Greece, Turkey revive ancient road link; rail also in the plan

Greece and Turkey yesterday signed in Athens a memorandum of cooperation concerning the upgrading of the highway from the border between the two countries to Istanbul, a project seen as an extension of the Egnatia Highway running across northern Greece. The memorandum, signed by Greece’s Minister of Transport and Communications Christos Verelis and his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim, also provides for the upgrading of the railway line from Thessaloniki to the Turkish city. Turkey undertakes to bring its 253km (157-mile) road axis to the same level of service as Egnatia’s. About 100km of the road are already in place, 70km are under construction and the rest will be built in future. Of Egnatia’s 680km from the port of Igoumenitsa on the Ionian Sea to the border, about 450 have been completed and work is at an advanced stage on the remaining parts. The memorandum provides for the setting-up of a joint directorate which will oversee both the road and rail projects and seek funding support for the work in the Turkish sector. The first meeting of the directorate was scheduled to take place in Thessaloniki on February 26. At a joint press conference, Verelis said the road project will maximize the benefits of Egnatia, which will now run along the full length of the ancient Roman Via Egnatia, and upgrade Greece’s importance in the transport map of southeastern Europe. Also, the rail scheme will boost the importance of Greece’s Western Railway Axis, one of 29 European Union priority projects in coming years. The two ministers said accompanying plans include a drastic shortening of official procedures at the border. Earlier, they also discussed issues regarding cooperation in the development of third-generation mobile telephony services, and between the two countries’ main fixed-line operators.

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