ND: Ministry warned on tram

Archaeologists had warned the government that construction of an Athens tramline in front of the Temple of Olympian Zeus would fall foul of antiquities 16 months before September’s decision to scrap the project due to ancient finds, opposition New Democracy revealed yesterday. Cancellation of the Vassilissis Amalias Avenue section of the 346-million-euro tram – which will link the city center with the southern coastal suburbs – will slightly lengthen the route, at a cost of 2.35 million euros. It will also kill longstanding plans for a tram route through the pedestrian network linking the city’s principal ancient sites, which starts from Vassilissis Amalias. During a debate in Parliament yesterday, ND MP Procopis Pavlopoulos presented documents from the Ministry of Culture’s archaeological service dating from May, July and August 2001 which stressed that any excavations on Amalias were bound to reveal ancient remains. These would hold up – if not cancel – the project, which is scheduled for completion in April 2004 and is an essential part of Greece’s preparations for the Athens Olympics. Earlier in the debate, Transport Minister Christos Verelis had claimed he first heard of the archaeologists’ objections in August 2002, when he had already inaugurated the project. Then Deputy Transport Minister Emanouil Stratakis said the warning sent to the ministry in May had been taken into consideration. Also yesterday, the newly elected mayors of Palaio Faliro, Alimos and Glyfada reiterated their objection to the route the tram is scheduled to follow through their municipalities. «The planning is incredibly slipshod,» Palaio Faliro Mayor Dionyssis Hadjidakis told Kathimerini. «The change of plans at [Vassilissis Amalias] is just the first of a series of mistakes that will gradually become evident.»

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