NEWS

Whip cracks for suburban rail

Transport Minister Michalis Liapis yesterday called for maximum effort on the part of construction crews and railway officials to ensure that most of the new Athens suburban railway is functioning before the opening of the August Olympics. During a visit to two of the most badly delayed sections of the project – the Nerandziotissa and Doukissis Plakentias stations – Liapis stressed that «the time pressure is intense.» «There are issues of coordination and compatibility in the line that is to be used in tandem by metro and suburban railway trains,» Liapis said. «There is an urgent need for technical answers and immediate solutions to ensure that the system will function safely.» The suburban line will link Acharnes, on the northwestern outskirts of Athens, with the Eleftherios Venizelos Airport. The line will cross the Piraeus-to-Kifissia electric railway at Nerandziotissa before joining the metro track at Doukissis Plakentias. Acharnes was initially meant to be joined with Piraeus before the Games, but yesterday Liapis confirmed that this would be impossible. He said work on that section of the line would not start until after the Games. Christos Tsitouras, managing director of Ergose, the Hellenic Railways (OSE) subsidiary handling rail construction work, said the stretch from Acharnes to the airport would come into service in July. Tsitouras said that by then, two trains running on diesel will have been built to serve the line, while another four electric trains will be leased from abroad. Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee said yesterday that a record 202 countries would be participating in the Games.