Case Studies: Athens Tramway, Greece

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Project Overview
Athens Tramway1.png
Figure 1: Athens Tramway, Greece
Athens Tramway, Greece
Project Type: Greenfield
Type of Project Financing: Public
Budget: 260.8 million euro
Contract Duration:
Civil Works Contract: 30 months
Rolling Stock (with extensions): 72 months
Project Time Line
2000: The state utility company TRAM SA is established by the Ministry of Transport and Public works as a subsidiary of Athens Metro SA.
Dec 2000: The project is incorporated in the National Operational Programme to be co-financed by ESF and ERDF.
Dec 2000: Tender announcement for both contracts.
12 Dec 2001: The civil works contract is signed with Terna-Impregilo.
02 Feb 2002: The rolling stock contract is signed with Alsandobreda.
Sep 2002: PM contract signed with STIB/BVG.
Mar 2004: Expected completion of civil works.
May 2004: Expected completion of rolling stock delivery.
Jun 2004: Completion of civil works following acceleration of works.
Jul 2004: Acceptance of 20 first tram vehicles over 35 anticipated.
Jul 2004: Initial operation of Tramway.
Aug 2004: Extension of PM contract Asprofos-STIB
Dec 2008: Final delivery of rolling stock.
Jul 2011: The state utility company STASY SA is established to merge all rail-based Athens Urban Transit companies. STASY SA is a subsidiary of the Athens Urban Transit state company.


The project “Greater Athens Modern Tramway” has a total length of about 25 Km on two lines; the one connecting the centre of Athens with the coastal avenue, passing through the densely populated suburb of N. Smyrni, and the other running along the coastal avenue, linking N. Faliro with the suburbs located along the west coast of Attica (from north to south). Its construction includes a minimum number of construction works mostly performed on surface level. TRAM S.A. operates using 35 vehicles, supported by a workshop depot in the area of the ex-airport at Hellinikon, accessed through a 2.2 Km service line.

The goals of the project are the expansion of the existing transport network in Athens, the improvement of the mass transport system and the protection of the urban environment. The expected result is considered to be the upgrading of the transport services, as well as the improvement of traffic conditions.

The project aims specifically at the provision of adequate public transport in regions, where it has been weak (Glyfada, Helliniko, Alimos, P. Faliro, N. Smyrni). It also contributes to the improvement of the quality of life, as well as the provision of equal transport benefits to all residents in Athens.

The project included the construction of civil engineering works, the supply, installation and operation of the electromechanical systems for the modern tramway (TRAM) and the application studies thereof, in the greater area of Athens. More specifically, the contract included two track lines, T1 and T2, of total length 23.3 km and a service line connecting to the depot of 2.2 km.

Line T1, 13.8 km, is initiated at Syntagma square and, traversing Zappeio – Fix – N. Cosmos – N. Smyrni – P. Faliro – N. Faliro, ends at the N. Faliro Metro Station. Line T2, 15.4 km, initiates from the N. Faliro Metro Station and ends in Glyfada, traverses P. Faliro, Alimos and Ag. Kosmas. Lines T1 and T2 are common for a length of 5.9 km. A differentiation to the initial routing of line T1 had to be implemented in order to avoid disturbance of the archaeological site of the Temple of Zeus and the Gate of Hadrian.

The system operates with 47 stops (instead of 48), accompanied by all other necessary works (e.g. pedestrian walks, junctions, lighting, sewage, circulation redirection, reformation of urban environment, etc.).

The civil works contract also included the refurbishment of the old Airport installations and buildings for the use of the tram workshop and stabling, as well as office space for the operation of the service. In 2012, a photovoltaic generator was installed at the depot to provide electricity to depot activities.

The contract for the supply of rolling stock was signed on 20/02/2002 between TRAM S.A. and the consortium Ansaldobreda (AB) for the supply of 35 vehicles, maintenance equipment and spare parts for 3 years operation.

