Ministry, workers clash on late rides

Commuters were left standing on Athens train platforms late yesterday awaiting news about whether the planned launch of the metro’s extra hours will go ahead, as a battle between the Transport Ministry and workers continued. A recent Transport Ministry decision to extend metro and Athens-Piraeus Electric Railway (ISAP) train routes by two hours until around 2 a.m. on weekends has been opposed by workers, who claim the decision will result in less time for maintenance work, posing a safety risk. On the other hand, the government says the move has been thoroughly looked into and will serve Friday and Saturday night commuters in a bid to help ease the city’s serious traffic problems. Transport Minister Costis Hatzidakis said the decision had been made to start the extra routes and that he was surprised by the union’s decision. «We are ready and the management is ready after talks with workers,» he said. «Besides, it is not the first time this measure is being implemented. As you know, it was implemented during the Olympic Games and on occasions when we had snowfall.» Ministry officials asked a court to rule whether the strike is an abuse of power on the grounds that workers did not give four days’ advance notice of the protest action, as dictated by law. Workers said they will not work the extra two-hour period regardless of the court decision. Late yesterday there was no news of a ruling.