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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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K. Karamanlis proposes extensive undergrounding of the train line reaching Patras

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Κώστας Καραμανλής

A very interesting panel was held today in Patras, within the framework of the 8th Regional Growth Conference organized by “Peloponnisos” newspaper.

During the session entitled: “Regional Policy and New Infrastructure”, the Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, Mr. Kostas Karamanlis,referred to major infrastructure projects in the region and announced the government’s proposal for extensive undergrounding of the train route to Patras (between Kanellopoulou Street and Dymaion Coast, with a total length of more than 5 km) and its connection to the port of the city (section Aghios Dionysios-Aghios Andreas).

Mr. Karamanlis announced the new approach for the train, aiming to satisfy the local community, releasing at least 17 acres of public space on the surface within the dense urban sprawl, while ensuring, at the same time, the good operation of the Suburban Railway and mainting the connection to Pyrgos. As he said the relevant tender is due to start in the second half of 2021 for a project worth in total 514m euros. When completed, travel time between Athens and Patras will be reduced to just 1 hour and 40 minutes.

The proposal of the Minister of Infrastructure and Transport is of great interest in the region, since the issue of the construction of the train  line has been present for more than 15 years.

The Minister of Infrastructure and Transport also spoke about Patras-Pyrgos Motorway, for which he promised swift developments in order to upgrade the existing, obsolete axis that is extremely dangerous for its users.

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CRRC successfully tests 600km/h maglev train

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China successfully completed low-speed dynamic testing of a 600km/h prototype maglev car developed by CRRC Sifang on a test line at Tongji University in Shanghai on June 21, a milestone for the project lunched in June 2016.

CRRC is developing the train alongside more than 30 companies, universities, and research institutes. The train has been identified as a key development under the Ministry of Science and Technology’s Advanced Rail Transit research and development plan.

The trial was undertaken following static testing and debugging, and included dynamic operating environments such as switches, curves and ramps. This allowed the testing of key components such as suspension guidance, speed and position measurement, the vehicle-rail interface, traction, and the communication systems.

Mr Ding Sansan, deputy chief engineer of CRRC Sifang and head of the maglev project, says the development of the maglev train requires four different elements, including the vehicle, power supply, communications systems and track. The tests allowed simultaneous testing of each element, with a large amount of data collected that will feed into further research.

“Under the test conditions of multiple scenarios, the suspension guidance of the vehicle is stable, and the operating condition is good,” Ding says. “The key technical indicators meet the design requirements and the design expectations.”

Five test cars are currently under development, with a full prototype capable of 600km/h operation expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Last year, China announced plans for a 200km maglev line in Hubei province to test operation of the prototype train at speeds in excess of 600km/h.

 

Source: railjournal.com

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Tram extension to Piraeus to operate in late 2020

Νίκος Καραγιάννης

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The operation of the Tramway extension to Piraeus is moved towards the end of 2020, as the works for the relocation of the Tram line in the area of ​​Faliro Bay will have to be completed first, as well as the rest of the project.

It is also reminded that Batis-SEF section, has been out of order since March 16, 2020, based on the planning of Attica Region, in the context of Faliro Bay Restoration project.

According to information, while initially the project provided for 45 days of construction works and an additional 15 days of testing, due to Covid-19 pandemic, these procedures were delayed.

Now, should there be no more delays, the new goal is for the projects to be completed with the reattachement of the lines on both sides, allowing the restoration of commercial operation, by the beginning of September. It is noted that the projects include the demolition of “Tzitzifies” and “Kallithea” stops and their reconstruction at a new location.

The building that stands in the way for the extension’s operation

The big demand from the above projects is the start of the commercial operation of the first large extension of the Tram from Faliro to Piraeus. The project has been completed and last February STASY S.A. was just a step away from receiving the new section from Attiko Metro.

Then, a fire at an adjacent conservation building, obstructed the delivery of the extension, as the use of the line was banned by the police, “trapping the project in the greek bureauratic procedures.

An autopsy was performed by the Ministry of Culture, deciding that the building could be demolished, apart from its facade. However, this requires a detailed demolition study by the Municipality of Piraeus.

At this point in time, Attiko Metro expects from the Ministry of Culture and the Municipality to address any interventions needed in order to remove the traffic ban and allow the completion of the remaining works that concern the installation of telematics and a substation.

Extension to operate towards the end of the year

Based on the above and having in mind the best prospects, the delivery of the 5.4 km long single-track line for the extension of the Tram to Piraeus, with 11 stops is expected to be operational by the end of the year.

At that point, the first lot of the “new generation” tramsets are expected to be delivered by Alstom, making the service of the line extension possible and reinforcing the existing fleet, which is now considered “missing”. A total of 25 tramsets will be received.

It is reminded that the project started in early 2013 with a completion schedule of 25 months. If it finally operates at the end of 2020 it will have completed 94 months (!), i.e. almost four times the period that was originally calculated.

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