With the scope to establish a project team and be in a position to administer a project of such size and importance, TRAM S.A. completed the process of acquiring a technical consultant for the project construction and a consultant for the system operation. In this context, the relevant Project Management Contracts with the consortium Asprofos – STIB and BVG were signed in May 2002 and September 2003, respectively. The contract with the Asprofos – STIB was extended to 31/12/2006. Finally, an Operation Concession contract was initially foreseen but abandoned during the first year of construction.

The Athens Tramway is 90% exclusive on the road. It was initially designed to have a “green wave” (right of way), but competition with the bus operating company (public) never allowed it. The tramway is in direct competition with other surface travel options. It was also from the start designed to have physical integration with the Athens Metro. It is a small network, which cannot operate/serve transit users on its own. At first, there was no fare integration. It was included in the unitary fare urban transit system of Athens one year after inauguration of operation. Two years later, there was information integration. Finally, in 2011 (7 years after inauguration) it merged under the same authority operating all rail based transit systems in Athens.

Its future development is the responsibility of Athens Metro. This also facilitates its planned extension (since 2005) to Piraeus.

The Contracting Authority (Public Party)

The project was initiated by the Ministry of Transport and Public Works. The contracting authority was the State Utility Tram S.A., the company created for the construction of the tramway, through which, the central government had significant involvement.

Sources of Financing

The Athens Tramway was financed through national funds. The European Investment Bank (EIB) supported the national contribution with 40 million euro towards the entire project (civil works, rolling stock, management contracts).


The tramway is used by passengers. The original ex-ante estimate was that the tramway would be serving 25.7 million passengers annually. For 2006 (full operational year), passengers were estimated at 20.7 million per year.

In 2004 (first year of operation), tram operations were significantly hampered by vehicle technical problems and the operation of 20, instead of 35 vehicles, which all required continuous retrofitting. Annual passengers in 2006 were only 20.05 million, significantly dropping to 15.04 million in 2013. The company believes this to be due to the severe economic crisis and unemployment in the country. GDP in Greece was 88.7 (2010 base 100) in 2001 at the time the first contract was signed. Both GDP and per capita income level are currently below expectations, while unemployment in the Attica region has also risen significantly, as a direct outcome of the economic crisis.

Apart from TRAM S.A., the State and the contractors, other stakeholders including the municipality councils along the alignment of the tramway played a significant role (negative) in the completion of the project.

Key Purpose for Public Financing Selection

The project was very small to be operational and profitable on its own. The Athens Olympics (2004) and the need to serve Olympic Game activities on the south seafront of Athens were the prime drivers of its initiation.

Project Timing

The original Athens tramway system ceased operations in 1960, as it was considered noisy and outdated. It has now once again become part of the city due to the 2004 Olympics.

Project Locality and Market Geography

The tram line is built within an urban environment, crossing the city from its centre down to its southern suburbs, all way along the coast. The foreseen extensions to Piraeus (scheduled since 2001) have yet to be realized, as they were opposed by the Piraeus Municipality council. The streets of Piraeus are narrow and the tram would occupy significant road surface space. In addition, its alignment followed very closely the foreseen metro extension alignment and city planners considered this as an overlap of services.

Higher level of industrialization is noted in the region after the completion of the project, while recreational activities have also been developed.

Procurement & Contractual Structure

Four contracts were signed, following respective open calls under the respective EU directive for public works for utilities:

  • Civil Works & Supply, Installation and Commissioning of Electromechanical Systems: The contract was signed with the consortium Impregilo - Terna on 12/12/2001.
  • Supply of Rolling Stock: Relevant contract was signed on 20/02/2002 between TRAM S.A. and consortium Ansaldobreda (AB).
  • Management contract was concluded in May 2002 with the consortium Asprofos – STIB and in September 2003 with BVG.

With regard to Land Availability for Permanent or Temporary Use-Expropriation Activities, TRAM S.A. completed the process of permit acquisition and permanent use of tram zone land from relevant municipalities and other organisations. The process concerned also the required land for electrical power substations and other needs of the project.

