NEWS

Rio-Antirio bridge links with Games

Two of the biggest undertakings of modern Greece, the Athens 2004 Olympics and the Rio-Antirio bridge, came together yesterday as the Olympic Flame was carried over the bridge linking the Peloponnese with Western Greece, on its way to Athens. The bridge will be inaugurated and opened to traffic on Thursday, six months ahead of schedule. The crossing of the Olympic Flame was preceded by a magnificent fireworks display and music concert attended by tens of thousands of people on Saturday night. Jean-Paul Teyssandier, president of the Gefyra consortium, was the first to carry the Olympic Torch on it yesterday. Other runners included the German coach of Greece’s Euro 2004 champion soccer team, Otto Rehhagel; the Greek Olympic soccer team and Costas Laliotis, a former public works minister. The bridge will be named after Harilaos Trikoupis, a modernizing prime minister of a century ago who first proposed the project. It has a total length of 2,883 meters – of which 2,256 meters are the world’s longest cable-stayed suspended deck in five spans. The three longest spans are 560 meters long each. The bridge was built by Gefyra SA, a consortium led by French-based Vinci and which includes the Greek companies Hellenic Technodomiki-TEV, J&P-Avax, Athena, Proodeftiki and Pantechniki. Vinci holds a 53 percent interest in the consortium and the Greek partners the rest. The toll for cars has been set at 10 euros. The bridge will be a key link in the planned Ionian Highway, a north-southwestern road axis aimed at upgrading existing infrastructure with EU funds. In an interview with Kathimerini, Teyssandier commented on the fact that the bridge was built ahead of schedule and within the 750-million-euro budget. «It was carried out under a build-operate-transfer agreement, an investment in which the private sector has absolute control. The consortium is not only in control of the construction process but the design and above all the maintenance of it for many years. We are responsible for the entire package and naturally we have overall control,» he said.