Use of public transport disappoints

The number of journeys conducted on the Athens metro increased by more than 11 million last year but it was one of the city’s few modes of public transport to enjoy significant higher activity last year. In official figures released yesterday, there were 35 million more passenger journeys on the entire public transport network last year, compared to 2006, but this figure is considered to be a disappointingly low increase by many experts. Last year also saw an increased use of the tram network. Some 16 million passengers used its two lines last year in comparison to just 3.2 million people who used it in 2004, when it was inaugurated in the summer of that year. The Athens-Piraeus Electric Railway (ISAP) saw perhaps the most impressive rise, as 8.2 million more journeys were carried out than in 2006. The total number of passengers riding the trains last year reached 23 million. The frequency of electric railway trains was increased last year so that there is one train roughly every three minutes during peak hours. There was also a modest rise in usage of the Proastiakos suburban railway in 2007 with just over 750,000 extra passengers riding on the trains than a year earlier. However, the bedrock of the public transport system, the ETHEL buses, experienced hardly any rise in commuter activity. Just over 360 million journeys were conducted by bus in Athens last year, accounting for 51 percent of usage of the city’s public transport network. Another 81 million journeys were conducted by trolley bus last year – a slight rise on 2006 but still lower than the number of people using them in 2001. Transport authorities will be hoping that the extension of the metro, tram and electric railway over the next few years will help convince more Athenians to use the public transport system. A pilot scheme to extend the metro and electric railway timetable on weekends from next month could also have a positive impact.