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Italian FS first anniversary in the Greek railway market – The story so far

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Exactly one year ago, on the island of Corfu, the state-owned TRAINOSE was acquired by Ferrovie Dello Stato Italiane, Italy’s national railway carrier. The truth is that during these first 12 months, we haven’t seen much, in terms of railway services.

Trains haven’t changed yet, journey times between Athens and Thessaloniki have slightly improved, but the general impression is that still nothing has changed considerably.

What has changed is the projects’ map. Over the past year, electrification works for the entirety of Athens Suburban Railway network have been completed and the 54-km Tithorea – Lianokladi section was also released to operation.

The BoD also changed, with Mr. Filippos Tsalidis remaining in the position of Managing Director while Italian senior executives showed up, experiencing a shock, in several cases, with the level of the existing infrastructure and operational ability.

Regarding rail services, these first 12 months could also be described as an “adjustment year”, of a state-owned company becoming a private, for profit business. This, alone, is a difficult process which essentially concerns a change of philosophy.

However, before the completion of the upgrade on the last section of Athens – Thessaloniki railway axis, big differences were not really expected for passenger services, such as the advent of new trains that have, finally, been transferred for the second half of 2019.

Journey time was reduced, from an exhausting 7 hours in 2017, to 6 hours in 2018, but if time distance doesn’t drop near the promised 4 hours (or even less), it will be hard for the train to attract passenger traffic, even though it is much more comfortable compared to intercity buses and aeroplanes.

What we didn’t see in the past year, was the anticipated frequency increase of Athens Suburban Railway’s itineraries, making it vague if additional trains will be used or not and how Athens network will be managed in general. 

However, during Thessaloniki International Fair 2018, TRAINOSE gave journalists a first taste of the new rolling stock that will be used on Athens – Thessaloniki corridor, the 20-year-old Pendolino, that reached a maximum speed of 213 km/h during its maiden, “demo” trip from Thessaloniki to Katerini and back. The choice of train by the Italian company, though, raised concerns about the possibilty of making Greece a “depot” of Italy’s old rolling stock. 

On the contrary, a promising message by the company was the recent announcement for the recruitment of 60 new train drivers as well as new administrative and scientific staff after almost 14 years(!). On a business level, the acquisition of HCRSM by TRAINOSE, is still underway with the company being declared as the preferred investor.

Apart from the completion of Athens – Thessaloniki section, which will allow Pendolino trains to run on the Greek network, reducing time distance between the 2 cities in just 3 hours and 20 minutes, 2019 will also bring the completion of Kiato – Rododafni railway section in Northern Peloponnese, up to Eghio town.

After one year, TRAINOSE is still on its grace period and many changes are being expected regarding both passenger and freight transportation services. Finally, we are waiting for TRAINOSE’s revised business plan as well as more specifications regarding the € 500mln-euro investments that will be implemented by FS.

 

Nikos Karagiannis-ypodomes.com

Follow Nikos Karagiannis on Twitter and Linkedin

 

 

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