Greece’s High-Speed Trains from Italy Stuck in Bureaucratic Slow Lane

ATHENS – The process to get high speed trains operating from Athens to Greece’s second-largest city of Thessaloniki, a key northern port, is taking even longer than the train now takes to get between them.

The fourth train of Italian rail operator Trainose’s high-speed trains on its way to Greece from Italy but, like three others that arrived, isn’t in operation after delays because the Hellenic Railway Regulatory Authority (RAS) hasn’t certified them.

At the request of the rail regulator, the undercarriages of the trains were recently fitted with mechanisms to clear sand and snow, used to improve traction, and certification is expected to be completed early in March, said Kathimerini.

The Pendolino ETR 470 will travel at a speed of up to 160 kilometers (100 miles) per hour, which is considered high speed in Greece which lags far behind other European Union countries in fast, high quality rail connections.

In November, 2i020, RAS said it wanted more time to evaluate the application from the Italian company operating them without explaining why, Greece’s bureaucracy slower to grind than train wheels.

RAS said it wanted to review the plan from Trenitalia application for certification of the ETR 470 trains it planned to introduce to the Greek network in January 2022, a year after they were due to start running – now pushed back again.

The problem began in the summer of 2021 with the sand dispersing devices Trenitalia is obliged under Greek railway regulations to use, and apparently forgot to do so, the paper said, the company not explaining the oversight.

RAS said then it needed more time to look over the application and said it would take until at least March 1, 2022 to read the papers without explaining why it would take that long after already having so much time.

The first upgraded Alstom Avelia Pendolino ETR470 high-speed train arrived in Thessaloniki in January 2021, the first of five trains called White Arrows which are still in the quiver and were due to start running in March.

They will, when and if they ever run, cut the time from four to three hours between the country’s two largest cities on a popular route but it’s been a long saga complicated by the frustrating bureaucracy.

“Starting high-speed service in Greece with these upgraded Alstom trains is part of our strategy to offer an improved passenger experience, better quality services and reduced travel time on a very popular route,”Filippos Tsalidis, CEO of TrainOSE said then.

“The upgrade of our Thessaloniki depot as part of this project will turn our depots into some of the most modern and high-tech depots in South-East Europe,” he said but it hasn’t happened yet.



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