Experts disagree on Athens tram route

After much protest and several delays, it appears as if Athens will have a tramline some six months before the 2004 Olympic Games. No one expected that the venture would have its critics, but experts are protesting, not so much against the tramline itself as to the course it is to take. Several of them claim that bureaucracy has put paid to what could have been an efficient and functional tram service. They claim that the line should follow Syngrou Avenue as originally planned, instead of routing it simply to avert the involvement of more than one ministry (of Transport) in its construction and thereby cause even further delays (in this case, it would have involved the Public Works Ministry). Local groups and professors from the National Technical University told Kathimerini that the summary and superficial planning of the route will destroy one of Attica’s most attractive areas, the Faliron coastline, and that the tram would be passing through built-up areas with heavy traffic. Assistant Professor Yiannis Golias at the university’s transport division claims the route is the wrong one for several reasons. First, it does not take the nature of the coastline into consideration. Second, it is not user-friendly, since commuters have to travel to and from the line. He also says it will be slow, inefficient and put into place solely for the needs of the Olympic Games. «The best solution should emerge from a survey of alternative solutions,» said Professor K. Abakoumkin. «And there are alternative proposals. Instead of spoiling the coastline, the tram could take up one of the road lanes,» he said. However, this would involve other ministries. Another possibility would be to have the oncoming traffic diverted underground, a time-consuming undertaking. The construction company, Tram SA, claims that the idea of routing the tramline down Syngrou Avenue was rejected first of all as slow and expensive because of the difficulties in building a tunnel at the Faliron delta. and in siting tram stops along the route. Tram SA also claims that as Syngrou Avenue is one the city’s most important arteries, even removing one lane would make it less efficient. Among the most ardent supporters of the new route is an expert in the problems of the coastline, Professor Yiannis Polyzos of the National Technical University. «The tram could be extremely efficient routed in this way. At the same time it has to pass through residential areas in order to be as efficient as we want it to be,» he said. Professor Thanos Blastos shares his views: «If Athens misses this unique and final opportunity to get its tram service, then it never will! The city needs it at all cost,» he said. «In any case, in a city of 4 million inhabitants, you can’t build any major project of benefit to the pubic without bothering some people.»

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