Case Studies: Rio-Antirio Bridge, Greece

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Project Overview
Figure 1: Rio-Antirio Bridge, Greece
Rio-Antirion Bridge, Greece
Project Type: Both
Contract Duration: 42 Years (from effective date) unless the concessionaire achieves the predetermined return on equity (11.5%) before then.

EUR 740M (initial agreement)

EUR 815M (including construction, operating, financial costs and fees)
Project Time Line
Conceived: 1889
Call for Tender: 1991
Contract Approved: 3 January 1996
Ratification by Hellenic Parliament: 24 April 2006
Financial close: 17 December 1997
Effective Contract Date: 24 December 1997
Other important dates for the project:
Geotechnical Surveys: 1964
1st International Call for Tender (insufficient interest): 1980
2nd International Call for Tender: 1987 (doubts about technical solution);
3rd Call for Tender under new PPP Framework: 1990 (cancelled)


The Rio-Antirio Bridge (Charilaos Trikoupis Bridge) is named after Prime Minister Charilaos Trikoupis, who, in 1889, first envisaged a bridge connecting the region of Aetoloakarnania (town of Antirion) with the region of Achaia in the Peloponnese over the Patras Gulf. The project was not technically feasible then, and it took the Greek State over 100 years to initiate construction of a fixed link. The bridge was inaugurated on 12 August 2004 and the first to pass was the Olympic Flame of the 2004 Olympics.

Figure 2: Rio-Antirio Bridge- connecting to Europe

The Rio-Antirio Bridge spans 2,880m over the Gulf of Patras. Its width is 28m, with two vehicle lanes in each direction, an emergency lane and a pedestrian walkway. Its five-span four-pylon cable-stayed portion (2,252m) makes it the world's second longest cable-stayed deck (the longest being the Millau Viaduct in southern France at 2,460m). However, as the latter is also supported by bearings at the pylons as well as cable stays, the Rio–Antirrio bridge deck can be considered the longest cable-stayed "suspended" deck in the world. The bridge also holds the world record for the dimensions of its foundations (90m diameter). However, according to the constructors, the best record is that it was built “without any serious accident, without a single drop of blood”.

This bridge is widely considered an engineering masterpiece. Innovative design and off-shore construction methods had to be implemented to address an adverse construction environment including the length of the strait (approximately 2,500m wide) and deep water (up to 65 m), combined with deep soil strata of weak alluviums, the possibility of strong seismic activity, tectonic movements (30 mm a year) and adverse high wind actions.

The upper soil layers are reinforced with inclusions, which are 2-m diameter hollow steel pipes 25 to 30 meters long driven at a regular spacing of 7 meters. About 200 pipes are driven in at each pier location. Foundations are 90-meter diameter reinforced concrete caissons (called footing) resting on the gravel layer. A cone whose diameter ranges from 38 metres to 26 metres forms the lower part of the pier. The upper pier shaft bears a reverse pyramid with a height of about 15 metres and a square base 38 metres in length. Each pylon is composed of four reinforced concrete legs, embedded in the pylon head to form a monolithic structure. The stay cables are in inclined arrangements, with their lower anchorage on deck sides and their upper anchorage in the 35 metre high pylon head. They are made of parallel galvanized strands. The thickest cable is formed of seventy 15mm strands. The deck is continuous and fully suspended for its total length. Four damping devices connect the deck to the top of each pier and limit the pendulum movement of the deck during an earthquake. On both sides, a large transition pier links together the deck of the cable-stayed bridge with the deck of the approach viaducts.

The Bridge has been awarded nine International Awards by the scientific community, out of which the most distinguished are :

  • Outstanding Structure Award 2006 of the International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineer (IABSE);
  • Award for Outstanding Concrete Structures 2006 of the International Federation for Structural Concrete (fib);
  • Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement Award 2005 of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) – the first time it was awarded to a project outside the US.

The Bridge is a Design-Build-Finance-Operate contract effective as of 24 December 1997, with a concession period of 42 years or less depending on whether the concessionaire Gefyra S.A. achieves a return on equity (ROE) of 11.5% earlier. Revenues are exclusively based on tolls. Consequently, any fluctuation in traffic volumes or in the traffic mix has a direct effect.

