Suburban rail sees rise in traffic

More than 850,000 people a month travel by the Proastiakos suburban railway in Athens, an increase of around 100,000 passengers from 2011, according to data made available by the company.

According to figures, some 894,000 people used the service in January with the number dropping to 860,000 in March. Passenger traffic is traditionally lighter during the summer season.

In Athens, Proastiakos connects the port of Piraeus and the central Larissis train station with Athens International Airport to the east, while also providing commuter links to Kiato via Corinth on the Peloponnese.

Company officials told Kathimerini the goal of the company is to provide services from the airport to Kiato, Athens and Halkida every 20 minutes. However, services are currently disrupted by much-delayed engineering works.

?Repairs at the Ano Liosia station alone should have been completed last March,? TrainOSE CEO Thanassis Ziliaskopoulos said.

Proastiakos, which is operated by TrainOSE, uses tracks and other infrastructure owned by the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE). Responsibility for the works lies with OSE, which is now independent from TrainOSE and which faces its own economic woes.

Such problems have undermined government efforts to sell TrainOSE, a monopoly that operates 500 freight and passenger routes on 2,500 kilometers of railways. The proceeds from the railway sale are meant to help Greece meet its target of raising 15 billion euros from sales of state assets by 2015.

Meanwhile, lack of funds has also taken a toll on security aboard Proastiakos trains. The absence of security guards means that Proastiakos staff have had to take a number of uncomfortable decisions like locking toilets in a bid to combat drug use.

?For short distances we usually ban access to train toilets. But that?s not easy to do with long distance services,? said an official who wished to remain unidentified.

He said the company has asked for 20 guards to be hired to work aboard trains, but the request has not been met.

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