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Economy

Greek Bureaucracy Puts High-Speed Trains in Slow Lane

ATHENS – A long-promised shorter trip between the Greek capital and the second-largest city of Thessaloniki in the north of the country is facing yet another delay, this time over the Hellenic Railway Authority (RAS) wanting more time to evaluate the application from the Italian company operating them.

RAS said it wants to review the plan from Trenitalia application for certification of the ETR 470 trains it plans to introduce to the Greek network in January 2022, a year after they were due to start running.

The problem began in the summer with the sand dispersing devices (used to improve traction) that Trenitalia is obliged under Greek railway regulations to place on its trains, and apparently forgot to do so, said Kathimerini, the company not explaining the oversight.

The latest extension request by the Italian company said it hoped to have all the documents in place by Dec. 31 but the prospect of faster trains in Greece has been a long-running saga, even after the Italians took over.

RAS said 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, 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 Greek 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”, said Filippos Tsalidis, CEO of TrainOSE at the time.

“Moreover, 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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