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19 January, 2000
The government and officials from the consortium constructing the new Athens international airport on Tuesday promised that the new facility east of the Greek capital would open on March 1, 2001.
According to Public Works Minister Costas Laliotis and representatives of the Hochtief-led consortium -- which will manage the airport for 30 years after its completion -- 90 percent of the work was completed as of December 1999, with a period of field tests scheduled in the near future before the facility opens to travelers. Flight tests are expected to begin in May or June.
Two "thorns" amid the euphoria of the pending opening were also cited by the Greek minister, namely, the transfer of state-run national carrier Olympic Airways - the biggest client at the Spata airport -- and a dispute between the government and the consortium over who will pay for the construction of an underground car park at the airport.
Regarding debt-laden Olympic, Laliotis said the national carrier has its own "plan and timetable" for transferring to Spata, stressing that it will abide by the March 1, 2001 deadline as the current Athens airport, located in a coastal suburb, will close. Concerning the underground car park, both the government and the consortium agreed to refer the matter to arbitration.
In a related matter, Laliotis said a portion of a highway linking western Attica prefecture with the airport will be ready by February 2001, specifically, the segment connecting Spata with the Stavros juncture in northern Athens. In addition, he said a proposal is being considered to link the airport, named the "Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport" with a rail line connected to Athens' new metro network.
According to figures released at a news conference held at the Spata airport's central passenger terminal, the entire project's budget totals 658 billion drachmas. The new facility will have a capacity of 16 billion travelers in its initial phase and 600 landings and take-offs daily. The company managing the new airport currently employs 300 people, expected to double this year. Some 7,000 individuals are expected to work at the new airport when it begins operation.
Source: Athens News Agency