Preliminary studies were carried out that resulted in the preparation of the General Final Design, which constituted the basic design included in the contract for “Construction of Civil Engineering works, supply, installation and operation of the electromechanical systems, for the modern tramway (TRAM) and the application studies thereof, in the greater area of Athens”. Nevertheless, the contract concerned the final detailed design and construction. During construction, a change had to be made in the alignment so as not to create vibrations to archaeological structures (Temple of Zeus).

The Rolling Stock supply contract concerned the procurement and start of operation of 35 vehicles. The rolling stock complies with the requirements of the technical description of the finance contract. The vehicles are 100% low floor (350 mm from the top of rail) in the passenger’s area in order to guarantee easy access to wheel-chair users, for whom there are two reserved areas. It is equipped with 54 seats. The number of standing passengers that can be transferred is 143 (at AW2 condition that is 4 passengers per square meter). The vehicle is multi-articulated and consists of five modules. It is capable of operating in a single-car or two-car consist, and is bidirectional with a driver’s cabin in both directions and six passenger’s doors on each side. The vehicle is mobilized by electrical power with nominal voltage 750 V. The useful life of the vehicles is 30 years. Its maximum length is 32.64 m and its maximum width 2.4 m, with tare load 41.7 tn. The contract for the procurement of rolling stock also foresaw the supply of equipment, tools and spare parts. The contractual spare parts are partially supplied until now.

Initially, the operation and maintenance was to be assigned as a concession. This was cancelled and the operation and maintenance was undertaken by TRAM S.A. Later in 2011, the company merged with all other rail-based transit in the Athens Metropolitan area. The financing of operation and maintenance is by public subsidies, user fees and other revenues.

In 2000, the ex-ante estimated fares at 0.41 euro. In 2004, when operation started, the fare was dedicated to the tram (priced at 0.75 euro). Soon, it was part of the unified urban transit fare allocated 0.34 euro. In 2013, it was part of STASY at 0.46 euros and the deficit of operational/maintenance cost vs revenues is covered through Law 3920/2011 by the State. For the STASY (all rail-based) in 2013, this was 158 million euros (a drop from 490 million in 2009), constituting approximately 1/3 of total costs.


The tendering of the Civil Works, Supply, Installation and Commissioning of Electromechanical Systems and Supply of Rolling Stock Contracts followed a two-stage procedure, which took 12 and 13 months, respectively.

Contract Structure

The construction contract entailed a lump sum contract for the construction of civil engineering works, the supply, installation and operation of the electromechanical systems for the tramway and the application studies thereof, in the greater area of Athens. More specifically, the contract included the two track lines, T1 and T2, of total length 23.3 km and a service line connecting to the depot of 2.2 km. The project was due to be completed in 26 months (Feb 2004), given the need to:

  • Clear the depot site of old mines and ammunition remains of WWII
  • Make a divergence to avoid vibrations at the Zeus Temple
  • Restore problems with the utility provisions under the road (track setting), which were not GIS positioned.

The project was delayed by 4 months, and accelerated to be completed (total duration 30 months).

The contract for the procurement of rolling stock was also lump sum and, in addition to the vehicles, foresaw the supply of equipment, tools and spare parts required for a 3-year operation. The contract originally foresaw 27 months to completion (in May 2004). In June 2004, only 20 of the 35 vehicles were delivered. The contractor had significant innovation problems, which reflected on various parts of the vehicle. Continuous retrofitting was necessary. The contractor finally delivered (below standards) 35 vehicles by the end of 2008 (total duration 72 months).

Risk Allocation

The project carried significant risks, which eventuated during its course. With regard to the civil works contract these were:

  • mine cleaning in the depot area
  • change of alignment to avoid impact on archaeological site (Temple of Zeus)
  • poor information on the exact location (underground) of the utility networks
  • citizen (Municipality councils) opposition to tree and other vegetation clearance during construction.
  • Municipality councils requesting trade-offs.

For the Rolling Stock supply contract, there were significant innovation risks, which also materialised.

