New face of the transport network

Extension of the metro network, return of the tram, inauguration of the suburban railway system, new bus routes, longer hours of service. Whine as we may about the temporary trouble caused by infrastructure projects, we must admit that the capital’s public transport network has undergone a radical overhaul. The August Olympic Games are expected to worsen road traffic throughout the capital, forcing Athenians into a greater familiarity with public transport. Greece’s officials should try to exploit this unique conjuncture to inject commuters with a new transport mentality. Most of the weight inevitably falls with the government and its responsible ministers. Calls for a reduction in car use – permanently that is, and not just during the Games – are doomed to fall through if they are not backed by a reliable, cheap and wide-ranging public transport system. The infrastructure – the new trains, buses, trams and so on – leaves nothing to be desired. Tickets are set at very modest prices – except for the excessively priced 8-euro ticket on the airport-bound suburban railway and metro, when the price of the similar bus route is under 3 euros. In a big city that never sleeps like Athens, it is incomprehensible that the last ISAP train from Omonia to Kifissia leaves at 11.30 p.m. Most buses and metros (depending on the station) come to a halt at the same time. Service hours, however, can easily be revised, following the very good example set by the tram’s 24-hour service. If we include the monthly passes (unlimited rides) and the sections of the suburban railway system that are part of the urban network (especially the Neratziotissa-Plakentias line which will connect ISAP to the metro, a link which is expected to facilitate movement in the northern suburbs), the State will have created a truly up-to-date, cheap and fast public transport network worthy of a 21st century country. Only then will citizens be motivated to quit their private vehicles and use public transport instead. This is a golden opportunity that should not be wasted.