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Greece can’t get crowding in public transport means under control despite the pandemic

The Greek government efforts to find solutions to the crowding of commuters in public transport means in Athens has so far turned into a fiasco. The Transportation Ministry has been delaying measures to strengthen the bus network in the Greek capital of 4 million inhabitants, the daily coronavirus cases are over 200 in Athens and people keep crowding in public transport means that are not enough to cover the daily needs.

Waking up from prolonged summer vacations,the Transport Ministry finally put in circulation on Thursday, October 1,  a few additional buses that were leased from the KTEL intercity bus companies that operate in the province.

Result: The Buses have neither electronic ticket devices nor telematic equipment and the drivers who came together with the buses form the province do not know the routes in Athens suburbs or the bus stops.

The shortcomings are reportedly attributed to the fact that the plan to strengthen bus services was essentially accelerated by a month due to the crowded images on buses that were observed daily during the pandemic and thus in Attica, where the daily confirmed cases have been 3-digited for the last couple of weeks.

Commuters in several routes spoke of a fiasco saying that the drivers had not yet learned the routes and the bus stops.

Media reported of passengers telling KTEL bus drivers which street they have to drive in, where to turn and where to stop.

Of course, it is not a fault of the bus drivers from the province but of governing authorities that did not channeled the  measures in time

The Ministry of Transport has chosen October 1 for the deployment of the KTEL buses, the day where the winter schedule resumes.

Accordion to media information, the annual cost to strengthen 60 bus lines in Athens can exceed 25 million euros.

Main opposition SYRIZA denounced that the New Democracy government has canceled a tender for the supply of 750 new and modern buses for Athens and Thessaloniki and that four months after the lockdown was lifted, ND did not use the time to adjust public transport to the coronavirus era.

Due to the pandemic rules, buses are supposed to carry 50% of their capacity.

However, as buses come every half an hour, no wonder that commuters are crowding inside the only and only bus they happen to catch.

Last week, the officials from Transportation Ministry told media that 200 buses would be added to the fleet, as well as another 300 via leasing,” in cooperation with the KTEL companies.

The 200 buses would be added immediately and the 300 additional vehicles before the end of the year.

Α few days later, Transportation Ministry Costa Karamanlis said that 10 of the 200 buses would start on Thursday (October 1) and the rest of them by the end of October.

The situation remains grim. A report on a bus in Kypseli district of Athens, the camera of Open TV showed the reality: Crowded passengers like sardines in a small tin box, no empty seats (for commuters’ safety), no space to step your foot, no space to avoid close contacts with others. Only “weapon” for people’s protection is the face mask.

The average bus has 50 seats and space of another 50 standing passengers.

Th problem of crowded commuters does not occur only in buses but also in trolley buses, trains and the metro, especially at peak hours.

And yet, on the same day, the Transportation Minister claimed that at peak hours, occupancy in the buses is below 65% in 95% of the vehicles.
Can the problem of crowding in public buses amid the pandemic be solved with such temporary solutions? Hardly. What has the Transportation Ministry had being doing all these months, between lockdown lifting in May and September?  Probably the same as the education and health ministries. They either believed that Greece had won the pandemic or they knew that the government had no intention to invest in these three crucial sectors pf public life.

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