Rail operators invested in the European Company for the Financing of Railroad Rolling Stock (EUROFIMA) could face a hefty bill if the organisation's Greek partner goes bust as a consequence of the country’s economic difficulties.

Reflecting the near-collapse of the Greek economy, state-owned Hellenic Railways (OSE) is said to be in a pitiful state but its 2% stake in EUROFIMA has allowed it access to financing at very advantageous borrowing rates. OSE’s debts to the organisation are currently estimated at €850 million.

While to date, OSE has not missed any of the deadlines in its borrowing repayment schedule, the risk of default has grown over the past few weeks due to the uncertainty over Greece’s economic future and membership of the Eurozone.

If this were to happen, EUROFIMA's main partners, French operator SNCF and German operator Deutsche Bahn, would each stand to lose just over €190 million.

As part of a massive debt reduction programme, Greece is considering breaking up TrainOSE, a former OSE subsidiary and now an independent state-owned company which operates all mainline, passenger and freight train services in Greece

This would entail selling the right to operate some routes to different companies, along the lines of the UK privatisation model,

It had initially planned to sell TrainOSE, a move which had reportedly attracted interest from Russia’s railways, SNCF and Romania’s largest private railway company, Grup Feroviar Roman. The French group subsequenlty ruled out any bid.

Set up in 1956 and based in Basel, Switzerland, EUROFIMA’s mission is to support the development of rail transportation in Europe in assisting shareholder railways, as well as other railway bodies, in renewing and modernizing their equipment.

Enjoying a triple-A rating from both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, it brings together more than 25 public sector-owned railway operators, the biggest shareholders being SNCF and Deutsche Bahn, each controlling 22.6% of its capital.

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