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The “success story” of Ioannina Airport: The Scandinavians and the new goals

Νίκος Καραγιάννης

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Προσγείωση αεροπλάνου στην Κέρκυρα

If one were to talk about an authentic success story, Ioannina Airport would be an ideal candidate. If we go a little back in time when the regional airports were being aggregated for their concession, the airport of Epirus was excluded due to lack of interest.

Another important reason was that within a relatively small radius, there were two other airports, Corfu and Aktio, both with greater prospects as they serve islands with high traffic in the summer and are more connected to well-known, international travel agencies as well as charter flights. An that is why Ioannina Airport’s future was finally left to fate.

However, apart from its exclusion, it had to deal with an upgrade project which had started in 2008 but was dragging on from year to year and which, having been funded, during the crisis, exclusively by the Public Investments Programme, and showing an obvious inability to be completed.

So the status that one had to face was an somehow marooned airport, in a corner of the country, without real traffic and with ongoing, never-ending projects.

In addition, it had to deal with the fear of the newly constructed Ionian Motorway, which would further cut off even its limited interior traffic. It was an airport without prospects.

A change of course

The change of course for the airport of Epirus, happened thanks to the efforts of the Region, the local bodis and the administration of the airport.

With almost zero traffic, they managed to attract one of the largest tourist groups in Europe, Apollo, which was looking for new destinations. Apollo was convinced to start, initially trial routes from areas of Scandinavia, such as Stockholm and Copenhagen.

An important factor in attracting Apollo was the Union of Hoteliers of Epirus, which created special packages not only for Ioannina but also for the surrounding areas, i.e. Metsovo, Zagorochoria and others.

The key point as pointed out to ypodomes.com by the Airport Manager, Mr. Vassilis Mitsimaris, was the cheap attractive tariff and the virtues of the area, which until then remained a virgin tourist destination. At the same time, the internal route Athens-Ioannina, by Aegean Airlines, remained stable.

“The experiment was successful,” he commented. Then there were other flights, and by March, when the pandemic froze all airports around the world, the airport’s increase in passenger traffic was significant, creating the conditions for a destination that has the ability to provide tourist services all year round.

The upgrade of the airport (even though more limited in relation to the original plan) was completed last year. There is now a new terminal that basically meets the needs of passenger traffic.

One problem that arises during the summer months when the traffic increases considerably is the lack of sufficient space in the arrivals area.

The new goals

Taking into account that the plans may pushed back due to the pandemic, but given the potential of the destination, the airport of Ioannina is the focus of the plans of the bodies and the regional administration. The airport now serves all of Epirus and the southern part of Albania.

One of the challenges is the connection to the german market says Mr. Mitsimaris; Ioannina is not only a tourist destination but a city with a university and two hospitals, which could also attract people who would see the area as a place to stay.

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GRITS: The new electronic tolling system with one transceiver for all motorways

Νίκος Καραγιάννης

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Σταθμός διοδίων

End titles for the tender regarding the installation of satellite tolls were put by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport after a decision of the Minister, Mr. Kostas Karamanlis, cancelling the relevant tender.

It was the last act of the case, as essentially the tender was already neutralized by the Council of State, where after an appeal of the participants, serious deficiencies were found.

It is reminded that it was an ambitious plan to install transceivers for the traffic control of all trucks and cameras for passenger vehicles, combined with free flow lanes on the motorways and a proportional charge according to the kilometers travelled.

Market sources describe this plan as maximalistic, as such a wide implementation, as they comment, does not exist in any country of the western world.

“GRITS”: A transceiver for all motorway axes

One cycle is coming to an end, but a new cycle is opening at the same time in the case of the modernization of greek motorways’ tolls. According to information of ypodomes.com, the agreement between the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport and the concessionaires as well as the state-owned Egnatia Odos, has been secured. This agreement was one of the first goals set by Mr. Kostas Karamanlis, as a Minister.

