Tram web to cover 81 km by 2010

The 24-kilometer (15-mile) new tram network due to be operating in Athens by next summer will have more than tripled by 2010, the government maintained yesterday. Minister of Transport Christos Verelis told a press conference that seven new lines, and extensions to the two lines scheduled for completion ahead of the 2004 Olympics, will be in place in seven years’ time, linking the city center with Piraeus and Perama, the southern coastline, Aghia Paraskevi and the Athens University campus at Ilissia. The total length of the tramlines to be built between 2004 and 2010 will reach 57.1 kilometers, while Verelis said costs will not exceed 630 million euros. By next summer, the government has said it will have 24 kilometers of lines running from Vassilissis Olgas Avenue, beside the ancient Temple of Olympian Zeus, down to the Saronic coast at Palaio Faliron, from where the tram will branch southeast to Voula and northwest to Neo Faliron. The project has been budgeted at 346 million euros, although costs were inflated by the decision, last September, to change the course of the tram in the area of Hadrian’s Arch, at the western extremity of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, for fear that antiquities would be found. This would have necessitated meticulous archaeological excavation, resulting in soaring costs and great construction delays. The first lines were laid last August. Once the first section of the tram is ready, Verelis said yesterday, work will start on three extensions – from Syntagma Square to the Ano Patissia urban electric railway station (5.6 kilometers), from the Larissa railway station up Alexandras Avenue to the Ilissia campus (6.4 kilometers) and from Neo Faliron to the Piraeus urban railway station (3.2 kilometers). The next batch of extensions will be from the Piraeus railway station to Perama (7.6 kilometers), from Syntagma Square to Votanikos (3.3 kilometers), from Ilissia to Zografou (3.4 kilometers), and from the Piraeus railway station to Aghia Paraskevi through the western district of Peristeri (27.6 kilometers).