“Invest in the railway.” That was the message of last night’s atmosphere at Rouf Station, which hosted the Connecting Europe Express. The need to connect our country with the trans-European transport networks monopolized the discussions, while for the first time the Egnatia railway, which will connect Alexandroupolis with Igoumenitsa, entered the agenda with the blessings of the Commission.

In fact, an important project is coming to the fore that will connect our country with the trans-European corridor Orient / East Med, but the difficulty of financing, so far had left it on the sidelines. In particular, the part of the so-called western Egnatia railway was considered rather impossible.

“We would like to see the implementation of connections beyond the main Athens-Thessaloniki axis and the connection of Athens with Patras. We want to see the connection with Alexandroupolis and the 6 main ports of the country, as well as up to Igoumenitsa. We are also interested in the railway crossing the border to Bulgaria and Central Europe. “We have a lot of steps to take and a long-term commitment, and dedication is required,” a DG Move spokesman said last night.

Full speed ahead for the plans

While the connection of Greece with the main ports of Bulgaria – also known as the Bosphorus bypass – has made some progress, although much more is needed, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport and OSE are gathering steam so the train will reach Igoumenitsa, in the medium term.

The first studies, according to information, will start for the Kalampaka-Kozani line, with funding from CEF II. The project, with a budget estimated at 750m euros, is part of the new line that will connect Kalambaka with Siatista, Kozani, Kastoria to finish in Krystallopigi.

OSE is also starting studies for the new Kalampaka-Ioannina-Igoumenitsa line. The line will bring the train to Epirus for the first time. There is an approved funding of 20 million euros for the studies. According to the schedule set by OSE, by the end of 2022 the design competitions will be completed. Their completion is estimated in the first quarter of 2025.

New turnkey projects

The studies are the essential step in the maturation of the projects that will succeed the big railway package of the decade, amounting to 3.3 billion euros. “We are proceeding with the connection of the railway network with our 6 major ports: Thessaloniki, Patras, Lavrio, Rafina, Kavala, Alexandroupolis. “For the first time, we are finding a way to auction a package of railway projects, or” turn-key” projects without breaking them into smaller parcels, which lead to delays and budget overruns,” Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, Mr. Costas Karamanlis said during his greeting.

Railway: Transport protagonist

As Mr. Spyros Pateras, President and CEO of OSE, characteristically said, at the event for the arrival of Connecting Europe Express in Athens, the conditions for the railway to become the protagonist of passenger and commercial transport in the country, as is the case in the rest of the world and Europe is as follows:

1. Upgrading and optimizing the railway infrastructure to increase the speed of transport and the reliability of the network.

2. Revival and renewal of the railway rolling stock that will make the routes more comfortable for passengers and employees.

3. Development of digital structures that will modernize the Greek railway and

4. Strategic planning that must include the interconnection of all the development poles of the country, ie ports, airports, supply chain and trans-European connections.

“In order to achieve the above, we need proper utilization of human and financial resources and protection of the railway infrastructure and property,” he stressed.

The journey of Connecting Europe Express

The Connecting Europe Express is a separate train. In fact, there are three different trains, the Iberian, the Classical and the Baltic. This is due to the different width of railway lines in Europe, a fact that deprives Europe of the coveted interoperability. The three trains meet during the iconic route connecting Connecting Europe Express this year from one end of Europe to the other.

Its wagons are supplied by various European railway companies. One of them, provided by the Hungarian MAV, hosts a mobile exhibition organized by the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) and the joint venture Shift2Rail. It will display numerous existing technologies and innovations that improve the railway experience and will show the way in which the EU supports infrastructure projects.

The classic train is completed by a lecture wagon provided by the SNCF from France, two classic DB wagons from Germany and the SBB from Switzerland, an Italian FS restaurant wagon and an Austrian ÖBB sleeper. The Iberian train traveling between Portugal and Spain was provided by the Spanish company Renfe, while the Lithuanian LTG operates the Baltic train.

The train was created as part of the European Year of Railways 2021, and started its journey from Lisbon Railway Station on 2 September. Yesterday, Tuesday, September 14, 2021, it arrived in Athens via North Macedonia, with intermediate stops in Eidomeni and Thessaloniki. The political leadership of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport and the railway family welcomed it with an atmospheric event at Rouf station.

In total, its journey will last 5 weeks and will be completed in Paris on October 7, 2021. In the meantime, it will have passed through 40 cities of 26 countries. Today, it departs for Bulgaria again via Thessaloniki.

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