NEWS

Railway contract adrift

Senior government and bank officials met yesterday to try work out a dispute, over new carriages being built for the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) by the Hellenic Shipyards at Skaramangas, which could leave the railways without sufficient carriages during the Olympics. National Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis, Transport Minister Christos Verelis and Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos met with the officials from OSE and Piraeus Bank, which is advising the government through its subsidiary ETBA. The meeting did not result in any decisions but Tsochadzopoulos expressed hope that the issue will be cleared up soon. «There are two or three issues, which will be discussed in the next two or three days, so that the time of delivery and the number of carriages will be worked out on the basis of contracts signed,» he said. «We are talking about the settlement of a number of issues regarding specialized contracts already signed and which will find their final expression, I believe, in the next few days,» he added. «I heard this morning from Siemens that the electric train carriages will be ready this October, so we can be optimistic that this dispute between the companies will be solved quickly.» OSE needs carriages urgently, mainly for the suburban railway being built ahead of next year’s Olympics. It is pressing for the shipyards to produce the carriages and pay a penalty, currently estimated at 9.5 million euros, for the delay. A total of seven contracts – six with OSE and one with the Athens-Piraeus Railway (ISAP) – were signed in 1997-98. The contracts were worth a total (in current terms) of 145 million euros and called for the construction of 19 different types of carriages, a total of 500 vehicles. The shipyard received a 15-percent downpayment (21.75 million euros) to cover operational costs. The carriages were to be completed in stages, beginning in 2000. The construction program has fallen hopelessly behind and the shipyards’ owners, Howaldtswerke Deutsche Werft-Ferrostaal, a subsidiary of US investment firm One Equity Partners, want to renew the contracts, with the last of the carriages to be delivered in 2005. Sources said that ETBA yesterday presented Hellenic Shipyards’ proposal for substitute carriages to be provided and for approval for the contract to involve subcontractors to speed up delivery of the rolling stock. The shipyards say this proposal will cost 60 million euros.