Athens to ThessalonikiBack to Forum
AnonymousGuest8 Sep 2013
Greek Railways (OSE) operates services between Athens and Thessaloniki every two hours, with a journey time of about 5 hours 30 minutes. Olympic and Aegean operate regular flights taking about 1 hour. A new rail line between the two cities is under construction, although on the day I travelled it appeared to have come to a halt.
I booked the one way ticket in A (1st) class online, price €39 with no extra charges, and printed. The booking site allowed seat selection and the layout in A was 3-across – it took me a while to suss out that it would be a compartment carriage – FK in our BR days. The next carriage (B class) was 2-1 followed by 3 B class carriages of 2-2. The 2-1 carriage turned out to be the buffet car, which had tables with lamps. The others were the common TSO layout of 4 seats around tables. Carriages were of the BR era and hauled by a diesel locomotive.
I arrived at Athens Larissa station at 1100 for my 1218 departure. The station is small and nondescript for such a large city, with only a cafe. However it did have free wi-fi throughout. On the platform I noticed a sign for the first class lounge. It was empty, with slashed leather seats and no facilities; I’ve seen better A/E departments. No need for a lounge dragon, there was nothing to guard.
The 1st class compartment looked modern with purple and lilac decor, and there were four of us. I had the window seat, facing backwards – the seating plan on the website showed the reverse layout, but I don’t mind rear facing. There was a small tray table for each window seat passenger. There was no power or wi-fi anywhere on board.
On departure the guard checked tickets and handed out what turned out to be a meal voucher. The meal, which was standard airline economy class fare, could be taken either at seat or in the buffet car.
The line north of Athens became single track and mountainous until we ground to a halt at the village of Domokos, the Carstairs of Greece with overhead wires and electric locomotives waiting to take over. The 10-minute stop for this allowed the whole train to disembark for the customary smoke. From here it was a much faster and smoother run to Larissa and finally Thessaloniki, where the station was a bit more as I would have expected.
Overall an experience with some pleasant scenery, but the current trains are not suited for business travel.8 Sep 2013
Just and no more I think, there was also construction work at the station and north of Athens which seemed to have ceased. The international trains from Thessaloniki to Istanbul and Sofia have been postponed indefinitely, so the man in seat 61 can only reach Athens by ferry from Italy, or bus from Sofia to Thessaloniki.
A nostalgic experience on BR-style locomotive-hauled carriages, you can keep your Voyagers and Turbostars with their distributed power! The switch to electric haulage was an added bonus! – and unlike Carstairs, the changeover at Domokos was nice and sunny with no gloomy State Hospital either!!8 Sep 2013
I flew Aegean on the same route October 2012. Very pleasant airline. Modern plane, excellent service for an up and down sector. 2×2 in business and 3×3 in Economy. Stayed at the Sofitel at Athens airport too; very comfy.17 Sep 2013
Train travel in Greece is a blast from the past. Not suitable for the business traveller but it is efficient, the scenery in most cases is amazing and it is a cheap alternative to air travel.
There is a Greek saying that the train will take you further than the top thumbtack of the map and if you check a rail map of Greece you will see that indeed it does.23 Sep 2013
Thanks for your trip report Bunnahabhain.
Train travel in Greece is micro cheap. When I was working in a Periptero in Nafplio I remember several memorable trips between Peloponnisos and Athina. When you get to the outskirts of the capital just ignore all those mega factories and instead concentrate on sea. And train is so much better than bus which for some reason makes me tearful.23 Sep 2013
Regarding the cessation of work to modernise the Athens-Thessaloniki line, I suspect that other than for the obvious reason that Greece is bankrupt (sorry BA4ever), Greek railways is also one of the most manifestly inefficient state railway companies in Europe – if not the most inefficient. The bloated staffing levels are genuinely a reminder of the very worst era of British Railways which were tackled back in 1963, err, that is fifty years ago in the UK. It is straightforwardly the case of the Greek state cannot afford to invest in modern transport infrastructure at the same time as carrying a dead weight of unnecessary and expensive staff it finds almost impossible to get rid of:
For those of you who wonder at how Greece got into its current mess, the following makes for fascinating (and astonishing) reading;23 Sep 2013
Alex, travelling by rail in the Peloponnese is now similar to travelling with the Heathrow Express. New lines, new trains, frequent departures still in very good prices (round trip to Corinth is 15 euros).
Anthony, I’m not sure what you would consider efficient but Greek trains take you from A to B in the time they promise, quite a few times per day and for very little money.
Intercity trains are 10 times better than the dreadful West Coast, just to give you an example and the new suburban trains are similar to HEX. Indeed in many cases there are old trains but they also do the job, they go to tiny villages when modern trains cannot and they are dead cheap, even you travel at the very last minute (something that in the UK is so expensive that it is almost impossible to do).23 Sep 2013
@ BA4ever – 23/09/2013 12:58 GMT
Now it is entirely possible that there has been a revolution in the working practices, operational efficiency etc of OSE since the NYT’s article but the NYT reported that in 2008, on revenues of some €250M, OSE racked up a loss of circa €1 billion. As is entirely clear, if you read both the articles above, OSE has been used as a scam by successive Greek governments to keep unemployment down and its salaries are, on average, some four times those in the private sector.
Now that’s what I mean by inefficient!23 Sep 2013
Ah, I see. You are talking about the numbers while I’m talking about the service.
OSE is indeed a problematic company, yet passengers won’t be able to tell (which is such a shame because imagine how the service would be if the company was working properly).
I just wanted to clarify that train travel in Greece is not inefficient. It is indeed basic and not luxurious but the train will take you from A to B in the time it promises, with safety and for little money.24 Sep 2013