On track for longer metro hours

A two-month pilot scheme that will see trains on the metro system and the Kifissia-Piraeus electric railway run until late at weekends is set to go ahead next year despite concerns on the part of the companies and workers involved, sources said yesterday. The scheme, due to start in February, means trains will run until 2 o’clock on Saturday and Sunday mornings in a bid to offer Athenians an alternative to getting to and from their nighttime entertainment. The Transport Ministry and the City of Athens have been in favor of the move as they see it as an obvious way to increase passenger numbers on lines 2 and 3 of the metro, which first opened to commuters seven years ago. However, AMEL, the firm that operates the Athens metro, fears that the extended timetable could harm the overall maintenance of the system as the time available for repair work to be carried out would be reduced by 14 percent. Public transport workers have also expressed concern that the safety of passengers may be put at risk if the trains run for longer hours. Itineraries on the metro system and the electric railway currently stop shortly after midnight. AMEL estimates that the longer timetable will cost the company an extra 300,000 euros a month. Two-thirds of this cost will be due to staff overtime. In other words, AMEL says it will have to pay 12,500 euros for each hour of overtime. It has also advised the government that if the pilot scheme is made a permanent fixture, an additional 45 technicians will have to be hired. The permanent extension of the timetable will depend on the success of the pilot scheme, as there is no clear indication whether Athenians will use the extra trains in great numbers. For example, only 200 to 300 people use late-night buses, which run in Athens from 12.30 a.m. to 4.30 a.m. at the weekend.