The Contracting Authority (Public Party)

The Greek State represented by the Ministry of Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure, Transportation and Networks is the contracting authority. The supervising authority on behalf of the Ministry is the Special Secretariat of Public Works for Operation and Maintenance of Concession Projects (EYDE / LSEP).

The legal basis for the concession was Law1418/84 (public works law) and Presidential Decree 609/85 (public works contracting).

The Greek Parliament was responsible for the ratification of the concession contract expressed in Law 2395/96 (ratification by law of the concession contract) and Presidential Decree 387/97 (amendment of the concession contact and the Tripart Agreement).

The project was nationally driven, with strong political towards its realisation, since the bridge was always considered as one that "had" to be built. The Greek State launched a total of 3 tenders to achieve the construction of the project. The central government had a direct involvement.

The Concessionaire (Private Party)

The concession for the Rio-Antirio Bridge was awarded in 1997 to “G.E.F.Y.R.A. S.A.” with shareholders as follows:

  • VINCI Concessions S.A.A, 53.00%
  • Hellenic Technodomiki, 15.48%
  • J &P – Avax S.A., 11.20%
  • Athena S.A., 7.74%
  • Proodeytiki S.A., 7.74%
  • Pantechniki S.A., 4.84%

Apart from VINCI Concessions, a dominant French construction company and world leader in infrastructure concessions, the rest were large Greek construction companies.

Today, GEFYRA S.A. has the following shareholders:

  • VINCI Concessions S.A.A, 57.45%
  • AKTOR Concessions S.A., 22.02% (merger of Hellenic Technodomiki into the AKTOR group)
  • J &P – AVAX S.A., 12.14%
  • Athena S.A., 8.39%

The construction joint venture “KINOPRAXIA GEFYRA” undertook the design and construction of the bridge. Members of KINOPRAXIA GEFYRA were:

  • VINCI Construction Grands Projects, 53.00%
  • AKTOR A.T.E, 15.48%
  • J& P-Avax S.A.,11.20%
  • Athena S.A., 7.74%
  • Proodeytiki S.A., 7.74%
  • Pantechniki S.A., 4.84%

Subcontractors were Freyssinet, Advitam and other external engineers and advisors.Freyssinet was responsible for the construction and installation of 368 stay cables (4,500 t of steel) equipped with earthquake protection systems. Advitam developed the specific software for visual monitoring and design, supply and installation of Wind, Earthquake And Structural Health Monitoring (WEASHM) system. Also, Cimolai Costruzioni Metalliche, Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Co Ltd and Pantechniki S.A. were responsible for the steel construction of the deck and approaches to the bridge. Böhler Schweißtechnik Austria GmbH, COMELY (safety barriers) and Dynaopt Géodésie Industrielle were steel construction subcontractors. ALCAN was responsible for the formwork of the piers, while Formule Informatique was the provider of the software for the calculation of cable geometry.

Project finance consisted of:

  • Equity: EUR 68.5M
  • Greek State and EU subsidy: EUR 376.5M
  • EIB Loans: EUR 370M

During the construction phase, the EIB loan was guaranteed by a consortium of commercial banks. BTM (Europe) Ltd was the inter-creditor Bank Agent.


The Rio-Antirio Bridge links the Peloponnese with the eastern part of mainland Greece. It is situated on major motorway axes in the vicinity of the Port of Patras, which connects Greece to Italy and from there to the rest of Europe.

In year 2014, the bridge celebrated its 10 years of operation. During this period, more than 41 million passages were recorded. The annual average daily traffic (AADT) in 2005 was 12,000 vehicles, rising to a peak at 14,000 vehicles in 2009, beyond the forecast traffic. Following the crisis, this figure dropped to 8,300 vehicles in 2013, with a further reduction of 5% expected in 2014.

The bridge is open to all users: pedestrians, private vehicles and freight traffic. Private vehicles correspond to 85% of the traffic; trucks and heavy vehicles are 8%, motorcycles 5% and the remaining 2% buses.

