NEWS

Change looms for state transport

An ambitious government plan to restructure loss-making public transport bodies, including the debt-plagued Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE), was the focus of a discussion yesterday chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos and including Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas and State Minister Haris Paboukis. The talks between the high-ranking ministers also touched on proposed reforms for the deregulation of Greece’s trucking sector but reportedly concentrated on much-vaunted plans to streamline OSE. Sources told Kathimerini that the government’s plan to restructure the railway organization, which is some 10 billion euros in debt, has been completed on paper. A draft bill outlining the reforms is expected to be submitted in Parliament over the coming weeks once it has received the Cabinet’s stamp of approval. The plan for OSE is expected to include the abolition of dozens of loss-making routes, most of these in the Peloponnese and northern Greece, the reallocation of hundreds of staff to other positions in the civil service and the forced retirement of hundreds more employees. The government also has been looking to secure a private investor to buy a 49 percent stake in TrainOSE, a former subsidiary of OSE that now handles the network’s itineraries. There have been reports of interest from a French investor but no confirmation of any offer. Meanwhile, there are reports of continued friction between the Transport and Economy ministries on the thorny issue of state subsidies for public transport routes. Transport officials insist that subsidies should be maintained while the Economy Ministry is reportedly pressing for the abolition of state-guaranteed loans. According to sources, there are also plans for mergers of public transport bodies with the aim of whittling down operating costs. It is thought however that such a plan would be difficult to implement as employee wages vary drastically from one organization to another.