Greece's Slowpoke Railway System Getting First Speed Trains


The New Thessaloniki Railway Station. (Photo by Eurokinissi/ Antonis Nikolopoulos)

THESSALONIKI -- It’s been a long time coming but sufferers of Greece’s notoriously cranky and slow train system - that had improved under its Italian operator Trainose - will be able to see the countryside whoosh past with the arrival of the first high-speed trains.

The first of five state-of-the-art White Arrow trains will arrive in Thessaloniki from Italy on Jan. 18, the company said, but the first run - to Athens - won’t be until March 25, marking the 200th anniversary of independence from the Ottoman Occupation.

The country is trying to mark that date with a series of events this year unless the COVID-19 pandemic prevents gatherings, and is still pushing the British Museum to return the stolen Parthenon Marbles housed there, taken under Turkish rule.

Trainose’s CEO Professor Filippos Tsalidis said the new trains, which can reach speeds of 200 kilometers(125 miles) per hour, will be delivered gradually, after trials are conducted on the Greek railway network.

That could markedly reduce the travel time from 4 hours and 23 minutes, a tedious trip to people in a hurry, to 3 hours 15 minutes. Trainose train drivers have already been sent to Italy to be trained and return with the White Arrows.

The new trains will have nine carriages, one of which will be a restaurant and bar, and will have three first-class wagons and four economy wagons and have a capacity of 600 people with high-level services and amenities, said Kathimerini.

The cost is some 52 million euros ($63.2 million,) the Italian company continuing to upgrade a system that was woeful and a money-bleeder under public management for decades.