Trans­port at mercy of van­dals

Gov’t ef­forts to tackle fare-dodg­ing with new tech­nol­ogy faced with at­tacks at train sta­tions and on buses

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

On­go­ing ef­forts to crack down on fare dodgers on the public trans­port sys­tem with the in­tro­duc­tion of elec­tronic sys­tems are be­ing un­der­cut by van­dals at­tack­ing ticket val­i­da­tion ma­chines in buses and newly-in­stalled bar­ri­ers at metro and train sta­tions on an al­most daily ba­sis.

There have also been in­ci­dents in which ticket in­spec­tors were phys­i­cally as­saulted by groups of young men – the usual cul­prits in th­ese van­dal­ism sprees – putting more pres­sure on au­thor­i­ties who have al­ready been ac­cused of lack­ing the will to pro­tect public prop­erty or of out­right in­com­pe­tence.

Ac­cord­ing to re­cent data, 127 ma­chines (80 new ticket val­i­dat­ing ma­chines, 41 ticket bar­ri­ers and six ticket dis­pensers) have been de­stroyed in Athens since au­thor­i­ties started to in­stall the new sys­tems last sum­mer – 42 were de­stroyed in the last 16 days alone.

Ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates last sum­mer, fare­dodg­ing costs the public trans­port sys­tem be­tween 40 and 60 mil­lion eu­ros per year.

The In­fra­struc­ture Min­istry and the Athens Ur­ban Trans­port Or­ga­ni­za­tion (OASA) have so far lim­ited them­selves to blam­ing the po­lice for not do­ing enough to stop van­dals.

In re­sponse to a bar­rage of in­ci­dents last March, po­lice had dis­patched mo­tor­cy­cle units to pa­trol metro and elec­tric rail (ISAP) sta­tions. The mea­sure did lead to a drop in at­tacks at sta­tions, but those on buses spiked, send­ing au­thor­i­ties back to the draw­ing board, where they de­vised a new plan that went into ef­fect last Mon­day to take a firmer stance to­wards of­fend­ers.

“Tack­ling the is­sue re­mains our num­ber one pri­or­ity,” a high-rank­ing po­lice of­fi­cial who de­clined to be named said, while sources told Kathimerini that, in re­cent days, some 200 plain-clothed po­lice­men have hit the streets on the look­out for van­dals.

How­ever, there were more in­ci­dents on Wed­nes­day night, when four ticket val­i­da­tion ma­chines were dam­aged on buses in cen­tral Athens. The first ma­chine was dam­aged by two in­di­vid­u­als who hopped on bus num­ber 021 at Kanin­gos Square head­ing for the dis­trict of Gyzi. A few min­utes later in Galatsi, four in­di­vid­u­als got on bus num­ber 054 and smashed three ma­chines with ham­mers. An­other bus at­tack also re­port­edly took place in Ilion, north­west Athens, on the same night.

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