History derails Athens tram

Almost a month after the first lines were laid in central Athens for a new tram network linking the city center with the coastal suburbs, the government yesterday announced a radical route change dictated by the capital’s ancient past. Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos told a press conference that the third side of a triangle around the ancient Temple of Olympian Zeus – the section linking Vassilissis Olgas with Kallirois Street – would be scrapped. He implied that this was to protect the 2nd century AD arch of Hadrian on Amalias Avenue, down which the tram was to have gone. But archaeological sources said ancient remains were believed to exist as little as 25 centimeters under Amalias, which would have necessitated time-consuming excavations. The 346-million-euro project must be finished in time for the 2004 Olympics. Venizelos said the change of plan would cost 2.35 million euros, but alleged that this would be offset by money saved from not building the Olgas-to-Amalias stretch. The 25-kilometer line will go from Syntagma Square to Palaio Faliron, before branching out to Voula and Nea Faliron.

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