Commuters could soon be enjoying a smoother-running Athens metro system after the government announced yesterday that the subway’s operating company, AMEL, and the public firm that runs the Kifissia-Piraeus electric railway (ISAP) will merge at an administrative level. The move is designed to limit costs but also to provide better management of the three lines for which the two companies are responsible. Sources said that the government hopes ultimately to merge the two firms, as well as the tram operator, into one but there are a number of bureaucratic hurdles to overcome before that can be achieved. In the short term, the merger will allow better coordination of timetables between the metro and the electric railway, which intersect at three central Athens stations: Monastiraki, Omonia and Attiki. Currently, passengers using ISAP to get to a metro station on weekday evenings often face a long wait once they change over, or miss the last metro train because of the lack of synchronization between the two subway lines and the electric railway. Also, ISAP runs for about half an hour longer than the metro on Monday night through Thursday night. On Friday and Saturday, all the lines run until just past 2 a.m. Currently, AMEL is only responsible for the operation of the Athens metro. It is a public firm that is run according to private company rules. Another public firm, Attiko Metro, is responsible for the system’s infrastructure. In contrast, ISAP is a fully fledged public firm, whose employees are essentially civil servants. This factor, as well as the fact that the metro has only been running 10 years whereas there are ISAP employees that have been with the company for more than 30 years, means that the companies have two completely different wage structures and working environments. At the moment, this is a barrier to the full integration of the two companies, although Transport Ministry sources said it is possible that a new structure will be created for any new hirings, which would eventually allow AMEL and ISAP to become one company.