The growth of the Greek network

Posted: 3 April 2007 | | No comments yet

Strongly supported by the Ministry of Transport and Communications, a new era for Hellenic Railways is starting to take shape with major modernisation and upgrading projects of the railway service and infrastructure of the country.

Strongly supported by the Ministry of Transport and Communications, a new era for Hellenic Railways is starting to take shape with major modernisation and upgrading projects of the railway service and infrastructure of the country.

Strongly supported by the Ministry of Transport and Communications, a new era for Hellenic Railways is starting to take shape with major modernisation and upgrading projects of the railway service and infrastructure of the country.

Strategic Priorities:

  • Completion of the basic national network of Greek railways
  • Modernisation of the regional railway network
  • Development of joint transports
  • Further development and improvement of the Greek sections of Trans-European Networks of railway transports


OSE is undertaking an investment programme with the aim of modernizing its network. Large projects, such as the construction of high-speed railway lines (over 200 km/h), the creation of railway network connections with ports and industrial areas and the development of a suburban railway network are some of the core investment activities of the Organisation financed from both European Union structural funds and OSE funds.

Due to the works that are already taking place throughout the network, the travelling time between Athens and Thessaloniki has already been reduced since 2001 from 6 hours to 4 hours and a quarter today. Also, the journey on the Thessaly line, from Palaiofarsalos to Kalambaka takes 40-45 minutes instead of two hours that was in the past. Palaiofarsalos-Kalambaka is a totally new line with a maximum speed of up to 150 Km/h.

The completion of the modernisation works and the renewal of the entire fleet of rolling stock will further reduce the duration of the journey – the final goal being 3 hours and 25 minutes from Athens to Thessaloniki with conventional trains, while with tilting trains less than 3 hours. Thus, works are in progress along PATHE (Patra – Athens – Thessaloniki – Eidomeni) axis – this is almost 1/3 of the total network, which is 2.500 kilometres -, in order for the railway line to become double, normal-gauge, electrified line under signalisation and integrate modern railway technologies. On the PATHE axis, the double, electrified and remotely controlled track to be constructed will enable traffic speeds of 200km/h or even higher ones. Hence, the travelling time will be greatly shortened i.e. Athens – Thessaloniki route to 3 hours and 25 minutes instead of 4 hours and 15 minutes currently and Athens – Patras route to less than 2 hours instead of 3 hours and 30 minutes currently, creating new opportunities between the people leaving in different towns.

By the completion of the above axis, railway connections of high quality will be provided between the bigger Greek urban centres (Athens, Piraeus, Thessalonica, Patras, Larissa), with the airport ‘Elefterios Venizelos’, with the bigger Greek harbours (Ikonio/ Piraeus, Thessaloniki, Patra, Volos via the railway line Larissa -Volos, Alexandroupoli) and with the merchandising centre of Thriassio in Athens, as well as with other industrial areas.

Additionally, the remaining regional network is reconstructed, for example in Western Macedonia, Eastern Macedonia, Thrace, and also in the network of Peloponnesus (South Greece), i.e. Patra – Kalamata – Corinth section with the perpendicular connections. Currently, in Peloponnesus, upgrading works are realised along 306km of the railway line (62km concern the re-establishment of the railway line, for its re-operation), using new technology materials. In addition, in the area of Macedonia and Thrace upgrading works are now being carried out along 47km of the railway line, while a major project has recently been concluded and it concerns the re-operation of the railway connection Thessaloniki – Amidaio – Kozani / Florina. The journey from Thessaloniki to Kozani now lasts almost 2 hours and 50 minutes instead of almost 4 hours in the past. While from Thessaloniki to Florina, the journey duration time is now 2 hours and 30 minutes, instead of 3 hours and 34 minutes.

The cost of the refurbishment of the railway line Amidaio – Kozani (total length 59,763km) amounted to €25 million and for the section Amidaio – Florina (total length 67km) the cost was €43,5 million.

The re-operation of the railway connection Thessaloniki – Amidaio – Kozani / Florina contributes to the regional growth, the facilitation of the citizens’ day-to-day life as well as to the access of the visitors in the area.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that there are also other projects waiting to start in the near future in the area of Makedonia as well as in the network of Peloponnesus. Basically, the executed as well as the mature scheduled works amount to approximately €450 million from which €150 million are from Regional Business Plans and the remaining from financial resources of OSE.

With the completion of the renovation and modernisation works of the regional networks, travelling times will be considerably decreased, rendering the railway as an attractive means of transport.

Suburban Railway

The project of expanding the Suburban Railway continues, with the aim of constructing an ‘integrated suburban service network’, as it is instructed by the Greek Minister of Transport and Communications, Mr. Michalis Liapis.