According to the concession contract, the Public Partner undertakes not to carry out or to permit during the concession period the construction of any alternative connection within 80 km east and 60 km west of the Rio- Antirion Bridge, as well as not subsidize any existing or future ferry services.The ferry crossing takes about 45 minutes versus 5 minutes over the bridge. In 2013, 82% of private vehicles used the bridge crossing and 18% the ferries, as opposed to a ratio of 93% and 7%, respectively in 2009. The trend is the reverse of that for heavy vehicles: in 2013 55% of the heavy vehicles used the bridge as opposed to 35% in 2009.

Key Purpose for PPP Model Selection

The Rio-Antirio Bridge is a challenging structure both in terms of construction and maintenance. As in the past, the Greek State has acquired expertise through concession contracts. The private sector could provide better public services through technology, innovation and improved operational efficiency. Moreover, at that time the spending capacity of Greece was limited, so the only solution was project finance for the construction, shared risks and remuneration through toll revenues.

Furthermore, at the time, the bridge was part of the PATHE motorway included in the TEN-T Priority Project 7: Motorway axis Igoumenitsa/Patra-Athina-Sofia-Budapest. Therefore, additional financing could be made available through the Community Structural Funds, facilitating project feasibility.

Project Timing

In the early 1990s the general government budget deficit was very high and as a result of the deficit targets that had to be achieved, it was extremely difficult for the Greek State to finance such a construction relying on its own funds, even supported by the EU. At the same time, the fact that the bridge was designed as a part of the PATHE TEN-T axis was catalytic. The long contruction period (7 years) was expected to contribute to the local economy, in the short term, and to the economic development of Greece in the long term.

Project Locality and Market Geography

The Rio-Antirio Bridge is part of the western road axis from the Albanian border to Kalamata, and connects the PATHE (Patras- Athens-Thessaloniki) motorway to the Egnatia motorway. By providing safe and comfortable access to the ports of Patras and Igoumenitsa it supports gateways to Italy and the rest of Western Europe. Other key connecting road arteries are Olympia and Ionia Odos, which will be upgraded to motorway standards (expected to be completed by 2016).

Procurement & Contractual Structure


The first international call for tender was issued in 1980 but received insufficient interest. In 1987 a second international tender was issued. Five consortia responded of which two were disqualified and the remaining three were rejected on technical grounds.

In 1990 the government endorsed a new public works construction legal framework, also supporting PPPs. Law 1418/84 and Presidential Decree 609/85 on public works contracting were the legal basis for the then-to-be concession. Seven groups expressed interest in the new call issued in 1991.

GEFYRA was the preferred of the only two bidders submitting proposals in 1993. The Competition Commission rejected the bid from the consortium Rion Antirion (Greek–Dutch led by Boskalis and Parnon) as inconsistent with the terms of the tender, because they proposed a tunnel, while the tender requirements were for either a high or a floating bridge. The contract was awarded to GEFYRA on the 3rd of January 1996. Following the award, Law 2395/1996 was amended by Presidential Decree 387/1997 corresponding to the ratification of the concession contract by the Greek Parliament.

Contract Structure

The concession contract, made public as Law 2395/1996, describes the detailed base case for the design, construction, financing, maintenance and operation of the bridge. It describes the various rights and obligations of each party along with their respective commitments. It also provides a precise procedure and the required authorizations in case of departures from the base case.

The end of Concession is officially set at 2039 when the bridge will be handed over to the Greek State, unless the concessionaire achieves earlier the predetermined return on equity (11.5%). Revenues are obtained solely from toll fees. Toll rates cannot exceed a maximum level (as defined by Law2395/1996) and are paid only by motorized vehicles.

Risk Allocation

The Concessionaire is fully responsible for the project. Risk allocation is described in Figure 3. According to the concession contract all risks (design, maintenance, exploitation and commercial risk) are to be borne by the private sector. The Government is responsible for any amendments of the initial regulatory system. Finally, force majeure risks are shared.

Figure 3: Risk allocation


Actual traffic volumes have been 12-17% higher than originally forecasted. Until 2014, accumulated revenues amounted to EUR 415M and profits were EUR 41.5M. Until 2009 the performance of the project was above expectations. From 2010, due to the deep economic crisis, the picture has changed and revenues are below forecasts.

