Two years later, tram speeds up

The tram celebrated yesterday its two-year anniversary since its return to Athenian streets, following a four-decade absence, with its operator pledging that it will become speedier by the end of the year. The managing director of Tram SA, Sophocles Psylianos, said that the «green wave,» whereby traffic lights will be regulated so they turn green for the tram when it approaches, will be in effect by the end of the year. A chief gripe among tram users is that it is too slow but Psylianos insisted that its average speed has increased over the last two years and has now reached 23 kilometers per hour. He said the journey from Syntagma Square to the seaside suburb of Glyfada takes 55 minutes. Transport Minister Michalis Liapis hailed the tram as safe, punctual, environmentally friendly and cheap to use. «The tram began with some problems and was given a bad reputation,» said Liapis. «But these problems are being solved and people, especially in the southern suburbs, are embracing it.» Passenger numbers have increased after several initiatives to tempt people onto the tram. Psylianos said that some 60,000 people rode the tram last month. Almost half of the passengers are aged 18-34. But this is still short of the 80,000 that were predicted when the tram went into operation before the Athens Olympics. Liapis said discussions were continuing about an extension to Piraeus even though locals appear opposed to the idea. He said that feasibility studies would be completed this summer. The minister added that the possibility of building an extension to Keratsini in western Athens was also being examined.