THESSALONIKI METRO – There is no safe technical solution allowing the construction of “Venizelos” Station while keeping the archaeological finds in their place

On the occasion of the problem that has emerged related to archaeological finds revealed in “Venizelos” Metro Station,Mr. Stratos Simopoulos, Secretary General of Public Works, made the following statements:

“We found barely alive the most extensive project currently executed in the country and perhaps the most significant project ever executed in the city. We admitted it in the “emergency room” and kept it alive. With intense endeavors, persistence and patience we deliver most of the stations to the Joint Venture, while we are close to finding a legal solution, through arbitration, that will allow us to examine those requests of the Joint Venture that may be deemed reasonable, if any, and I stress this last phrase”.

Mr. Simopoulos added: “We are now faced with an obstacle which, if not properly dealt with, will be the project’s tombstone. I fully respect the value of the archaeological finds, the history of the city and the importance of the historical memory. Besides, it is known that peoples without memory are peoples without future. However, there is no technical solution permitting the incorporation of the archaeological finds into the station. At the same time, the station cannot be abolished because we will have an incomplete project, while the new planning will be the major retrogression for the project”.

Mr. Christos Tsitouras, ATTIKO METRO S.A. Chairman and Managing Director, made the following statement:

“For three months now, ATTIKO METRO S.A. has been investigating the possibility to construct the station without having to remove the antiquities revealed at its first level. Thorough investigation of the problem has demonstratedthat, given the particularities of the modern Metro system of Thessaloniki, whose E/M systems are closely interfaced with the stations, as well as of the local conditions and space restrictions due to the existing buildings, no safe technical solution exists allowing the construction of the station without removing the antiquities”.

Mr. Christos Tsitouras also stressed the importance of “Venizelos” Station, whose ridership, according to calculations, will be the fourth higher ridership among all 13 stations of Thessaloniki Metro Base Line, adding that almost 20 million Euros have already been paid for this station in the framework of its construction works and archaeological investigations.

Moreover, a probable abolition of “Venizelos” Station dictated by the need to leave the antiquities at the location where they were revealed would entail negative consequences in terms of public transport, vehicular traffic, environment and economy, not to mention the social impact, since it would deprive a total of 67,000 citizens (daily ridership) of a quick, reliable and safe transportation by Metro.

Also, a probable relocation of the Station’s first level would require a new and extensive archaeological excavation in the center of the city, which would also be associated with a similarly high risk of discovering important antiquities and, thus, we would have spent additional time and funds only to find ourselves at exactly the same spot.

“ATTIKO METRO S.A. has already demonstrated in practice its respect to the city’s antiquities and, wherever this was technically feasible, they were kept on site, as for example the case is with the Basilica at “Syntrivani” Metro Station. In the same spirit, whenever this was not feasible, ATTIKO METRO S.A. took every step to ensure their safe transport employing highly specialized companies. This practice was followed in the case of the ancient road pavement revealed over a length of approximately 80m. in the area of “Aghia Sofia” Metro station, which was relocated last August. This practice will be strictly adhered to in the case of antiquities revealed in the area of “Venizelos” Station. In connection with these specific antiquities, a Ministerial Decision has been issued based on a unanimous expert opinion of the central archaeological council, whereby the antiquities will be detached and displayed at “Pavlou Mela” military compound or in another suitable area in the city. Mr. Tsitouras concluded stating that any thoughts either to abolish “Venizelos” Station or to amend its design shall entail grave consequences on the project’s funding, placing it under the high risk of being excluded from the European funding scheme”.

Mr. Konstantinos Zervas, ATTIKO METRO S.A. BoD member and Thessaloniki Vice Mayor on issues of living standards, stated the following:

“I attend this Press conference under my dual capacity as an engineer/ATTIKO METRO S.A. BoD member and as an active citizen, also elected as a Vice Mayor. Unfortunately, our city is faced with a new dilemma, a new discord. Do we need the kind of problems we faced in the case of the submerged tunnel or Dioikitiriou square? Do we need inactive worksites and dump areas? Is it not preferable for us all to wish for a modern city served by a fixed track mode in the shortest possible time? The city of Thessaloniki is currently suffering from the delays so far registered to the construction works. Now that the Metro Project has at last matured and we are in a position to “run” it, we have unfortunately fallen into a state of inertia and we are running the risk of entering once again into uncharted territories”.

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