The new system where all axes will be entering is the so-called “GRITS” (Greek Interoperable Tolling System). Aegean Motorway, Attiki Odos, Olympia Odos, Moreas Motorway and Gefyra SA are already included in the network. As of next October, Egnatia Odos and its vertical axes, Ionia Odos, Nea Odos and Kentriki Odos-E65 will also join.

For the drivers, this means that with one transceiver they will be able to drive on all covered motorways without having to change a device. The charge remains the same (0.06 euros per kilometer) as do the discount packages on each motorway. In short, drivers will charge the transceiver of their choice with money and with it they will be able to pay everywhere across the country.

According to sources close to the subject, the existing motorways are currently upgrading their systems and from June the testing of the systems will start for a period of 3-4 months. GRITS is reportedly scheduled to operate next October, possibly even a little earlier, if trials are completed soon.

For the future, a new tender for electronic tolling system is being explored where interoperability will go to a higher level with the operation of a free-flow system.

Operation of the hybrid tolling system on Olympia Odos on its way

IBI Group’s hybrid tolling system will also be put into operation soon by Olympia Odos. But what is the “hybrid tolling system” that is being implemented? It is basically a fairer charging policy that is addressed exclusively to the owners of o-pass devices (i.e. Olympia Motorway’s electronic transceivers).

Its “smart” operation is extremely simple. O-pass users are charged at the tolls according to the price of each station but upon drivers’ exit at the interchange of their choice, a calculation will be made subtracting the kilometers that haven’t been used till the next toll station. Based on these kilometers, the difference will be deducted from the paid price and the money will be refunded to the drivers’ accounts.

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Attiki Motorway: Procedures for extension projects and new concession period, begin

Νίκος Καραγιάννης

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The process for the new tender regarding the operation of Attiki Motorway begins With the hiring of a technical and financial consultant. The three companies that have been selected by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport are: RACE Consulting Engineers LP, LDK Consulting Engineers SA and Hill International.

What is interesting in the decision of the Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, Mr. Kostas Karamanlis, is that it gives the possibility for more than one concession contracts, that is, the exploitation and operation of Attiki Motorway in sections.

As described in the decision: “The Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport intends to auction in the near future one or more concession agreements for the operation and maintenance of Elefsina-Stavrou-A/D Spata and the Western Regional Avenue of Ymittos, in combination with additional construction projects (extensions of Attiki Motorway and/or projects on other roads)”.

This scenario has gone public since last autumn and was even linked to funding VOAK Motorway project in Crete. The previous model received by the Ministry of Infrastructure for VOAK was considered financially unsustainable, however, this is just one among many scenarios for the next day on Attiki Motorway, that are on the table.

The search will be carried out with two elements: one related to the financial aspect as this affects the expiration date of the contract and the second to the parameters related to the provision for obligations such as heavy maintenance, upgrade of the tolling system, etc.

In more detail, the search will include issues related to:

Carrying out technical control of the Concession Agreement during the period of operation and maintenance and specifically for the production of a technical report focusing on the following issues:

A. Identification of time points for heavy maintenance of the project

B. Cost of heavy maintenance

C. Estimation of foreseen costs for the fulfillment of the obligations deriving from the concession agreement

D. Identification of the systems that refer to the regulation/control of the circulation as well as the collection of toll fares

E. Additional or emergency works performed which are not compensated by the State and that have been accounted for and have also been included in the financial model

F. Operating-maintenance costs in addition to the fixed remuneration of the operator and matching with the provisions of the contract between the operator and the concessionaire

Detailed examinations

In addition, issues such as: the validity of the applicable parameters for the correctness of application by the concessionaire, scrutiny on financial statements, extraction of information regarding contractual clauses on tax-free reserve, accumulated losses, etc. as well as the investigation of existing loan obligations, etc.

