Aiming at successfully organising the 2004 Olympic Games and reinforcing its role as an international centre of transport and commerce in South-Eastern Europe, Greece has undertaken the effort to modernise its infrastructure. With the help of funds provided by the EU structural aid packages and loans from the European Investment Bank, Greek economy has already absorbed about 32 billion Euros (during 1994-1999 from the second Community Support Framework) while it will disburse 48 billion Euros more (for the years 2000-2006 from the third Community Support Framework). The total amount will come to about 4 per cent of GDP yearly and it is scheduled to be gradually allocated (along with private sector funds) towards the completion of large infrastructure projects.
The Program of Infrastructure Projects has a total budget of approximately 17,6 billion Euro. The main focus is on the following six big projects, which are all due for completion by the end of 2004 and it is estimated that they will significantly improve the flow of traffic, transport and communications of the country.
• The Egnatia Motorway axis of 687 km across northern Greece, linking the northern port of Igoumenitsa with the Turkish border in Thrace. It is the largest roadwork under construction in Europe and part of the Trans-European Road Network. Its completion is considered to be a crucial factor for the achievement of the targets of the Single European Market, employment opportunities decentralisation and the financial cohesion of the EU member-states. It has nine peripheral road axes (which are branches of the project) connecting Greece with Albania, the FYROM, Bulgaria and Turkey.
• The Rio-Antirio Bridge (linking the Peloponnese with mainland Greece across the western end of the Corinth Gulf) is one of the most impressive projects in Europe. The project will upgrade the entire transportation system in the western part of the country. It also serves as Greece’s main gateway to Western Europe through the sea routes that connect Greece with Italy. Upon the completion of the project, the country will have the longest cable bridge in the world.
• The Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos at Spata is one of the most modern airports in the world. The airport, which serves 16 million passengers a year in the first stage, was inaugurated on March 28, 2001. Special attention has been given to the use of advanced technologies in its equipment, as well as the high security and service standards.
• The Athens Metro extension is one of the largest infrastructure projects under construction in Europe today. The Athens Metro opened to the public in January 2000, while another five stations (serving business and residential districts) opened in October 2000. The gradual completion of the project has already had a significant impact on the quality of life in the capital by reducing traffic congestion and atmospheric pollution. The two current lines serve approximately 450,000 passengers per day, while the total rail system serves 800,000 passengers per day. The metro will be extended further over the next seven years to serve more residential districts, while a connection with the new international airport will also be created.
• The Attiki Odos motorway linking Elefsis, west of the capital, with the new airport is a part of the Patras-Corinth-Thessaloniki-Evzoni highway and will contribute to the improvement of the natural environment and of the quality of life in Attica by connecting 30 municipalities and saving travel time as well as fuel. It completes the capital’s external ring road and connects all the transportation means and infrastructures.
• The Patras-Athens-Thessaloniki-Evzoni motorway is also a part of the Trans-European Road Network. The project aims at modernising the major motorway spine of Greece, reducing its total length from 730 km to 690 km. The motorway is of great importance as it crosses the entire country connecting 14 cities, 9 ports and airports, and provides access for many Greek cities to countries of the Balkan Peninsula.
Apart from the above-mentioned major projects, a vast programme for the development and modernization of the Greek road networks is being implemented between 2000-2006. In this context, essential road works have been scheduled for implementation in the major cities, as well as projects improving the access to the international gates of the country (borders, airports, sea ports). Special importance is also given to the application of measures contributing to road safety. Finally, the thorough modernisation of the Greek railway system, which was constructed in the 1880’s and whose total railway track measures almost 1,600 miles (2,560 km), has been scheduled. In particular, the upgrading of the network of the Athens-Corinth-Patras line (of a total length of 220 Km) and the Thessaloniki-Strimona/ Promachonas-Alexandroupolis-Ormenios line (of a total length of 632 Km) are currently under way.