Urban rail and tram ‘on track’

Athens urban railway and tram officials insisted yesterday that both projects will be ready at least two months in advance of the 2004 Olympics, despite fears to the contrary expressed by International Olympics Committee officials. The two projects form a crucial part of Olympics organizers’ public transport planning ahead of the Games, which start on August 13. The urban rail link with the Eleftherios Venizelos Airport will be operating next May, the board of ERGOSE – the Hellenic Railways (OSE) subsidiary handling railway construction works – said yesterday. Officials assured journalists that six urban railway and two Athens metro trains will run between the capital and the airport on an hourly basis. And Athens tram officials vowed that 23 of the total 26.5 kilometers (16.4 miles) of rails will have been laid by the end of the year. The line, linking central Athens with the southern coastal suburbs, will be running in February, they said. Members of a visiting IOC inspection team discussed the two projects with Transport Minister Christos Verelis late on Monday. «The IOC team will present its assessment at the end of its [three-day] visit,» Verelis commented. But an IOC progress report quoted by The Associated Press yesterday said construction of the two projects was «at risk.» Meanwhile, Athens 2004 officials yesterday announced that a triathlon test event would be held in southern Athens on Friday and Saturday. The event – three swimming, cycling and running races in close succession – will cause traffic disruptions. Starting at the Vouliagmeni pay beach, cyclists will ride along Vouliagmenis and Athinas avenues, Ermou, Eratous, Mavroleontos and Panos streets, and Poseidonos Avenue. The footrace will be along Poseidonos and Athinas.