“We are strengthening MMM with new vehicles and staff recruitment”, said the Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, Christos Staikouras in an interview with the newspaper “Political” and the journalist Sotiris Pikoulas. As he characteristically stated: “In the period that opened, with the guidance of the Prime Minister, we focus on the continuous promotion, completion and upgrading of the country’s infrastructure and transport systems, with an emphasis on their safety and quality, on the efficiency of the utilization of the resources used in conditions of transparency, objectivity, justice and productivity of all the structures of the sector”. The Minister analyzed the initiatives and actions in relation to OSE, Attiki Odos, the Thessaloniki Metro, the renewal of the urban transport fleet, electrification, he also spoke about the progress of the flagship projects in BOAK and line 4 of the Athens Metro, while also commenting on the recent election result in relation to the official opposition.

The text of the interview in detail:

The new mission assigned to you by the Prime Minister is essentially the progress of the infrastructure in Greece and the upgrading of the means of transport. Do you think that the eudosion of the plans raises Greece to a new level?

After Greece’s liberation, for about 200 years, it started with great lags in terms of infrastructure and transport compared to its current partners. Along the way, at a slower or faster pace, he began to build a system of infrastructure and transport.

After the Second World War and the Civil War, the country began to accelerate, covering a significant part of the lags. After joining the European Economic Community, today the European Union, the country, with European support and fluctuating rates, accelerates the construction and upgrading of large infrastructure projects.

During the period of the memorandums there was a significant slowing down of the pace and in the last four years a significant acceleration.

I point out that over the years the contribution of our party to the creation of a modern infrastructure system is particularly important.

In the period that opened, under the guidance of the Prime Minister, we are focusing on the continuous promotion, completion and upgrading of the infrastructure and transport systems of the country, with an emphasis on their safety and quality, on the efficiency of the utilization of the resources used in conditions of transparency, objectivity, justice and productivity of all the structures of the sector.

We will try to move forward efficiently on this road to offer what we owe to the continuous upward progress of the country and its citizens.

After the accident in Tempe, there are great expectations for the safe and substantial upgrade of the OSE network. At what stage are you receiving the network and when will the paging and signaling work be finished?

The situation in the country’s railway network is far from being satisfactory in modern terms. Our political will and planning are aimed at what I mentioned before and of course at improving the culture of all of us, with an upgrade of collective and individual responsibility and accountability.

We recently signed a contractual agreement with the OSE which foresees a significant increase in annual funding from 45 million euros to 75 million euros, in order for the Organization to implement the required interventions for the better operation of the trains. But at the same time, it sets a framework for oversight, accountability and measurable results on the part of the OSE. We will aim for every euro of Greek and European taxpayers spent to deliver specific infrastructure and services to citizens, primarily in terms of safety and quality.

In particular, with regard to the infrastructure, the installation of the remote control system is progressing and we estimate that we will be on schedule for the operation of the system.

Also important is the initiative to immediately complete the recruitments, which have been launched for the OSE, and the implementation of extensive railway infrastructure maintenance projects, which have also been launched.

We want a safe, reliable and modern railway. There are many open issues, but I believe we are on the right track to address them.

Should we expect new delays in the issue of the Thessaloniki metro or is it true that its official operation will begin in the first months of 2024?

From the beginning of my involvement in applied politics I follow the principle of giving realistic timetables. And this is because I believe that in this regard we must be consistent with the subjects of the economy (citizens-households, businesses, government structures) so that they plan their investments and various actions compatible with the development of infrastructure and projects.

As for the Thessaloniki metro, which is one of the flagship projects carried out by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, it is predicted that it will be delivered to traffic in 2024 serving 300,000 passengers daily.

When will the offers for Attiki Odos open? If there are objections, will anything change with the new concessionaire’s takeover time?

Based on the information from TAIPED, the submission of binding offers has been completed and, as it became known, there are six schemes that pass to the next phase of the competition for the concession contract regarding the financing, operation, maintenance and exploitation of the Attica Road for 25 years. There is a desire to complete the evaluation of the offers as soon as possible with the aim of announcing the concessionaire within September.

Is the effort to create an efficient network of charging stations that will motivate other citizens to trust electric mobility progressing smoothly?

In the last four years, there has been a restart in electric mobility as a result of the coherent policy followed by the Government of the New Democracy, both in the provision of purchase incentives and in the context of technical support of the electric vehicle.

For example, from just 58 charging points in 2019, today there are approximately 3,600 chargers nationwide and the goal is to create 11,000 charging points in 2026. In addition, electric and hybrid vehicle registrations, from 0.4% of the market in 2019, shot up to 7.9% in 2022, while in the first 5 months of 2023 there are 5 .500 rankings, that’s a 9.7% rate!

On this basis, we are determined to continue even more vigorously, guided by the National Electric Mobility Plan that has been drawn up and is expected to be submitted to Parliament, which outlines a network of measures in favor of electric mobility, which can significantly reduce the environmental footprint of the transport sector.

Allow me to add that, especially for the increase of charging points, an important tool that can be used are the Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans, where according to the institutional framework of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, every Municipality and Region that submits an urban intervention plan must include actions in favor of electric mobility.

The fleet of vehicles in urban transport is aging. Will we finally see new buses in Athens and Thessaloniki?

Yes. The renewal of the fleet of Mass Transport is an immediate need and the contract concerning the first 250 electric buses for the two cities is already underway after the relevant approval of the procedures by the Court of Auditors. Based on the schedule, we expect the arrival of the first electric buses in early 2024, while at the same time the other parts of the tender involving an additional 400 buses, all with anti-pollution technology, are launched.

In addition, in collaboration with the OSY administration and the ASEP, we are immediately launching, by the end of the year, the filling of 750 vacant jobs from the 1/2020 competition in order to further strengthen the urban transport staff.

Can you give me a timeline for the major projects of BOAK and line 4 of the Athens metro? Is there any chance that any of them have been completed by the end of the government term?

The construction of the Northern Road Axis of Crete (BOAK) is necessary to upgrade road safety in the area where many tragic accidents have occurred. It is a project that ND started after many years.

In 2022, the first construction sites were installed and all fronts will have opened in 2024. The Neapolis – Agios Nikolaos and Hersonissos – Neapolis sections have been contracted and their construction is expected to be completed within four years. At the same time, the construction of the Kissamos – Chania – Heraklion section, financed by the Recovery and Resilience Fund, will be launched, after the bid files are unsealed, the contract is ratified by the Parliament, the approvals of DG COMP are obtained and the loan agreements are concluded on behalf of the concessionaire. With the completion of the BOAK, the route Chania – Heraklion will be traveled in just 70 minutes, while the route Chania – Agios Nikolaos in approximately 100 minutes, ensuring safe and fast travel for the residents and visitors of Crete.

Regarding the progress of metro line 4, about 50% of the preliminary work has been done, the first metropontic has already traveled the first 30 meters and is in the phase of systematizing the excavation. The second one is already in Greece and is expected to start in the fall.

We see that at the political level there is a cloudy landscape in the opposition. But doesn’t the quality of the opposition make a strong government better?

In general, the official opposition performs an institutional role necessary for the functioning of the state and it is a fact that a serious and reliable opposition contributes to the public debate, while offering opportunities for the Government to improve its effectiveness. In the current phase, the election result triggered developments in SYRIZA. I wish and expect that he will find the way, which will be beneficial for the country and its citizens.