Transport: Long may the miracle last

“Athens is a different city. You have made great preparations,» were International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge’s words to Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis after arriving in Athens last week. Only recently, he had expressed reservations about the city’s notorious traffic jams and about the way the new tram and suburban rail systems would operate. Athens’s drivers have proved him wrong, at least according to the majority of the foreign newspapers and press agencies filing reports from Athens, characterizing the traffic restrictions as extremely successful and praising public transport – the tram, suburban rail, metro extensions, the 400 new buses and 21 Olympic bus lines. The numbers show that in fact more people used public transport the first week the restrictions came into force. The tram overcame its initial problems and recorded an increase of 7 percent, city buses 10-20 percent, and the metro 12 percent. The suburban rail, in its first few days, was carrying 10-12,000 passengers daily. The situation bodes well for the future. For the first time, Athenians obeyed instructions, left their cars at home and showed a greater sense of social responsibility. «Road space has always been a scarce commodity,» said Professor Yiannis Polyzos of the National Technical University. «The fact that we are being forced to realize that, even because of the Olympics, is a benefit to everyone.» «The great challenge will be for people to be persuaded to continue using public transport after the Games are over,» added Yiannis Golias, general secretary of the Transport Ministry. «It would be a pity to miss such a great opportunity. Athenians have never had so many and such reliable means of transport.» All Olympic transport means are now fully in use. The tram (80,000 passengers daily) is running around the clock every 8-10 minutes. The metro (800,000 passengers daily) is running from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. every 2-5 minutes. The old urban rail (ISAP, with 410,000 passengers daily in each direction) will be operating around the clock until August 10 and then from August 13 to 29 (the day of the closing ceremony). From August 11 to 12, it will be running according to the old timetable (5 a.m. to a half an hour after midnight). Four trolley bus lines (Nos. 1, 11, 14 and 20) will be running around the clock every 9-13 minutes. The suburban rail (80,000 passengers daily), with two schedules every hour, runs from 5 a.m. to midnight. The city buses run by the ETHEL company will be carrying over 1.2 million passengers daily. Spectators will mainly be using the 21 Olympic lines, running every 3-5 minutes. Three (X11, X12 and X14) will be round the clock from August 13-29. the others from 5 a.m to 2 a.m. All six airport routes will be 24 hours, as well as line 040 from Piraeus to Syntagma and A1 (Piraeus to Voula).