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Violeta Bulc: Bilateral Air Safety Agreements, Port Regulation, and Ljubliana

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Violeta Bulc describes a full week from Strasbourg Mission to Slovenia.

“This week started with some very good news – just three months after its adoption by the European Commission, the Aviation Strategy is already starting to deliver. Now that we have received the backing of the Member States, the Commission will start negotiations with China and Japan in view of concluding Bilateral Air Safety Agreements (BASA). Such agreements will enhance air safety worldwide and contribute to the global competitiveness of the European aviation industry.

They will offer European companies new business opportunities in China and Japan, two key aeronautical nations. More trade means more growth and jobs in Europe .I am delighted that all our work on the Strategy is starting to pay off so early. And yet these agreements are only one pillar of the ambitious external aviation policy. This year we will seek to negotiate comprehensive aviation agreements with several key partners – including China – in order to improve Europe’s global connectivity.

On Monday, I travelled to Strasbourg, where I was pleased to see that the European Parliament greenlighted the Ports Regulation, an important step to make European ports more competitive and increase financial transparency. The Regulation will deliver on the Commission’s agenda for investment, growth and jobs. It is good news for future sustainable transport, it will facilitate private investment in ports, encourage more efficient public investments and port services, as well as contributing to legal stability for port workers.

I believe that ports are engines for growth. A competitive port sector is critical to the well-functioning of the internal market, and our seaports are gateways from the trans-European network to the rest of the world. I look forward to working with the European Parliament and the Council of the EU to reach a final agreement.

Later in the week, on Thursday, I visited Ljubljana, European Green Capital 2016. I am very proud and happy to see Ljubljana taking the lead in many innovative projects, also in the area of transport and mobility. In order to ensure sustainable development it is very important that a green city is also a smart city, open for innovation.

The Commission encourages cities’ efforts for a healthier and friendlier environment for their citizens, and the Slovenian capital has been very successful in this regard. During my visit to Ljubljana, I took part in my 3rd Citizen’s Dialogue in Slovenia, this time together with my colleague Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

We spoke about circular economy and its benefits for development, environment, and people. I emphasised that transport is a resource-intensive sector, both for the construction of transport infrastructure and the manufacturing and operation of vessels and vehicles.
Therefore, infrastructure, energy and vehicles should be brought within the circular economy with the aim to make transport as resource efficient as possible. I always enjoy talking to citizens about the challenges, successes and efforts they are facing. I am delighted to see many valuable proposals and opinions, which will help us to see where and how we can contribute more to the people in Europe.”

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Epirus claims the advent of the railway in the region

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Epirus Region sends an official request for the train to reach the area. The request concerns the examination by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport of the maturation of a railway project that will connect Epirus with the national network of the country, thus reaching Ioannina and the port of Epirus, Igoumenitsa.

In the Regional Council, held on May 15, it was unanimously decided to send the above request in order to push the State to investigate the possibility of such a public investment with funding from the new programming period, i.e. NSRF 2021-2027. More particularly, the Region is calling for the construction of a new 147km railway line from Kalambaka to Igoumenitsa as this project is still environmentally licensed. In essence, we are talking about the completion of the so-called “Railway Egnatia”.

Kachrimanis (Epirus Governor): 110 years of promises – We will claim the advent of the railway

As the Regional Governor of Epirus, Mr. Alexandros Kachrimanis, told ypodomes.com, Epirus has a long history of announcements -of over a century- regarding the advent of the train. On July 17, 1911, the newspaper “Epirus” wrote about an announcement according to which railway would reach the town of Ioannina.

“From that point an on, every now and then, we talk about the arrival of the railway in the area but we never get to its implementation. There is no provision for this even now, but we, the people of Epirus, said that we will claim that the railway reaches Ioannina and Igoumenitsa”, he noted.

In fact, as Mr. Kachrimanis reveals, the Region, with its own resources, prepared a preliminary study for a new single-track railway line Igoumenitsa-Ioannina-Argyrokastro and from there an additional connection with a railway line from the town of Kozani.

“Let me remind you of the projects that started in the 1930s for the line to reach Kozani and never ended. Also during Mr. Vereli’s secretaryship, there was again a promise that was not kept”, emphasizes Mr. Kachrimanis, who even reveals that in the period 2005-2008 several studies were prepared but there was never a follow-up.

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

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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

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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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