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Greek railways: great opportunities and a major restructuring plan ahead

Newsroom Ypodomes.com

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The railway in Greece is a means of transportation that you can use to travel. However, it “lags” far behind the other two basic means: car and airplane. Although billions of euros have been spent to date, the part of the Greek railway network that can be described as modern is small.

A double line from Aigio to Kiato, a double line with electric movement from Kiato to the Airport and from Piraeus to Thessaloniki. A single line with electric drive on the line up to Chalkida and in the next period we expect the operation of the electric drive on the single line Thessaloniki-Eidomeni.

This is where the term “modern” ends. There are other lines in operation, but they need to be upgraded. Mainly on the lines Paleofarsalos-Kalampaka and Larissa-Volos. Interventions have also been made on the Patra-Kato Achagia line, but as factors in the railway market note, this is a rather unsafe line as both the characteristics of the line and the absence of ASIDs create problems in operation.

The line from Thessaloniki to Alexandroupolis operates in “the era of the 19th century” as it takes almost 8.5 hours for a railway service. The line from Thessaloniki to Florina also operates at relatively low speeds.

Greece currently operates one of the smallest railway networks in Europe, in proportion to its size and population. It also has lines that were interrupted during the crisis, from Patras to Kalamata and from Korinthos to Kalamata which also created large gaps in the network. The suspension of the line from Kiato to Patras, which isolated the third largest city in the country by rail, proved to be a tragic mistake. Unprecedented for European data and with great consequences for the transport of the region.

As for the main railway stations of the country (Athens-Thessaloniki-Larissa), their image is inferior to the value, history and role they have to play in our railway history.

With the highways in the country being largely completed, it is time to give the necessary space to the railway. In the European Union, railway projects are currently the infrastructure projects, that are mostly funded and the largest projects across Europe that we see being implemented.

The completion of the main railway corridor that connects Athens and Thessaloniki, gives a great opportunity to see new railway projects. We are obviously in the decade of the railways but we need to accelerate and further support the means of transport.

Projects

A series of ERGOSE projects that are secured by the NSRF are in the process of implementation. The electric drive in Kiato-Aigio is going to be signed, while the electric drive in Larissa-Volos, the signaling in Thessaloniki-Eidomeni and the project for the completion of the new double electric line Aigio-Rio are being auctioned. Along with the second phase project of the central station of Athens. The electric movement on the line Thessaloniki-Serres-Promachonas is also planned.

Also the projects for the connection of Patras, extensions of the Suburban Railway to Rafina and Lavrio, and the foundations are laid for the very large project for the new improved line from Thessaloniki to Kavala and Xanthi are planned. These are very large projects that together with the planned redevelopment of the secondary line Alexandroupoli-Ormenio will be the next railway gambles.

All of the above are projects, that have been announced, are estimated by market participants to further stimulate rail traffic upon completion. On the Athens-Thessaloniki line in 2019, (with electric drive 8 out of 12 months) a decade record was set.

This means that the key component, the passengers -as soon as they have a modern service- will respond. The same happened with the freight routes in 2019. If it seems that the market responds to the investments of the State, then they must continue and expand.

Railway projects, as difficult and complex as they are, are a vital part of the country’s combined transport and a means that is -now- environmentally friendly.

The hurdles

The last decade in the railway, with the beginning of the crisis, exposed the great structural problems it has and led it to a gradual devaluation. If the promising restart of the medium in 2019 continues, there is a reasonable hope that trains will be able to compete on equal terms with other modes of transport.

Under the European Commission’s directives, the government has a roadmap for the restructuring of OSE and ERGOSE until 2022, which aims to amend any wrong and restore their functionality and effectiveness.

The plan is expected to be implemented in three phases: By the end of May 2021, the framework for institutional and administrative restructuring of the railway companies will be formed. By October 2021, the adoption of the action plan for the reorganization of the state railway infrastructure companies, including the new project production mechanism, is foreseen, and finally, by December 2021, the implementation of the OSE-ERGOSE transformation plan is foreseen.

In this environment, a Coordinating Committee was set up under the Secretary General of Infrastructure, George Karagiannis and the first inaugural meeting has already taken place. A joint working group will work for this purpose and will be consisted by: the advisor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, representatives of the Commission (DG Regio-DG Reform), the Managing Directors of OSE and ERGOSE, the head of YME-PERAA and will be supported by a Technical Consultant.

The ultimate goals of the Coordinating Committee are:

-Finalization of the projects by OSE-ERGOSE that are mature until 2023 to receive direct European funding
-The formation of the list of projects that are required to mature, in accordance with the strategies in the field of transport at national and European level, for their inclusion in possible funding from the NSRF 2021-2027, CEF II, and Recovery Fund
-Drafting the basic guidelines for the reorganization of OSE-ERGOSE including the timetable for the implementation of the reorganization.

The main message is that the countdown for the giant, that is called Greek Railway, to stand on its own two feet has already begun. After all, its results will soon be seen.

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