ECONOMY

Athens Metro system set to expand rapidly

In its first 21 months of operation, the Athens Metro has become a very popular means of transport with Athenians, but the dual-line, 18-kilometer (11-mile), 18-station underground system – to which must also be added the old, electrified Piraeus-Kifissia line – covers only a small part of the Athens metropolitan area. The need for expansion is evident by the fact that the terminal stations on both new lines are among the busiest on the system. Thankfully, expansion is just around the corner. A new station, Monastiraki, extending Line 3 (Ethniki Amyna-Syntagma) to link with the Piraeus-Kifissia line (Line 1), will open in March; four more stations, plus an extension of Line 3 to the new Athens airport, will be ready in time for the 2004 Athens Olympics; and eight more stations will be ready by 2006. Beyond that, the government recently announced plans for further extensions, including branch lines, that will bring forward the Metro development plan by almost a decade. If this is not merely the kind of promise that is made in a pre-electoral period, the end of the decade will find Athens with a much expanded Metro network. The four stations to be opened in 2004 are Halandri and Doukissis Plakentias (on the northeast extension of Line 3), Alexandros Panagoulis (a southern extension to Line 2), and Aghios Antonios (an extension of Line 2 to the northwest, beyond the Kifissos River). The latter station will also be important because it will serve as the disembarking point for passengers going to the planned arena where boxing matches will be staged during the Olympics. Beyond Doukissis Plakentias Station, Line 3 trains will utilize the suburban railway’s tracks to reach the airport. «We do not face any major difficulties, everything is done according to the timetable,» Panayiotis Klimis, head of research and development at Attiko Metro, the company operating the system, told Kathimerini. The following stations will open by 2006: Peristeri, Thivon St (on the Line 2 extension beyond Aghios Antonios), Votanikos, Aghios Savvas, Aegaleo (on the western extension of Line 3), and Holargos, Nomismatokopeio and Aghia Paraskevi (along the northeast extension to Line 3). «Some of the stations may be completed earlier than planned, but it is too early to predict which ones,» says Klimis. Plans for further stations will be finalized in 2003. Construction tenders will begin at the end of 2003 and works right after the Olympics.