Tram SA demands speed and priority at traffic lights

In the next few days, the fate of the Athens tramway will be decided – whether it is to be just a big bus or will retain its comparative advantage of speed. A spat has broken out between the Ministry of the Environment, Planning and Public Works (YPEHODE) and Tram SA as to whether trams will have absolute priority at every traffic light so they can travel at speeds that justify the State’s decision to spend 340 million euros on constructing a tram system. Tram SA is demanding absolute priority, and it has already spent 37 million euros on an ultramodern computerized camera system to give trams priority at all traffic lights. Just a few months before the trams go into operation, YPEHODE has left the matter of priority unresolved, which puts the whole project in a difficult situation. The tram has not come cheap. Apart from the cost of 340 million euros, it has inconvenienced residents in six municipalities, and all in order that Athens acquire a means of public transport that can travel faster than buses and trolley buses. Yet now that the equipment has been bought and is gradually being installed, YPEHODE is slowing the tram down. Meanwhile, Tram SA is speedily preparing its own vehicle management center in Hellenikon, from which it will supervise and coordinate all operations. An advanced system of 237 cameras to be positioned at all stops and crossroads will provide information about the trams and the state of the tracks on a 24-hour basis. Tram drivers will be in constant contact with the center by means of the TETRA wireless digital network, and all carriages will have double color screens offering passengers a wide range of information. In case of danger, passengers can press a button that will immediately alert the vehicle management center. Observation cameras on all platforms will transmit images to the information center. In case of need, passengers can press a special button on the platform to speak to staff at the center. Electronic signboards on tram stops will announce how long it will take before the next trams arrive and their route.