ATHENS -- Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visited the OSY public bus company's depot on Friday, in order to talk to the employees, on the occasion of the receipt of 40 additional leased buses that will now join the company's fleet. The new buses are part of a broader plan for a radical upgrade of public tranport in the city that is already underway, with 450 new buses already operating in the capital and a doubling of the fleet in Thessaloniki.
"We said from the first moment that we want to support the means of public transport, primarily the buses of Athens and Thessaloniki. It was our commitment before the coronavirus hit. This need has become even more urgent due to the coronavirus and we are acting our commitment with rapid steps," the prime minister said while talking to drivers, adding that "we will continue in the direction of the commitment we have undertaken".
The buses that joined the OSY fleet on Friday were placed on the most heavily used lines and are part of the 300 vehicles that, through a leasing programme, support the fleet of public transport buses in Attica with weekly deliveries.
The new buses "will go into circulation today on the streets of Athens, on the busiest lines, in order to reduce congestion where it is observed. Because it is important to say that overcrowding is not seen everywhere - you know that, after all. There is overcrowding on some lines, which must be supported in the first phase," the prime minister said.
According to government sources, leasing is only one aspect of the broader plan to strengthen urban public transport, which in 2019 had already gone through more than a decade of disinvestment, during which not a single person was hired for the metro or bus services, and not a single vehicle was purchased to renew the fleet.
Under the plan, the fleet of buses in Athens was strengthened by 450 vehicles and currently numbers 1,300 vehicles. According to sources, this has had a tangible impact on people's daily lives, as bus services increased by about 23 pct, from 14,200 in 2019 to 17,500 itineraries today.
In addition to leasing, 200 buses were added following a partnership with KTEL and dozens more were added to the buses in service thanks to the reorganisation and repair of vehicles, as the spending on repairs and maintenance of the fleet has more than tripled compared to 2019.
"I want you to know that we made the impossible, possible. It is not an easy task to find buses at this time, let alone used buses from leasing, there are no such buses in the European market. A huge effort has been made by the ministry and the administration to find these buses. And, in any case, 500 new buses in 18 months is not a small project," Mitsotakis underlined.