The Athens metro is one of the cleanest, safest, cheapest, fastest and most punctual subway systems anywhere in the world. It is a precision timepiece in a country full of malfunctioning cuckoo clocks.
Used by about 650,000 passengers a day and accommodating more than 400 million rides a year, it is the 31st busiest metro system internationally and one of the few shining legacies of the 2004 Olympics. The ability of the Athens metro to operate so smoothly below ground when there is such inefficiency above ground should be a source of fascination.
Such philosophical musings have been set aside for the time being, though, as the metro has become the battleground between striking employees and a government intent on reducing their wages as it creates a single pay structure for public sector employees. Stuck in the middle of this dispute are thousands of commuters: people who have lost their jobs over the last few years as well as others with jobs but whose wages have been slashed.
Posted in Economy, Greece
Tagged Athens metro, Athens public transport, Fare dodging, Greece, Greek public sector, Greek strikes, Greek unions, reforms, State subsidies, Strike
Illustration by Manos Symeonakis
As far as cringeworthy moments go, it was right up there: Prime Minister George Papandreou being given a standing ovation by his Cabinet last Friday, just a few hours after the eurozone agreed on a new support package for Greece. That’s not to say that Papandreou — or indeed Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos — doesn’t deserve some credit for the energy and purpose he brought to those marathon negotiations, but with everything still at stake and so many questions about the deal unanswered, a triumphant welcome for a conquering hero hardly seems appropriate.
To be fair, Papandreou tried to play down his moment of glory last Friday — and continued to do so over the ensuing days — by arguing that securing the second package, worth 159 billion euros, had been a “success that belongs to all Greeks.” Nevertheless, painting the deal as a success at a time when the effects of the debt crisis are being felt far and wide and when the worst is still to come seems not just premature but immature. Greece is still tiptoeing along the precipice — it’s no time to break out into song and dance.
Posted in Economy, Greece
Tagged Athens electric railway, Athens International Airport, Athens metro, Attiki Odos, eurozone, George Papandreou, Greece, Greek crisis, Greek debt crisis, Greek exports, Greek imports