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Thessaloniki Metro Station: The story so far for Venizelou Station

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The VENIZELOU station, which is a matter that counts 10 years of “history”, remains in the center of interest as today the three appeals that have been submitted to the Council of State are to be heard.

The continuation of the works at the station will be judged by the decision of the CoC. In other words, this is an initial appeal that can either allow the continuation of the works or they will be “freezed”, which will bring another adventure to the long-suffering project.

The findings at the station, condense about six centuries of Byzantine History in Thessaloniki and all these years in a in-fighting between culture, science and politics. The entire city has become a spectator, that is suffering and remains trapped in the subway sheets for years.

Today we will have a big flashback to how we got to today and we will need to go 16 years ago, in 2004 where we had the first opinion of the KAS (46/2004). According to it, the construction of the whole project in the Thessaloniki Metro was approved and in which it was mentioned that in case of revelation of antiquities, an updated decision should be issued.

According to sources familiar with the matter, from the beginning there was an estimate that they would be found ancient due to the design that had been chosen.

In April 2006, the construction contract for the Thessaloniki Metro is signed with an initial completion time of 6.5 years.

It will take 4 whole years for the excavations to begin at the VENIZELOU station and at about 7.5 meters the antiquities begin to be revealed. On December 24, 2012, the excavations stop because the Decumanus Maximus (also known as the Middle Road), the Cardio, pipes and building debris come to light. The adventure of the project has just begun.

On January 24, 2013 (just one month later), the first decision is taken by the Ministry of Culture, according to which the archaeological finds can be detached and the remaining buildings can be deconstructed.

Six months later, on June 17, the Municipality of Thessaloniki reacted and sent a letter to the Ministry of Culture requesting the annulment of the decision, while on July 9, it appealed to the CoC requesting the suspension of the decision of the Ministry of Culture. The objection is accepted with the issuance of a decision from 23.7.13 on temporary suspension of the decision.

Two days later, Attiko Metro delivers a report on the construction of VENIZELOU station with 5 different scenarios. The first is the abolition of the station, the second is the transfer of the station to a new location, the third is the in situ construction (with the stay of the ancient and simultaneous construction), construction with detachment and relocation and the fifth with its detachment and safekeeping at former military camp of Pavlos Melas.

Five months later, on December 11, 2013, the CoC with decision 528/2013 finally freezes the works at the VENIZELOU station, accepting the main appeal of the Municipality of Thessaloniki.

On February 24, 2014, a new opinion comes from the KAS, according to which a solution similar to the one that has been decided since 2019 is being promoted with strict conditions. That is, a study for the protection and promotion of antiquities has to be approved, the detachment study must be approved and their storage area must be secured.

On June 26, 2014, the Municipality of Thessaloniki reacted again and filed an application for annulment against the ministerial decision and on October 31, 2014, with a letter from Attiko Metro to the Ministry of Culture, it informs that the works have stopped and asks for instructions and actions from the Ministry.

On December 15, 2014, the Municipality of Thessaloniki sends a letter to Attiko Metro that it accepts the solution (of the beginning of 2014) and a positive opinion of the KAS is given again.

Six months later, on June 22, 2015, with a new letter, the Municipality of Thessaloniki sends a letter to the Ministry of Culture with which it now supports the solution in situ. Three months later, on September 15, the KAS agrees to consider the new solution for the construction of the station. The decision is taken without the presence of a representative of Attiko Metro.

On October 6, 2015, a ministerial decision is issued for the in situ solution and eight months later, we have the famous quadruple memorandum of the Municipality of Thessaloniki-Ministry of Culture-Attiko Metro-Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport. A five-member working group is created which on the 14th of the same month submits a proposal for the new solution.

With the decision of 26.11.16 of the plenary session of the CoC at the request of the Municipality of Thessaloniki against the previous decision of the Ministry of Culture, rejects and considers as legal and constitutionally justified the removal and relocation of the ancients.

On January 23, 2017, Attiko Metro approves the redesign with in situ and the next day the KAS gives a positive opinion and on February 10 a ministerial decision is issued to approve the in situ solution.

On June 29, 2017, with a decision of Attiko Metro, the construction consortium is instructed to start studies for the approved solution. On October 29, AM will carry out an additional preparation of final level 1 studies.

On June 29, 2017, with a decision of Attiko Metro, the construction consortium is instructed to start studies for the approved solution. On October 29, AM will carry out additional final level 1 (OM) studies for the station’s E / M.

Eighteen months later, on April 22, 2019, an order is given to the consortium for OM level 2 and the construction of the roof slab of VENIZELOU station is underway. A crucial point here, according to the same sources, is the lack of environmental permitting for the modified solution.

On September 2, 2019, all studies are returned and on December 18, 2019, the KAS gives an opinion on the return to the solution of posting and relocation.

This year, in February, an order is given by AM for level 1 OM in the construction consortium, which were approved in July, while in March, the ministerial decision is issued by the Ministry of Culture for the solution of the secondment and relocation.

In July, the study of Korres Engineering is submitted to the Ephorate of Antiquities of Thessaloniki and at the same time an order is given for the final level 2 studies to proceed.

At the same time, three appeals are being gradually submitted to the SC, requesting the freezing of the works at the VENIZELOU station. The trial of these appeals is today.

Key points

1. At the critical points for the VENIZELOU station is the absence of a supplementary contract for the in situ solution which would give an entity in the political-judicial involvement of the project. The same must be done now, of course, in the solution that has been approved. Any actions must necessarily result in an additional contract as the physical object of the project is modified.

2. Here we have a controversy that largely started with the scientific community of archaeologists and has expanded into the political arena. We will not consider whether one solution is superior to the other at this point. Why; Time now counts down for the project and if there is a new delay we will have serious involvement in the financing of the project.

Metro Thessaloniki is funded (perhaps the only project in Greece) by three consecutive NSRFs (2000-2007, 2007-2013, 2014-2020). It is certain that if the construction of the entire project, which is 14.5 years old and has not worked, is not completed within the framework of this NSRF, we will have to face a demand for the return of the large funds given by the EU.

3. In any case, the operation of the Thessaloniki Metro in 2023 must be ensured by all means, without having any other adventures. The extension to Kalamaria, which fortunately did not face similar issues, is also a hostage of the VENIZELOU station.

The city is entitled and should know that somewhere there will be an end to this long history that started as an ambitious page that will transform Thessaloniki and has evolved into an endless nightmare.

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