NEWS

Athens rail to be upgraded, made safer and quieter

Excavators and bulldozers are moving into the old urban rail line (ISAP’s Kifissia-Piraeus route) in Athens to improve outdated infrastructure and increase its capacity by 25 percent. Plans include the construction of a new depot in Piraeus. But the 400,000 passengers who use the route daily will face inconveniences: Work is expected to begin by the end of the year and will take about a year to complete. The rail line’s tracks will be laid on reinforced concrete like the new metro lines, instead of the gravel and wood with which the lines are currently constructed. For the first time, the dangerous power line along the tracks will be covered, and the old tunnels will also be improved. The project is estimated to cost about 180 million euros and will result in a rail line with faster and quieter trains that arrive more frequently and require less maintenance. Water also will not leak into the new tunnels, making them safer and cleaner. The Monastiraki-Omonia section of the line, for instance, was built over a century ago and often fills with rain water running off from Athinas Street. «There were several reasons for the decision to upgrade the line,» said Simos Simopoulos, president of ISAP. «Although the first thing passengers expect from such a large project is a faster service, we would like to emphasize that the speed will be only slightly faster,» he said There are many stations, some as little as 350 meters apart, and so the average speed of the trains cannot be dramatically increased. But the improvements are expected to reduce waiting time between trains from the current 3.5 minutes to three minutes. Before the Olympic Games, the waiting time between trains was five minutes. Monastiraki-Attiki to close temporarily ISAP’s staff have a complicated jigsaw puzzle to solve in planning the works without stopping train services for even a day, and without causing passengers too much hassle. «We aim to to create the least possible amount of inconvenience,» Simopoulos said. «Work will be done at night (beginning at about 11 p.m., so services will close about an hour earlier) until 5 a.m.» As the most difficult part of the construction is in the tunnels, consideration is being given to halting services completely for a few months between Monastiraki and Attiki. «Unfortunately, work in the tunnels calls for large quantities of concrete and the fewest possible vibrations, » Simopoulos said. «In order to achieve that, conditions will have to be ideal.» The design is now complete, and application forms for the submission of tenders are expected to be ready by the end of August. A preliminary study for the Piraeus wagon depot is expected to be completed by the end of August, when bids are to be called for a 16 million-euro contract for air conditioning in ISAP’s trains.