NEWS

Cuts take toll on public transport

State cutbacks, including the transfer of thousands of public transport employees into other parts of the civil service or into early retirement, have taken a toll on services, which are far less frequent than they were a year ago, Kathimerini understands.

According to sources in the companies that run city buses and trolley buses, hundreds of daily routes have been cut. Compared to January 2010, there are 1,000 fewer bus routes running now, the sources said.

The activation of the labor reserve scheme and transfers within the civil service have led to 1,500 staff leaving the public transport sector in recent months — 840 of these from the companies operating the buses and trolley buses. Hundreds of employees have applied for early retirement too, putting a further strain on the sector.

As a result of the mass departure of staff, many vehicles are being left in depots, sources said. The majority of some 1,870 buses that are now operating in the greater Athens area are running half the routes they did two years ago.

For example, the 550 bus route connecting the northern suburb of Kifissia to the Faliro Delta on the capital?s southern coast currently runs every 15 minutes, compared to every eight minutes previously.

It remains unclear whether state cutbacks have also resulted in fewer ticket inspections.

Plans to introduce smart tickets on the public transport systems in Athens and Thessaloniki — electronic cards that would be usable on all forms of public transport — have reportedly run into obstacles. Six consortia have made bids to undertake the project, which has been budgeted at 100 million euros, but the process has stalled, apparently due to red tape.

The chief aim of the smart card project is to curb rampant fare dodging on public transport. The rate of fare dodging is thought to be particularly high on buses — with some 40 percent of passengers believed to travel without a ticket or with a fake ticket.

Fare dodging on buses alone accounts for around 50 million euros in lost profits every year.