Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thebes Railway Station

Since the place was conquered by Alexander the Great in 335 BC it has been downhill for the Greek city of Thebes (Thiva). Sitting at the railway station waiting for the 4:10pm train from Athens to Thessaloniki, it is about 35 degrees census in the shade. Thankfully the waiting room has a breeze blowing through and the stone walls protect from the infrared radiation from the paving outside.

The surrounding region seems to grow wheat and cotton. There are also small engineering shops apparent. One worrying sign is the number of car sales yards and car advertisements on TV. Given that these intersperse news programs predicting oil at $US200 a barrel, this cannot be good for the way the country's economy is arranged. There have already been strikes by truck drivers and fishermen over oil prices in Europe. The Greek government seems none too stable and a few transport blockades might be enough to bring it down.

The obvious solution is for the government to increase funding for public transport and rail, away from dependence on cars and trucks. But seeing Thebes with its lonely, mostly deserted railway station, it would seem considerable investment would be needed.

In the meanwhile, just about every road in Greece seems to be dug up for improvements. The improved roads receive a pounding from the traffic and then need more work. India is introducing some bus transit lanes in its cities and this might be one solution. However, excluding private cars from roads will not be popular in Greece. The idea that you should be able to drive where you want, even though in practice you usually can't get there because of all the traffic, seems strong.

Having seen the roads of Greece and Turkey, the type of small people movers promoted by Bishop Engineering of Sydney, make a lot more sense. In Sydney, the idea of small van size electric rail cars zipping around seems odd. But in a densely packed city they make sense.

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