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Athens International Airport gains rise March 27, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy, Transport Air Sea Land.
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Athens International Airport, Greece’s busiest, said pretax profit surged 33 percent last year as its terminals handled record traffic.

Pretax profit rose to 125.7 million euros from 94.6 million euros a year earlier, the company said in a faxed statement today.

Passenger numbers rose 10 percent to 16.5 million travelers as airlines added flights and more people took vacations in Greece.

The airport, majority-owned by the Greek state and managed by German construction company Hochtief AG, may sell shares to the public under a government asset-disposal plan.


Traffic prompts toll thoughts March 19, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Transport Air Sea Land.
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A metro and Kifissia-Piraeus electric railway strike yesterday added between 200,000 and 300,000 cars to Athens’s streets as Transport Minister Costis Hatzidakis suggested that the government is considering introducing congestion charging in the city center.

Almost 3 million passenger journeys are made on the public transport network in Athens each day but 4.5 million trips are carried out by car. This number shot up yesterday as thousands of Athenians had little choice but to use their cars, since a sizable chunk of the public transport system was out of operation. With up to 300,000 more cars on the road, traffic in the city center, on main arteries in and outside Athens and side streets normally used as short cuts was particularly heavy.

“It makes you realize how important public transport is, especially the trains and tram, for the smooth functioning of the city, even though the proportion of journeys made via these modes remains low,” Yiannis Handanos, the head of the Greek Institute of Transport Engineers, said.

The government has flirted with the idea of introducing a toll system in central Athens, similar to the congestion charging schemes applied in other European cities such as London, Stockholm, Berlin and Cologne, to curb traffic on a regular basis, not just when there are public transport strikes.

Hatzidakis said yesterday that he could not rule out such a system being introduced. “The Transport Ministry… wrote to the European Commission yesterday with regard to this particular matter, saying that it could not be ruled out as a thought,” said the Minister. “Before we reach that point, though, we will have to do our research. We will certainly have to strengthen and modernize the fleet of trains.”

Hatzidakis said that transport engineers argue that a city such as Athens should have some 150 train and metro stations. Athens currently has 58 and the Minister said congestion charging could not be introduced before this figure increases.

Coastal shipping fares to rise March 19, 2008

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Coastal shipping fares to rise by 8 percent on regulated routes

Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis announced an 8 percent increase in fares on regulated coastal shipping routes, those subsidized by the state and those where fare liberalization does not apply for lack of competition.

The increase, based on inflation, will be effective from May 1 and is the first hike since May 27, 2005, when it was 6.8 percent. From now on fares will be adjusted every year on May 1, based on the consumer price index of the previous January-December period, the Minister has decided.

Greek government’s vehicle-leasing plan March 17, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Business & Economy, Transport Air Sea Land.
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The Greek government expects to save millions of euros by selling its current fleet of vehicles, and replacing it with a new fleet under leasing contracts.

Finance Ministry officials are to follow the lead of Parliament, which has introduced a program under which MPs have already been given leased cars. A scheme for the replacement of conventional technology cars with new, greener vehicles has been worked out by Economy and Finance Deputy Minister Nikolaos Legas.

The move is envisaged to cut excessive state spending, i.e. wasted tax-payers’ money, on maintenance and fuel, as well as on certain “costly irregularities.” Interestingly, the 2008 state budget earmarks 8.8 million euro under the heading of maintenance and repair of state-use land transport means, in addition to 35.4 million for procurement of spare parts. The above amounts do not include insurance outlays.

Rather more complicated is the issue of police car insurance, on account of the special specifications and use of such vehicles under tough conditions. Car companies offering such leasing solutions would also help the state save on service and maintenance, tires, insurance premiums and road tax. For spare parts alone, the Greek police currently spend an annual 11.5 million.

Some special-purpose army vehicles and fire-engines are to be excluded from the leasing solution. The existing state fleet is to be auctioned by the Public Property Management Organization (ODDY). Ministry officials say that the leasing solution would also help cut fuel and lubricant costs, currently standing at 225 million annually.

