Doubts voiced about project concessions

The Environment and Public Works Ministry is coming under pressure to delay or revise the tender for the extensions to the Attiki Odos highway, which runs east-west north of Athens, sources said. The ministry is said to be studying a number of proposals, focusing on two main points. First, that the highway is at risk of becoming a «victim» of its own success, with increasing traffic congestion at certain hours of the day, and, second, that a larger package of extensions should be retendered in order to attract competitive bids that would prevent the projects from being won by the same, incumbent concessionaire, Attiki Odos SA. The proponents of the revision argue that the smaller the package of extensions, the stronger is the likelihood that the current operator will prevail in the tenders. The original arrangement proposed by Attiki Odos SA was that it would finance the construction of the extensions itself in exchange for a prolongation of the concession. But the view in the ministry is now gaining ground that the concessionaire can contest the extensions on equal terms with other bidders. The original package of proposals included extensions of the Hymettus tributary ring-road to the southern Athens coastal avenue, as well as to Rafina in the east. The enlarged package now being proposed includes extensions to the port of Lavrion, at the southern tip of Attica, in order to relieve congestion in Piraeus, and another one running from Elefsina in the west to Thebes in the north. Separately, the proposed underwater tunnel along Thessaloniki’s urban coastal road in northern Greece is coming under increasing fire by local agencies and academics, as Parliament is debating approval of the concession agreement. Residents, who are staging a protest at Nea Paralia on Sunday, argue that only 1.4 km of the 6.5 km of the proposed channel will be underwater, and construction of the rest will necessitate the destruction of at least 6 acres of precious green space.