Tramlines are blazing a trail through the Greek capital

Tracks for the new city tram network are being laid at a fast rate as part of the Olympics preparations; land is being speedily expropriated and TRAM SA has been given a number of powers to deal with the increasing number of problems in moving public utilities out of the way, as well as complications with other Olympics projects along the tram’s course through the city. The firm’s management is optimistic that the project will be completed on time, yet many believe that by March 2004 only the Palaio Faliron-Glyfada line will have been completed, and that the main section from Palaio Faliron to Syntagma Square will be delivered much later. Although the official deadline for completion is only four months away, the finalized project design for the center of Athens, Amalias Avenue and Ardittos Street, has not yet been completed, nor has that for Voula. TRAM SA points to the fact that over 600 people are working daily on the lines, supervised by an expert who is recording progress. The firm also says that a number of problems are being solved, not only concerning the objections of local residents but delays in the other major projects that are being carried out alongside, such as the major intersection at the Kifissos river delta, works at the Peace and Friendship Stadium, the Alimos intersection construction and work at the Faliron Delta. In its race against time, the firm says it will hire staff in order to have the basic infrastructure completed, the tramlines laid, the foundations for the power network and the tram stops ready by the end of this year. By March, 2004, it hopes to be holding trial runs of the rolling stock. 49 stops In its finished state, the tram service will have 49 stops. During the Olympic Games, trams will be running every eight-and-a-half minutes. After the Games, the Neo Faliron-Glyfada line will be running every eight minutes, the Syntagma-Palaio Faliron line every four minutes and the Palaio Faliron-Glyfada line every eight minutes. Along coastal Poseidonos Avenue, where the tram will have its own exclusive lane, maximum speed will be 25 kilometers per hour. Elsewhere, in Nea Smyrni, Neos Cosmos and the city center, maximum speeds will be 22 kilometers per hour. Traveling time from Neo Faliron to Glyfada is estimated at about 35 minutes, and from Glyfada to Syntagma, 45 minutes. In Alimos, Hellenikon, Neos Cosmos and Glyfada, work is proceeding at a fast pace but obstacles have been hindering progress in Nea Smyrni and Palaio Faliron. «Along Venizelos Avenue in Nea Smyrni, work is moving very slowly because many utility networks had to be moved out of the way,» said Yiannis Kontonikas, the firm’s deputy director. «We are gradually solving problems that arose in Palaio Faliron with local residents and municipal authorities over the tram’s route down Achilleos Street.» The problems in Palaio Faliron did not disappear overnight. The government raised the issue during Parliament’s summer session, where a Transport Ministry bill that included provisions for the tram was debated. According to the law, TRAM SA will manage the tram’s passage through Achilleos Street, the main thoroughfare from Palaio Faliron. The law also gives the firm the right to decide whether to remove owners, renters or users of public or private installations on property required for the tramlines. All it has to do is send relevant documents to the Environment and Public Works Ministry, Transport Ministry, the prefectures, the municipalities concerned and the local police. Palaio Faliron Mayor Dionysis Hadjidakis, who still believes that the tram’s route is wrong, told Kathimerini that from the extensive correspondence he had had with TRAM SA, it appeared that the consortium would pay for a pedestrian walkway to be built on Achilleos Street. «As for the parking places that have been lost, a garage is planned for construction on property belonging to the Hadzikostas Foundation. In fact, after a meeting with all those involved, the municipality has assigned a study to be made on the construction of the garage, and another survey on its operation is also under way,» he said. The coming months will see a number of developments, it seems.