The Eleftherios Venizelos airport at Spata will definitely have a rail link to Athens come 2004, when Greece hosts the Olympic Games, Transport Minister Christos Verelis confirmed yesterday. He said that infrastructure work is proceeding smoothly and «I can say with certainty that the airport will be linked to the capital by electric train in the spring of 2004.» Transportation and accommodation continue to be two key areas of concern to the International Olympic Committee. The IOC’s coordination commission last month said resolving these two problems could pave the way for Greece to host a «magical Games.» Verelis sought to dismiss concerns over possible delays in the delivery of electric trains, an assignment awarded to Hellenic Shipyards and which has been held up following the sale of the facility to German consortium HDW and Ferrostaal. The minister said that railway organization OSE will either lease trains from abroad or shift some from northern Greece to the capital in order to cater to the needs of the Olympic Games. He said the State plans to hire an operator to run the suburban railway for a three-year period. An outsider with technical expertise is preferred as OSE does not have the experience for the task, he claimed. Details of the tender for an operator will be announced in July and the competition is to run until the end of the year. The successful candidate will take over the management in the second quarter of 2003. Verelis said the suburban railway project, currently financed by the Public Investment Program, will seek private sector partners in 2006. They would be expected to pump in funds to finance the network’s expansion in return for the concession to the railway. The first phase of the suburban railway project is expected to be completed before the August 2004 Games opening. This includes a rail link between the port of Piraeus with Athens, the Acharnes Rail Hub (SKA) and the airport, another that connects SKA with the Peloponnese, and a third line stretching north to Thiva and Halkida. The Attica venture is budgeted at 854 million euros and consists of two lines, one linking Piraeus with Athens and SKA and the other connecting SKA with the airport. Construction companies Aktor, Hellenic Technodomiki and TEV are constructing the railway, which will service 10 stations. Travel time between the capital and the airport is estimated at 30 minutes once the rail link is completed. The second stage of the suburban railway project is scheduled for completion in 2007. Among the works in the pipeline are contemporary railway terminals in Athens and Piraeus, a goods terminal in Thriasio Pedio in western Attica and a rail link between the Nea Ikonio port and the central rail network. An estimated 120,000 passengers are expected to make use of the suburban railway in 2004, more than doubling to 250,000 in 2010 and rising to 340,000 in 2020.