Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias yesterday unveiled the first half kilometer of Thessaloniki’s metro system during a visit to the northern city and heralded the extension of the route to the suburbs and the airport by 2012. Referring to the works as «the most significant public transport project currently under way in Greece,» Souflias inspected the tunnel borer – or metropontikas (literally «metro mouse») – that is to open up nearly 10 kilometers of underground tunnels. Works are expected to progress at a rate of around 10 meters of track per day, the minister said. «The metro is progressing very quickly – we are moving forward with the construction of the basic route which will cover 9.6 kilometers and include 13 stations,» Souflias said. It is estimated that this basic metro route will enable at least 250,000 journeys per day. Souflias added that tenders for the extension of the Thessaloniki metro route by 5 kilometers to several suburbs, including densely populated Kalamaria and Stavroupolis, would be announced over the next few days. A metro station scheduled for construction in the area of Mikra will also be the site of a car park with some 1,000 spaces, the minister added. The total estimated cost of the metro project is 1.5 billion euros. Thessaloniki residents have been assured several times over the past two decades that they would get a metro system. In 2003, PASOK’s then Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou had pledged that the northern city would have a metro network up and running by 2008. The tender for the project had been awarded back in 1992.