NEWS

Urban rail station renovations are in the red as Olympic Games deadline draws ever nearer

The renovation of 23 of Athens’s urban rail stations (on the old ISAP line) has gone over budget and over schedule. It is now planned for completion at the end of June rather than this spring, as had been announced in December 2002 by the former transport minister Christos Verelis when work was finally getting under way. Eventual costs are expected to reach 363 million euros, 10 percent higher than the original budget of 330 million. Meanwhile, work has not even begun at the Kato Patissia station, even though the facility was closed for renovation in May of last year. And reconstruction of three of the most important other stations, Monastiraki, Thiseion and Kifissia, is proceeding very slowly. Four major headaches Of the 23 stations along the line, only half are ready; plans for the Nerantziotissa station are still with the Supervisory Council (State Audit Council) after many delays and cancellations. ISAP’s management (the same people who began the renovation work two years ago) claim that the considerable delays are due to unforeseen work not originally taken into account. Another headache for the company is the construction of two more stations close to Olympic venues: the Faliron and Eirini stations. At Faliron, work should have finished already to have the station open to the public by April 26, but delays have postponed the opening until June. Unresolved problems include the design of the square surrounding the station, to have been carried out by Piraeus Municipality’s technical services, who have simply handed over a sketch of the site. At Eirini, things are equally problematic due to the refurbishing of the entire surrounding area. All three stations are absolutely vital for access to Olympic sites by a total 21,000 train passengers in each direction at peak hours. ‘Sorry, wrong decision’ The biggest black hole of all is the Ano Patissia station renovation. In May 2003, the company decided to close the station and demolish the platforms even though it had not yet received the project design. Since then, the site has been an eyesore that will be causing locals continued strife for another two months until the job is finished, it is hoped, by the end of June. The firm now admits it had been a mistake to knock down the old platforms and close the station before the designs had been studied – particularly since the designs have now been rejected since they would have meant the complete destruction of the green spaces in the neighboring Aghia Varvara Square. According to the designs, the two underground stations, Omonia and Victoria, are to be air-conditioned, as are half of the train carriages.