Athens Tramway2.png

Figure 2: Risk Allocation


Specific performance indicators were set in the contract. The civil works contracts was covered by a 3 year guarantee period, while the rolling stock supply contract had RAMS specifications. Availability, being crucial and reflecting on all other performance indicators, was set at 28 vehicles/ 35 vehicles per day. In addition, the TRAM (ex-ante) was to operate 19/24 hours, while ex-post, 21/24 hours during weekdays and 24/24 hours during the weekends.

Ex-ante reliability was set at 95% (herein meaning reliable service - tram arriving on time). Initially it was very low at 74%, but gradually increased to 90%. It will not be able to reach the ex-ante figure, as the “green wave” was never implemented.

Ex-ante service availability was set at 100% (herein meaning that 28 vehicles are operational every day to conduct the schedules). Initially schedules with fewer vehicles were planned. This gave an availability of 99%. In 2013, with 24 vehicles scheduled, the availability was 99.5% Full operation has never reached the original target.

With regard to maintainability, in 2006, the operation and maintenance cost was 9.67 euro/vkm. In 2013, operation and maintenance is considered for all rail-based transit (STASY) to be 2.73 euro/vkm. This is a drop from 6.20 euro /vkm in 2009. Maintenance costs are below expectations.

The accidents reported, approximately half of which were fatal, were as follows:

  • 2005: 0.00009/vkm
  • 2006: 0.00007/vkm
  • 2007: 0.0006/vkm
  • 2008: 0.0007/vkm

Accidents have since stabilised around this figure.

Project Outcomes

The main goal of the project was to support the transportation network on the capital’s seafront with more environmental friendly transit and serve the Athens Olympics. While it cannot be considered a failure, it is far from being a success. It has yet to serve the forecasted traffic. However, the main reasons behind this fact were, in the beginning, the poor service (only 20 vehicles running as opposed to 28 vehicles) and later, the higher fare used ex-post along with the economic crisis. The several claims during the project for both contracts resulted in a 30% cost overrun, due to design changes, work out of step, acceleration costs, and complimentary works. Penalties imposed on the Rolling Stock contract reduced the total cost overrun of the project. The civil works contracted were delayed by 2 months and the rolling stock contract was completed some 4 years after the original deadline.

In addition, the tram’s network is very short to be able to provide a competitive service. It was originally designed to extend to Voula (700 meters, completed) and Piraeus. The extension to Piraeus was initiated in 2014 (10 years after the original planning, ongoing). In addition, the vehicles had severe innovation/mechanical problems.

Despite the above, it did serve the Athens Olympics, it has improved emissions on the seafront (relief from the numerous buses running the route), as well as the image of the coastal route. With regard to user satisfaction, it is considered that more than 50 % of end users are satisfied.

A key success factor for the project was the determination of TRAM S.A. to get the project running. When the tram project started, all local expertise with respect to tram development and operations was lost, as the last tram (Piraeus) had seized operation some thirty years before. However, new personnel were keen to get the project operating, whose good spirit was somewhat undermined and dependent on the BOD assigned by each government and the introduction of favoured personnel. Another success factor is its long operating hours, especially over the weekends, since the seafront is popular for its beaches and nightclubs.

Unforeseen problems, risks and innovation problems with the rolling stock, which required continuous retrofitting, could be considered as failure factors that lead to delays (extremely long for the rolling stock), cost overruns and loss of user confidence.

Finally, while improving safety was not one of the goals, the introduction of the tram incurred accidents (severe ones during the first months of operation due to the fact that users, pedestrians and drivers did not have the concept of the tram and its (in) flexibility). However, as nightclub goers used the tram after-hours, it reduced car accidents along the seafront.

Economic Impact

Apart from returns to the tram, the development of the tramway on the seafront improved the locality, introducing many recreational centres and activities.

Social impact

In general, apart from the poor initial service, transit users in the Athens Metropolitan area accepted the tram as a new environmentally friendly means of transport.

Environmental impact

With regard to the environment, the tram brought about total improvement in the seafront area in terms of emissions, noise, and landscape.


  • STASY S.A. reports
  • TRAM S.A. reports