Currently, the Suburban Railway connects the centre of Athens (Athens Railway Station – Larisis) with the airport ‘Eleftherios Venizelos’ (duration 41 minutes) and with Korinthos, (a city, 80 kilometres from Athens, travelling time by train 55 minutes). However, by 2010, the project is expected to be completed and it will be extended in a length of 281 kilometres directed towards Thiva, Kiato, Rafina and Halkida, while it is estimated to serve 420,000 passengers daily. For example, the construction of Korinthos – Kiato metric line to a high speed line of normal gauge is in progress, while the completion of upgrading and modernisation works of the infrastructure network to Piraeus by means of electrification will enable reduction of travelling time from Piraeus (port) – Airport to 35 minutes.

The Suburban Railway constitutes the future of transport in large urban centres and aids towards the solution of the traffic issue in large urban centres, improving by this way the quality of life and reducing the pollution.

Western Railway Corridor

Another major planned project that is currently under study is the Western Railway Corridor which includes the interconnection Kozani, Kalambaka, Ioannina and Igoumenitsa with the existing network. This project completes the land infrastructure network of Greece, connecting the western ports of Greece to the main body of the railway infrastructure. The Western Railway Corridor, according to the study, will have a single, standard-gauge track, electrified, signalled, and telecommanded based upon the interoperability rules applied in the EU and shall use 126.9km of tunnels and 30.11km of bridges, with a total length of 740km. The minimum travelling speed will be 160km/h for conventional trains, where the minimum travelling speed will be 120km/h for conventional trains (if tilting trains will be used, the minimum travelling speed will be 200km/h).

With the completion of this project, the combined operation of the railway and the ports of Greece will ensure financial viability of the integrated projects, as it is estimated that OSE will experience a significantly increased cargo transport turnover.

The project of the Western Railway Corridor has been included in the Trans-European Networks (TEN) and approved by the Commission of the European Community.

Greece is the terminal node for three out of the 10 pan-European transport corridors jointly. These are Corridors IV (Dresden – Hungary – Bulgaria – Thessaloniki), πIX (Helsinki – St. Petersburg – Moscow – Bucharest – Ormenio – Alexandroupoli), and X connecting Salzburg to Thessaloniki through Belgrade. Furthermore, based on the design of the Corridors, the Pan-European Transport Areas (PETRAs) have also been defined, which have included the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea. These three corridors (North – South) end to the horizontal axis (East – West) railway ‘EGNATIA’ Corridor Alexandroupolis – Thessaloniki – Palaiofarsalos – Kalambaka that is to be extended towards the port of Igoumenitsa. All the above corridors are indirectly connected to the railway project, of the TEN, the Western Railway Corridor, while the Adriatic Sea and Ionian Sea PETRAs are directly connected. Furthermore, Patras and Igoumenitsa constitute the gateways of Greece in Western Europe through the Adriatic Sea corridor through regular links to Ancona and Brindisi, which will constitute the terminal node for one of the Rail Freight Freeways proposed by the European Committee. Hence, the project of the Western Railway Corridor extends the inland of the ports of Greece up to the Balkans and provides access to the productive force of Greece in the entire South-Eastern Europe area.

Developing the sector of freight transport

The freight villages, a modern interface between the several transportation modes are also been developed by OSE.
A valuable ongoing project is the construction of a Merchandising Centre at Thriassio Field, in the region of Attica. It is a cluster of buildings with modern infrastructures of facilitation and rationalisation of the distribution of merchandises through the country and the Balkan environment, providing simultaneously the possibility of the development of the port of New Ikonio (Piraeus) in a gate of entry of combined transports to the Balkan inland, via the railway connection with Thriasio Field. The marshalling yards for the trains and the maintenance workshops are under construction.

Cooperation with the private sector is considered to be the most modern way of developing freight villages, as the European experience has already shown. This policy of the Minister of Transport and Communications has already been embodied to the recently voted law for freight villages.

Link with the harbours

OSE’s plans also include the improvement of the railway line connection to Thessaloniki port, as well as the connection of the line to the ports of Patra and Alexandroupoli.

The goals of the Modernisation Program of the Hellenic Railway Network are fully integrated into the European Policy in the field of Transport, as this is expressed in the White Paper on Transport issued by the European Union that gives utmost priority to the development of European railways. By the completion of the whole Modernisation Program, together with the new modern rolling stock that will gradually arrive and the actions taken for the improvement of the quality of the services provided to the passengers, ‘OSE Holding’ will lead a service level similar to that of the most advanced European networks.


  1. TRAINOSE and Proastiakos will be merged in the near future (through absorption of Proastiakos)
  2. Logistics Centres and GAIAOSE will be merged in the near future (through absorption of Logistics Centres)

About the author

Mr. Dionysios Chionis is a Professor of Economics at the Democritus University of Thrace. He has studied economics at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and he received his M.Sc. in International Finance and Banking from the University of Edinburgh as well as his M.Sc. in Economics from Glasgow University. He worked out his doctoral thesis at Strathclyde University where he has also taught Economics as well as at Glasgow University and also at the University of Thessaly. He has been Visiting Professor at the University of Bologna and at the University of Montpellier. In previous years, he has been Vice President of the Hellenic Centre for Investment and also President and Managing Director of PROASTIAKOS S.A. (Suburban Railways).

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