2004 transport woes

Two major transportation projects have run into trouble and are in danger of not being ready in time for the Athens Olympics, forcing the government to consider alternatives. The suburban railway line, which is intended to join Athens International Airport and the main Olympic center at Maroussi, and the tram lines linking central Athens with beachside Olympic facilities are now being classified as «high risk.» They were the focus of a meeting of 15 state and government officials and members of the International Olympic Committee last week. Prime Minister Costas Simitis discussed the issue with his ministers of transportation and public works on Friday and Athens 2004 Organizing Committee President Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki expressed her concern to Simitis in a meeting yesterday. Alternatives being discussed are the construction of only 30 of the 48 tram stations and the use of buses if the suburban railway does not reach all the way from the airport to the Olympic stadium. The issue will probably monopolize the interest of an IOC inspection team due in Athens next Wednesday. Other problems include delays in setting up the electronic security system and in completing the Olympic stadium roof. Construction of the suburban railway line from the Doukissis Plakentias Station to Neratziotissa Station near the Olympic Stadium is behind schedule. Officials say that if this is not near completion by the end of November then it will be extremely difficult to get it ready for the Olympics, and alternatives must be worked out. These could entail buses being used from the Stavros interchange in Aghia Paraskevi to the Olympic complex. Also, the whole of the 32-kilometer line from the airport to the Acharnon railway hub is behind schedule. Regarding the tram, officials are scrutinizing the contractors who have ignored commitments to increase the number of workers on the project. A program aimed at speeding up work was shown to the previous IOC inspection team but has not been implemented, even though problems presented by the municipality of Palaio Faliron have been solved. «If by the end of October we have not seen significant progress on the project, then we must look for alternatives in order to save it,» said one of the participants at last week’s meeting.