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The revival and the challenges of Greece’s major infrastructure projects

Νίκος Καραγιάννης

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Σιδηροδρομικός Σταθμός Αιγίου

The country’s major projects are coming back to life after a period of stagnation that brought grumbling and pessimism throughout the construction industry. Yesterday’s visit of the Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, Mr. Kostas Karamanlis to the under-construction Thessaloniki Metro, was a message that the project is on track and is progressing while the commitment for its operation in 2023, was maintained.

Additionally, this message for the projects’ comeback is becoming more and more powerful considering the announcement for the implementation of projects of 13bn euros. A series of projects that are stagnating, either at their tendering or their construction stage, are taking steps forward and this summer it seems that there will be a special interest for the promotion and implementation of major projects.

The big double tender for VOAK Motorway has been unblocked after almost a year and now the environmental study is being prepared. This big step forward “gives wings” to the tendering process that until a few months ago was in doubt. The status is the same in the tender for the procurement of new urban buses. In the previous days, there has been a series of statements from the leadership of the Minitry regarding the launch of the big tender next September. It is reminded that the previous tender has been cancelled after the decision of AEPP.

In terms of projects, the extension of the Tram to Piraeus, the new double-track railway line betweeen Kiatoa and Aegio and the first half of Athens Metro Line 3 section, Aghia Marina-Nikaia- with 3 stations will be all delivered in the summer. The other half of the extension, reaching the “heart” of Piraeus, up to the city’s Municipal Theater, is probably expected in 2022.

At the same time, mobility is observed on Egnatia Motorway. The company, which in recent years has faced questions even for its very existence, in the last 5 months has auctioned a number of major road projects that stimulate the construction market.

More particularly, the connection of Thessaloniki Port (OLTH) to the country’s motorway network, the completion of Thessaloniki-Polygyros and Thessaloniki-Kassandra axes, as well as the two maintenance tenders for the main motorway, proved that the company has a future ahead of it.

EYDAP has also auctioned two large projects in Eastern Attica amounting to 140m euros with the relevant tenders being in progress. ERGOSE also estimates that two tenders concerning electrification projects will proceed in the near future.

At the same time, the Ministry of Infrastructure is preparing two major PPP tenders for the summer. The first is for the Thessaloniki Ring Road and the second for Havria Dam in Halkidiki. The road PPP project Kalamata-Pylos-Methoni in Peloponnese is also proceeding again with all participants while the tender for Salamina subsea road tunnel is progressing as the environmental study is being prepared for submission.

Of course there are plenty other PPP projects; 3 large building projects with a total budget of 450m euros for the Universities of Thrace, Crete, Thessaly, another one by the Academy of Athens, while more projects are about to come in the near future.

As far as major strategic projects by privatized bodies are concerned, the project for the expansion of the cruise pier in the port of Piraeus has started, while in the second phase of its tender is the project for the completion of OLTH’s 6th pier. Finally, Fraport’s large-scale investment in the 14 Regional Airports that are under its management, is also at an advanced stage.

“Thorny” projects

However, there are three major projects in the queue: Patras-Pyrgos Motorway, Athens Metro Line 4 and Aktio-Amvrakia sweep-contract, all of which are on hold for different reasons.

For Patras-Pyrgos Motorway, the contracts have been dissolved and the approval of the Commission is expected in order to “re-attach” the new section to Olympia Motorway.  For Athens Metro Line 4, the appeal of the two final contenders (i.e. AKTOR and AVAX) to the Council of State means a waiting time of about a year.

Regarding, Aktio-Amvrakia Motorway a decision is expected on whether the tender will continue or not (meaning that a new one will follow). Delays are observed in the biginvestments of Athens International Airport due to coronavirus pandemic.

Here, as developments are dynamic, we need to see how much they will positively or negatively affect the implentation of the investments. However, the market also anticipates the huge building project for the casino in Elliniko. Despite repeated rejections, Hard Rock seems to be determined to pursue the project through legal means.

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