSE’s reform plan has been scheduled over a three-year period and will involve staff cuts, a review of routes and fares and improved safety measures. The Transport Ministry has said it is planning staff cuts of 2,000 to 3,000 people, out of a total of 7,000 OSE employees, via a voluntary departure scheme by 2011. Talks have already started with union groups, said the minister. The reform effort comes after the conservative government successfully completed the sale of lossmaking Olympic Airlines (OA) after five previous privatization attempts failed. OA was accumulating losses of about 2 million euros per day. Stylianidis clarified that the streamlining push will aim at improving OSE’s finances and was not toward selling off the train company but also left open the possibility of spinning off some of its services. «It is an issue of streamlining and not privatization. However, the deregulation will allow the participation of private service providers,» he said, without offering further information. [email protected]