Longer hours for metro are being mulled

The Transport Ministry is looking into extending the operating hours of the Athens-Piraeus Electric Railway (ISAP) and the metro on weekends in a bid to ease evening traffic congestion in the capital and provide commuters with a better service. Recently appointed Transport Minister Costis Hatzidakis and Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis agreed yesterday to further examine the proposal put forth by the latter. The idea is to extend the operation of the train lines by two hours to 2 a.m. on a test basis on Friday and Saturday nights for two months. «ISAP has already replied and is reluctant. They believe it will increase their deficits. We are waiting for a response from AMEL (the metro operator),» said Hatzidakis after a meeting with Kaklamanis. Sources said AMEL gave an initial positive response to the proposal. Athens Municipality officials have put forth the idea in the past as nighttime traffic in the city is often as bad as daytime conditions. Money owed by urban transport organizations is expected to reach almost 490 million euros by the end of the year. Seperate debts owed by the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) are seen as reaching 1.1 billion euros by the end of the year. The expanding metro network has been gaining the support of Athens commuters. According to AMEL figures, the addition of the new station in Aegaleo, western Athens, has resulted in 80,000 more commuters using the metro, bringing the total number of its passengers to 680,000 per day. AMEL officials also pointed out the growing use by commuters of the Kerameikos station, surrounded by restaurants and bars, during the evening hours. The transport minister also confirmed yesterday there will be a fare hike but gave no further details. «We have not reached a decision. This relates to the government in general and, of course, the Finance Ministry,» said Hatzidakis. Sources told Kathimerini earlier this week that the cost of public transport is set to rise by about 10 percent early next year.