ECONOMY

Metro projects facing delays and money woes

Delays in the ongoing metro projects in Athens and Thessaloniki are causing cost overruns and creating a risk that Greece may have to return European Union subsidies.

In Athens, the completion of the three extensions to the districts of Elliniko, Haidari and Anthoupoli, which are almost ready, seems to be falling victim to delays in decision-making by the Infrastructure Ministry. A recent document prepared by Attiko Metro the operating company revealed by Kathimerini earlier this month, warns that if the seven planned new stations do not open within 2012, there is a serious risk that Athens may have to return to Brussels the 465 million euros in investment subsidies, part of the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) scheme. Additionally, subcontractors have started filing for additional financial demands against the company due to delayed payments.

The extension to Piraeus seems to be faring even worse. The bidding process cannot proceed due to suits filed by those left off the short list. This is expected to cause such delays that the project will have no chance of being ready in 2013, and the 540-million-euro NSRF subsidy earmarked for it will be lost.

The Thessaloniki metro project, which began in 2006, is also seriously behind schedule, as only the easy part beneath Egnatia Avenue is at an advanced stage, when the entire project should be nearing completion.

According to the original schedule, the 9.6-kilometer line and the 13 stations would be inaugurated a year from now. However, only the stations of New Railway Station, Democratias, Venizelou, Aghia Sophia, Syntrivani and Panepistimio are almost ready, but no work has started on Patrikiou, Voulgari and Nea Elvetia, and the two tunnel boring machines are currently inactive.

In a letter sent to the company in charge of the the Thessaloniki metro project in May, the Greek-Italian construction consortium said the ?projected year of completion is 2016, provided immediate measures are taken and radical decisions adopted.?

It also pointed out that compulsory purchases of land concerning about one-third of the project had still not been implemented, the construction of Patrikiou station had still not been definitively decided, and there was talk that two stations might have to be scrapped. All this further delayed planning, leading to piecemeal construction.

Some subcontractors contend that the project may need more than a decade to be completed. Nevertheless, the Infrastructure Ministry insists that it will be ready in 2015.