City of Piraeus undergoes transportation transformation
By Giorgos Lialios & Costas Onishenko
The last obstacle to the Athens metro’s expansion to Piraeus will be a thing of the past once excavation works on the archaeological finds in front of the port city’s Municipal Theater are completed and work can get started on the station that will be located there.
Construction is also under way for the tram’s extension from Neo Faliro’s Peace and Friendship Stadium (SEF) to Piraeus, providing commuters with service to a different part of the city than that which will be covered by the metro.
Traffic restrictions that have been put in place over the past few weeks and will remain as this significant overhaul of Piraeus’s transportation network is carried out have tested the patience of residents and traders, who are hoping that the new system will be worth the trouble and provide much-needed alternatives for Attica’s second-biggest municipality.
Although the metro stop at the Municipal Theater will be the last on the line, the consortium in charge of the line’s extension from Aghia Marina to Piraeus (J&P Avax, Ghella, Alstom Transport) decided to start digging there first over concerns that the works would reveal areas of archaeological interest. Their fears were well founded, much to the chagrin of archaeologists, as the excavation uncovered 28 ancient cisterns. The Central Archaeological Council, however, has decided that these remains will not be preserved as they are not significant enough to merit a large-scale rescue operation that would delay the metro’s construction. Instead, archaeologists will make plaster replicas that will be put on display inside the station.
According to Attiko Metro, the company overseeing the construction and management of the Athens underground system, work preceding the actual excavation of the station began this month with the placement of barriers around the dig site.
Other ancient relics found during the initial phase of construction include three pieces of mosaic floors, which will also be put on display in some form at the Municipal Theater station.
Work on the second difficult part of the transport system overhaul – the port metro station, which will be near the existing ISAP electric railway station – has yet to begin. According to Attiko Metro, a series of problems that arose over the past few months, mainly from a central sewage pipe that ran across the site of the intended metro line and required the laying of a diversion, have been resolved.
A 110-meter-long strip in front of the intended station has been blocked off with barriers and traffic is being diverted through the port so that construction can commence, with efforts focused on maintaining the port’s smooth operation, especially during the busy summer months.
The tunnel boring machine, meanwhile, has already gone through 220 meters of earth and has another 400 meters to go from Aghia Marina to reach Aghia Varvara in mid-May. The excavation of the station itself was slated for completion by the end of March.
Digging for the stations at Korydallos and Nikaia is expected to be completed by the end of this month, while at the Maniatika station it started at the beginning of March. The metro extension is already estimated to be between four and eight months behind schedule, but the contractors are optimistic that they will be able to cover this gap once construction gets into full swing and meet the delivery date of early 2017.
The tram extension, which is expected to bring a significant improvement to Piraeus’s public transport nightmare, as well as contribute to a drop in traffic in the city center, is slated for completion some two years ahead of the metro, in mid-2015.
Traffic restrictions are already in place along the tram’s construction route and work is to begin at the Lambraki Street site in the first half of this month. It is worth noting that while the placement of the tram tracks does not require digging, it does mean that any utility lines running below have to be relocated.
Five more construction sites are expected to appear within the next few months, on the corner of Lambraki and Mikras Asias streets (where the tram will turn into the city), near SEF (for a bridge), at the Karaiskaki Stadium (where there will be a stop), on Lambraki Street (for a footbridge) and on Mikras Asias (for utility line replacements).
The extension of the tram from SEF to Piraeus will have a total length of 5.4 kilometers – 3.1 km going into Piraeus and 2.3 km coming out of the city. It will have seven stops along the inbound route and five on the outbound route. It is scheduled for completion in mid-2015 and Attiko Metro, which is the manager of this project too, is then expected to acquire 25 new trams.
The city of Piraeus will also benefit from the revamp of parks and squares including Korai, Alikakou, Deliyianni and Evangelistrias, which will be done in parallel to the tram works. Attiko Metro is also considering the possibility of a further extension to Freattyda, though a study has not been conducted to this end.
Residents try to adapt
While the annoyance of trying to get around a city with multiple construction sites is huge, it is only temporary and authorities at the Municipality of Piraeus are trying to put a positive spin on things.
“We must stress that this is the biggest traffic replanning that has taken place in Greece in years and it’s only natural it will cause some hassle. But we are already seeing the residents of Piraeus adapting to the new routes,” said Deputy Mayor Panayiotis Reppas, who is responsible for roadworks.
According to municipal officials, the city will also see controlled parking for residents and visitors within the next few years.
Residents will be given an annual card either free of charge or at a very low cost, which will allow them to park in specially designated spots in the city center.
Visitors, however, will have to pay 1 euro an hour and will only be allowed to park their cars for up to three hours at a time.
A tender has already been launched for the parking system and a bidder is expected to be selected by the end of the summer so that work on the system can begin by the end of the year.
In addition, the municipality is planning to build loading and unloading bays for trucks supplying the city center’s stores along main roads such as Tsamadou so they do not have to take up one lane of traffic when making deliveries.
The municipality’s most ambitious plan, however, is to revamp the coastal front, which currently leaves much to be desired.
Slim hopes for new Athens metro line
The possibility of Athens acquiring a new metro line, bringing the total to four, within the 2014-20 funding period is considered slim to nothing. Instead, Attiko Metro is conducting studies on two possible extensions, to Ilion in the northwest and Glyfada in the south, though the former is more likely to go ahead than the latter.
Though no final decisions have yet been made by the company’s management, it is considered highly unlikely that the Athens metro will get a line from Panepistimio to the Alsos Veikou park by 2020 simply because of the project’s anticipated cost and the fact that much of the EU funding during the 2014-20 period has already been slated for four major highway projects.
Attiko Metro argues that the project could be given 450 million euros in EU subsidies and get the rest of the money it needs from the European Investment Bank. This, of course, does not mean that the Greek state will be in a position to pay off an EIB loan, however favorable the terms.
The plan for Line 4 of the Athens metro, when and if it ever gets off the ground, is to link Perissos to Panepistimio and from there continue to Maroussi and Lykovrisi. The entire route is estimated at 33 kilometers with 29 stations. The estimated budget is 3.3 billion euros. The section from Alsos Veikou to Evangelismos would have nine stops and is budgeted at an estimated 1 billion euros.
If Attiko Metro fails to come up with the cash for Line 4, it hopes to be able to proceed with two smaller extensions on Line 2. The proposal that has made the most progress so far is that for an extension from Anthoupoli to Ilion, northwest of Athens. Should it get off the ground, it will be 4 kilometers long and add three new stops to Line 2 – two along Thivon Avenue and the third on Aghiou Nikolaou Street, which is the turning off Thivon toward Mount Parnitha. All three stops will be within the bounds of the Ilion municipality. The extension is expected to serve some 51,000 commuters a day and the budget is estimated at 300 million euros.
The second small project concerns another extension of Line 2, this one from Elliniko to Glyfada on Athens’s southern coast. The proposal does not yet include the route it would travel or the likely stops, though sources at Attiko Metro have said that the proposal’s writers are looking for ways to contain costs, such as to have the metro run below Vouliagmenis Avenue to avoid the need for large appropriations. That said, it is unlikely that the project will be put to tender at any point within the next two or three years.