Russia interested in purchasing Greek railway operator

 A man stands as a train passes in front of him at a central train station in Athens © John Kolesidis
The Russian Transport Ministry said on Thursday it is considering taking part in the privatization of the Greek railway operator TrainOSE while maintaining the company's debt burden.

"We are consulting, and our interest in the competition is still there," Russian Deputy Transport Minister Evgeny Dietrich told journalists, answering a question about whether Russian Railways will continue to participate in the privatization tender of TrainOSE, given the company's debt of €850 million could be partially written off, but not completely.

Russian Railways submitted a bid for the prequalification stage of the tender on the TrainOSE privatization.

READ MORE: Russian Railways look at Greek transportation assets

In January, Greece restarted the sale of the national train operator. The Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund privatization agency (HRADF) said it planned to sell its 100 percent stake in TrainOSE through a single-phase competitive process.

The privatization process began in 2013 but was suspended following the change in the Greek government last year.

TrainOSE is the sole operator of passenger and freight services on the 2500 kilometer Greek network. It transports 15 million passengers and 4.5 million tons of freight annually. The state-owned passenger and cargo rail operator was established in 2005 as a subsidiary of national railway OSE, before being transferred to direct state ownership in 2008 and then to HRADF for privatization in 2013.

Russian Railways expressed its interest in Greek assets three years ago, saying it may take a 100 percent stake in TrainOSE which was then valued at €30 million.

Russia could help streamlining the Greek transport infrastructure, said Russian President Vladimir Putin Thursday in an article for the Greek daily Kathimerini ahead of his visit to Athens.

READ MORE: ‘Russia & EU at crossroads’: Putin touts equality, genuine partnership ahead of Greece visit

“We are referring to the participation of Russian businesses in the forthcoming Greek tenders for the purchase of assets of railway companies and the Thessaloniki port facilities,” Putin wrote, adding that a number of other projects could considerably enhance the potential of bilateral cooperation are also on the agenda.

Putin is to visit Greece on May 27-28 for talks with Greek PM Alexis Tsipras and President Prokopis Pavlopoulos.