Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias yesterday blamed the previous government for inflating the budget – and time scale – for the construction of a metro extension from Monastiraki to Aegaleo and rebuffed an article in Sunday’s Kathimerini noting that the three-station project had cost as much as Turin’s entire metro route. Responding to Kathimerini’s report, Souflias dismissed criticism of excessive spending on Athens’s 4.3-kilometer Monastiraki-Aegaleo metro extension – the budget for which has already exceeded 600 million euros – to Turin’s 9.6-kilometer, 15-station route – whose construction was completed for the same sum. «We are implementing the contract we inherited,» Souflias said, adding that «the budget for the Aegaleo project has not increased during our term.» The minister insisted that the Athens project cannot be compared to the Turin one as «(the Italians) do not have a problem with antiquities, nor a high level of seismic activity.» Also, Souflias said that the Turin metro has been built on a smaller scale since its stations are smaller than the ones on the Athens metro and the trains have only three carriages each. Souflias conceded that the project had been delayed «due to problems posed by archaeological excavations, the need to relocate public utility networks and court appeals by residents protesting expropriations.» The Aegaleo extension, due to start operating in March 2005 according to the previous government’s contract, will be up and running by spring next year, according to Souflias. However, Attiko Metro Chairman Giorgos Yiannis yesterday conceded that the contractor building the extension has objected to this deadline. Sources say that spring 2008 is a more realistic estimate. Souflias yesterday also gave launch dates for additional metro stations. Two new stations – Nomismatokopeio, on Mesogeion Avenue, and Holargos – are to start operating in 2007, three others – Haidari, Anthoupolis and Aghia Paraskevi – are due to open in 2008, and a station at Hellenikon, near the old airport, is to open in 2009, he said. Meanwhile, the first phase of Thessaloniki’s metro station will be up and running by 2012 at the earliest, he said.