Finance Ministry inspection services have also found extensive unlawful use of state fuel, estimated to be costing the state some 60 million each year. To prevent state fuel from being unlawfully pumped into private vehicles, the Ministry plans to install pump nozzles of a different size that will not fit in the tanks of private cars. Officials say this would make it impossible for private vehicles to be supplied with fuel from state stations.

European countries have also been facing similar problems with fuel misappropriation, but have recently managed to cut the phenomenon by as much as 30 percent. How? Simply by utilizing advanced technology. In Greece, too, special microchips are to be placed not only in pump nozzles but also in the gas tanks of state vehicles, in an effort to curb the unlawful supply of private vehicles with state fuel and keep track of the fuel used by state vehicles.

All aboard the night trains March 14, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Transport Air Sea Land.
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A strike by Athens metro and Kifissia-Piraeus electric railway (ISAP) workers yesterday prevented commuters from using trains but a recent pilot scheme that has led to the service being extended on Friday and Saturday nights has proved a resounding success, according to new figures.

On Saturday night, some 21,000 people used the metro and electric railway during the extended two hours of service, from about midnight to just after 2 a.m.

The two-month pilot scheme began on February 8 and its success has encouraged the Transport Ministry to consider making it a permanent feature of the weekend timetable.

Syntagma metro station is the most popular with commuters on weekend nights, some 4,000 people pass through the station after midnight on Friday and Saturday. About 8,000 people ride on the electric railway during the extra two-hour period each weekend night.

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Commuters take to night train March 8, 2008

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A pilot scheme to keep trains on the metro system and the Kifissia-Piraeus electric railway (ISAP) running until late has attracted stronger-than-expected interest from nighttime commuters, raising hopes the measure may be extended on a permanent basis.

The scheme involves trains running until 2 o’clock on Saturday and Sunday mornings, rather than finishing at midnight, in a bid to offer Athenians an alternative to getting to and from their nighttime entertainment.

Initial figures show that an additional 11,500 passengers have been using the metro line thanks to the longer hours, well above initial forecasts of an extra 3,000 to 4,000 passengers. ISAP passengers have also taken warmly to the measure, with 7,000 more passengers using the electric railway.

The Transport Ministry and the City of Athens are in favor of the move as they see it as an obvious way to increase passenger numbers on lines 2 and 3 of the metro, which first opened to commuters seven years ago. AMEL, the firm that operates the Athens metro, estimates that the longer timetable will cost the company an additional 300,000 euros a month. Two-thirds of this cost will be for staff overtime.

Athenians have been slow in switching to public transport, as many still opt for their own car despite the city’s massive traffic problems.

Figures released recently show there were 35 million more passenger journeys on the city’s entire public transport network last year, compared to 2006, but this figure is considered to be a disappointingly low increase by many experts. Last year also saw increased use of the tram network.

Some 16 million passengers used the two tram lines last year, compared to just 3.2 million in 2004, when the service was inaugurated. The Athens-Piraeus Electric Railway (ISAP) saw perhaps the most impressive rise, as 8.2 million more journeys were made compared to 2006.

However, the bedrock of the public transport system, the ETHEL buses, recorded hardly any rise in commuter figures. Just over 360 million journeys were made by bus in Athens last year, which represents 51 percent of the city’s public transport network usage. 

Carnival season’s holiday travel March 8, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News, Transport Air Sea Land.
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Traffic clogs roads as Athenians abandon capital for long weekend

Ferries departing from Piraeus were almost fully booked and traffic on the country’s national highways picked up yesterday as holidaymakers abandoned the capital for the long weekend, authorities said.

Planes leaving Athens International Airport (AIA) for domestic destinations were 84% booked while an extra 380 bus routes were scheduled yesterday and today to help meet the extra demand. Authorities increased traffic supervision of the country’s national highways as of yesterday afternoon by increasing patrols and using a police helicopter. Monday, Clean Monday or Kathara Deftera in Greek, is a public holiday in Greece, marking the end of the Carnival season.