More hours, smart cards for metro

A two-month pilot program to try out an extended timetable for the metro and Kifissia-Piraeus electric railway will begin in February and smart cards will be introduced on Athens’s public transport system next year66, it was revealed yesterday. Transport Minister Costis Hatzidakis said that the metro and railway would run until 2 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays throughout February and March as authorities examine the possibility of introducing longer hours for both public transport systems on a permanent basis. The metro and electric railway currently stop running shortly after midnight. Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis has pushed for the move but operators are skeptical as they fear the extended hours would cut maintenance time and increase costs for the firms. Longer hours, however, could help convince more Athenians to use the metro and other forms of public transport. The Transport Ministry estimates that some 790 million journeys will be made by public transport this year compared to 760 million last year. The small rise is a disappointment for the government, which had been aiming for half of the capital’s 6.7 million daily journeys to be conducted by public transport by next year. Currently only 43 percent are conducted by public transport. From next year, commuters will be able to use an electronic smart card for their journeys rather than the current paper tickets. They will be able to top up the smart card with credit, which will be automatically collected by electronic sensors at the entrances and exits to the stations. The new cards will initially be introduced on the metro, tram and electric railway before being extended to other modes of public transport. The system is also expected to help tackle fare dodgers, who are thought to cost the system some 18 million euros every year. An alarm will sound if people attempt to pass ticket barriers without a card. Hatzidakis also said that six more kilometers of bus lanes would be added in Kallithea, Neo Faliron, Peristeri, central Athens and Halandri. There is currently a total of 49 kilometers of designated bus lanes.