In a year’s time, May 2004, the first 42 kilometers (26 miles) of the Athens suburban railway will be in operation, linking Larissa Station (the main Athens railway terminus) to the airport in 35 minutes, Transport Minister Christos Verelis said yesterday. Verelis, along with Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, president of Athens 2004, the Olympic Games organizing committee, visited a kilometer-long section of the railway, close to the airport, where tracks have already been laid. For most of the 42-kilometer route, the suburban railway will run along the middle of the Attiki Odos, the highway skirting northern Athens and ending at the airport. «The difficult times of disbelief and mistrust are over,» Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said. «The suburban railway works are progressing and we believe that this project will provide the backbone for a new system of reliable public transportation. For us, who have the responsibility to organize the Games, the project is of great importance because it links Athens and outlying areas with the airport and provides an alternative means of access to many Olympic venues. I am referring mainly to OAKA (the main Olympic Center in Maroussi), (the equestrian and shooting venues at) Markopoulo and (the wrestling and judo arena at) Ano Liosia,» she added. «The organizing committee has always supported our efforts,» Verelis said. «The project has overcome its most difficult phase and… it will be ready on time. In a few days, construction of the carriages will begin, at Skaramangas shipyard,» he added. The express trains from the airport will stop at Doukissis Plakentias and Menidi stations and will arrive at Larissis station in 35 minutes. A slower train, also stopping at Koropi, Kantza, Pendeli, Neratziotissa (near OAKA and a link to Line 1 of the metro), and Iraklion will take 50 minutes. In all, there will be seven departures of suburban rail trains from the airport every hour, plus four departures of carriages that, from Doukissis Plakentias station onward, will enter Line 3 of the Athens Metro. The suburban railway will initially accommodate about 120,000 passengers daily. After 2004, it will be extended to Piraeus, Kiato and Loutraki to the west, and Thiva and Halkida to the north, as well as to the ports of Rafina and Lavrion, east and southeast of Athens. More stations will also be built between Piraeus and Menidi.