Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras inaugurated the new national highway linking Corinth to the western port of Patra on Tuesday less following the launch of the new Tempe motorway.
The new highway operated by the Olympia Odos company, runs from Corinth centre across the northern Peloponnese to Patra and is expected to reduce the travel time to Athens to 100 minutes.
The Olympia Highway has a total length of 202 kilometres, from Elefsina to Corinth and then to Patras and the Patras bypass. The Corinth-Patras section inaugurated on Tuesday is 120 kilometres long, with two lanes and an emergency lane in both directions and 12 completed tunnels with a total length of 18 kilometres along its length.
The contractor’s obligations, in addition to building the Corinth-Patras highway, include the improvement of the existing Elefsina-Corinth section of the road and the Patras bypass, with a length of 82 kilometres.The total cost of construction is 1.8 billion euros and the cost of land expropriations is 223 million euros, or 172 million less than the amounts originally demanded by contractors before renegotiation.
“It is an important work for Patras, the Peloponnese and Western Greece that would never have been completed if it wasn’t for the difficult negotiations with contractors and construction companies,” Mr Tsipas said.
“We are opening the road that was hindering the connection of Western Greece with the capital, we are opening the road to exit the crisis and supervision… this is the strong symbolism of the work.
“This is a symbol of Greece’s ability to stand on its own two feet which will mark and end to the wearisome journey that motorists had been subjected to until now,” the PM stressed.
Referring to the long delays that had dogged the project, which had started in 2007 and was only half finished in 2015 when SYRIZA came to power, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Christos Spirtzis noted that the work had been bogged down by such an “incredibly tangled skein of obstacles, loose ends, problems and reactions”.
“The more than 10-year road blockade of Patras, the third-largest city of the country is finally ending. There is finally an end to the fear of an accident on a road that was literally drenched in blood all along its length. There is not a family in western Greece, Aitoloakarnania and Epirus that has not mourned the loss of loved one on this road,” he said.
All of the lanes will be opened for the Easter holidays while tollbooths will not be in operation before the weekend. Reportedly, there will be slight moderation to cost and operation days after Easter.
The general sentiment has been positive apart from certain political groups contesting the naming of some tunnels.
The tunnel commemorating Panos Mylonas, a young man whose death on the old Athens-Patra highway in a 2004 crash prompted the creation of a road safety institute has been received warmly yet the Nikos Temponeras one, named after the teacher and left-wing activist who was killed in a protest against education reform in the early 1990s and the Andreas Papandreou tunnel have stirred controversy.