Transport staff ramp up protests

Commuters in the capital faced more hassle on Wednesday as workers on city buses, trolley buses and the Piraeus-Kifissia urban electric railway (ISAP) walked off the job for 24 hours again to protest reforms streamlining their services.

The city center was gridlocked with heavy traffic once again as thousands of Athenians took to their cars. Staff on the Athens metro, who went ahead with a 24-hour strike on Tuesday even though a court ruling had declared it illegal, staged another 24-hour walkout Wednesday.

Services are expected to return to normal on Thursday after ISAP workers called off scheduled action. But there are more disruptions in store for Friday. Bus workers have called a work stoppage for between 11 a.m. and 3.30 p.m., trolley bus staff are to walk out between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and ISAP workers from noon to 4 p.m. Metro staff have yet to make their intentions known for Friday.

The upheaval has coincided with an increase of up to 40 percent in tickets for public transport. On Tuesday, the 1-euro, 90-minute ticket for all modes of transport was replaced by a 1.20-euro ticket for single journeys and a 1.40-euro multiple-journey ticket.

Transport Minister Dimitris Reppas had insisted on Tuesday that a controversial bill aimed at curbing the debts of loss-making public transport companies would be submitted in Parliament this month as scheduled and stressed the importance of ?common responsibility? to extricate Greece from the current debt crisis.

?We never wag our finger at the workers but we also demand that they don?t shake their fist at Greek society,? Reppas told a parliamentary committee that is to assess the proposed overhaul of Greek public transport companies. ?We all have to give up something so that Greece comes out on top,? the minister added.

Reppas added that inspections on public transport would be ramped up to crack down on fare dodgers whom he accused of being ?anti-social.?

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