The first railway in Greece opened on 24th February, 1869, between Athens and Piraeus. It was built to standard (1435mm) gauge. The line was electrified in 1904.
Subsequent railway development in Greece was influenced by the complex and difficult topography of the country. A network of lines in standard and various narrow gauges grew up, in the hands of a multiplicity of companies. Those that survived wars and difficult economic conditions gradually came under the control of OSE, the Hellenic Railway Organization. An exception to this rule is the pioneering Athens Piraeus Electric Railway, which, although nationalised in 1976 and later rebranded as Line 1 of the Athens Metro, retains its separate identity.
The surviving narrow gauge lines of OSE for the most part have been, or are being converted to standard gauge. A few notable exceptions are: the metre gauge Patras Suburban Railway; the metre gauge line to Olimpia, which connects with cruise ships at Katakolo; the 750mm gauge rack railway from Diakopto to Kalvrita; and the 600mm gauge seasonal tourist service between Ano Lechonia and Milies.
Passenger and freight operations on the national network were privatised in 2017.
In 2018, a study was launched for a new 130km rail link between Florina and Pogradec in Albania, connecting the rail networks of the two countries.
From 1922 until the early 1930s, a narrow gauge railway operated between Xiropotamos and the port of Heraklion (about 6km), for the purposes of harbour construction.
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