Cyprus Mail

Buses towed away but villagers still stranded by bus dispute

The buses lined up on Monday. By Tuesday most had been towed away

By Evie Andreou

State officials and local authorities joined forces on Tuesday to help hundreds of students and workers living in rural areas left stranded by a bus strike for a second day.

One of the directors of Nicosia’s public transportation company OSEL is refusing to operate his buses in protest over what he alleges are inadequate safety measures and mismanagement of funds.

On Sunday evening, OSEL shareholder Tasos Michaelides had 30 buses block the Arediou bus terminal in the Nicosia district and parked another 24 outside the presidential palace where they remained throughout Monday.

By Tuesday morning, 20 of them had been towed away, but none of Michaelides’ buses were operating.

Michaelides claims the company is diversifying accounts, cheating the state over fuel and bus maintenance costs and bribing officials. He also alleged that OSEL was withholding money which is rightfully his “out of vengeance”.

Michaelides is one of the eight directors of the company and a shareholder of OSEL, which runs the Nicosia network with individual shareholders making up the network and charging the company to use their buses and run routes. The government pays companies a rate per kilometre and leases the buses.

His buses run OSEL’s route which services Arediou village and the surrounding areas. The protest affected mainly villages in the Pitsilia area, the south, and southeast villages of the Nicosia district.

The permanent secretary of the transport ministry Alecos Michaelides told CyBC that the protest affected eight schools and that he was not sure how quickly the problem would be solved.

It was not easy to find buses and drivers to cover the affected routes, he said.

He added that as regards contracts signed with OSEL, mistakes were made from the beginning and this is the reason so many problems exist today.

Local community heads of the 42 villages affected have already put together a memo, addressed to President Nicos Anastasiades, OSEL and the Union of Communities.

Arediou community leader Ioannis Ioannou told the Cyprus Mail that they were to meet during the day with state officials to find a solution.

“The children did not go to school for the second day and we don’t know when the buses will start running again. At the moment there is no alternative carrier,” Ioannou said.

The head of the education ministry’s primary education Elpidoforos Neokleous told the Cyprus Mail that as regards primary schools and kindergartens, the area most affected was Palechori, but that parents on Tuesday made arrangements for their children to get to school.

Reassurances on behalf of the transport ministry that reports against OSEL concerning squandering of public funds, are already being investigated by the police, did not deter Michaelides, who continues to refuse to run his buses.

Meanwhile, President Nicos Anastasiades’ office said in an announcement on Tuesday that the president has already given instructions to the police chief to speed up investigations into Michaelides’ claims and has also asked the Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides for his opinion on the matter.

It added that Michaelides was informed in writing of the president’s actions and that he was also asked to “avoid affecting negatively the operation of OSEL at the expense of the passengers”, but also move his buses that were blocking a lane in the street in front of the presidential palace.

Police spokesman Andreas Angelides said that on Monday night, after several requests made to Michaelides to move the buses he had parked outside the presidential palace, 15 of the buses were safely removed and transferred to two police stations. Four large buses remain on site, Angelides said.

OSEL reiterated on Tuesday that it denies all claims made by Michaelides and blamed him for trying to enforce his own “private interests by provocatively arbitrary actions”.


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