A few days ago the Greek train operator OSE announced that it will take drastic measures in the coming year to deal with ongoing deficits (just one aspect, of course, of Greece's difficult economic situation).
The full announcement is here, in Greek only. With the help of Google Translate and the Man in Seat 61, the following key points stand out:
- All international routes from Greece will be "temporarily" suspended from 1st January 2011. That means no trains from Thessaloniki to Skopje/Belgrade, Sofia/Bucharest, or Istanbul.
- Some domestic routes will also be suspended, especially in the Peloponnese region.
- Some ticket prices will be increased where they are currently cheaper than bus fares, but discounts will be introduced to encourage early ticket purchase.
- A few connecting bus services will be introduced to link cities to the surviving rail network, for example Ioannina to Kalampaka.
The withdrawal of international services is particularly sad news for independent travellers in the Balkans. Nobody seems to be holding out much hope that the so-called "temporary" nature of the measure will mean any resumption of services in the foreseeable future. It seems the best we can hope for is that bus services improve to take up the slack - especially between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia, where public transport links were poor even before this announcement.
I will post updates here if I receive any further updates about alternative means of transport. In the meantime, please bear in mind that quite a few pages within this website have been made obsolete by this announcement and it will take me some time to update them.
As mentioned above, the announcement referred to international services being suspended on January 1st. However I'm told that international trains are still running. And the websites of rail operators in neighbouring countries, who would obviously be affected by these measures, do not appear to have any information about changes to international services. It's not clear to me if the suspension has been temporarily deferred or abandoned. If anyone reading this can clarify the issue it would be great if you could post a comment here or contact me.
It appears that the suspension has indeed taken place - see my updated post.