Addressing the crisis, the concession operator has launched a number of products (e.g. day return tolls, various packages etc.). The current toll stands at EUR 13.20, of which 48.13% is set against loan servicing, 28.14% funds maintenance and operations, 19.30% is used to pay various taxes, and 2.65% represents the return on investment.

Since March 2013 the bridge has been integrated into the GRITS interoperability network, in which another four Greek road networks already participate: Attiki Odos, Olympia Odos (Elefsina-Patras NR), Moreas (Korinthos-Tripoli-Kalamata NR), and the Aegean Motorway (Athens-Thessaloniki NR, section from Maliakos-Kleidi). Drivers can travel along these five road networks using the electronic toll lanes with a single transponder.

Special emphasis has been given to monitoring the structural performance of the bridge, ensuring a high level of safety for users during its whole service life (120 years). To this end, a specific Inspection & Maintenance Manual (IMM) has been published and is followed. This manual contains the main results of the structural risk assessment performed to identify the major risks and set the management plan during the bridge’s service life.

Detailed inspection specifications and a schedule are also provided. These include visual inspections and materials monitoring through tests (destructive or non-destructive) performed on the various materials from which the structural elements of the bridge are made.

In addition, the Rio-Antirion Bridge is equipped with an innovative permanent system for continuous and uninterrupted surveillance and health verification in real time, namely the Wind, Earthquake and Structural Health Monitoring (WEASHM). This provides continuous monitoring through sensors on the pylons, deck, cables and expansion joints.

GEFYRA S.A. has been a member of the European Road Safety Charter since 2008. The speed limit on the bridge is 80km/hr and restrictions are applicable in case of high winds or extreme weather conditions. In case of an incident, the Automatic Incident Detection System, installed on the bridge, spots the event within two minutes and within five minutes authorized personnel are on site.

Project Outcome

The bridge, a highly technically complex project, as well as expensive, was implemented through a Concession Agreement, which at the time was a considerable challenge. Nevertheless, it has been realised as originally designed and tendered with practically no deviations from the physical, technical and financial specifications. In addition, the bridge achieved the majority of the objectives for which it was constructed, its principal goal to provide a permanent link reducing travel time, while also exceeding expectations in increasing transport demand. The economic viability of the project was also achieved, since traffic revenues are adequate for the concessionaire to operate and maintain the project, repay the loans to EIB and also make a considerable profit. Finally, being one of the first three projects in Greece to be realised through this new method of project delivery, it opened the way for the adoption of PPP and contributed to related capabilities building in the public sector. The following Critical Success Factors can be identified:

  • Successful project delivery project within expected deadlines and budget
  • No cost overruns
  • Financial success of the project as a PPP (bankability and profitability)
  • Concrete concession agreement with clear definition of responsibilities and appropriate risk allocation and sharing (particularly with regard to the exceptionally challenging construction
  • Cultivation of trust and good faith between the Concessionaire and the State, sound communication and cooperation
  • EIB support, the only bank that could provide a long term loan on such a mega project in Greece at that time
  • Bridge is the sole permanent link, whose operation will be significantly enhanced with the completion of Olympia Odos and Ionia Odos motorways, thus ensuring the project's viability.
  • Competing ferry services are no longer financed.
  • Brought to the country international construction-specific expertise, which was formerly lacking.
  • Attracts significant traffic from Western Greece to the City of Patras.

The only failure factor that could be considered is the high toll rates, which has received considerable opposition, together with those from the ferry services and residents of Rio regarding specific project characteristics, such as the location of the south end of the bridge.

Economic Impact

Economic impacts have been studied and publicized as an outcome of two evaluation studies mandated by Gefyra SA to a research team from Patras University. Through a concrete research method based on interregional data, the index of the project came out to be 1.88. Hence, on the basis of the entire investment cost of the bridge, it was estimated that the total influence on the national economy was near to 1.5 billion euro. The project also brought about substantial increase in, land values in the towns of Rio and Nafpaktos. Other positive impacts are related to the fact that the bridge can be utilized as a landmark that can enhance touristic attractiveness, the improvement of accessibility on a regional level (documented by the increase in the ferry and bridge crossings after the completion of the bridge), the increased real estate transactions and, finally, the fact that the bridge has imposed a competition with the ferries, which are applying a more rational fare pricing compared to the time they had a "monopoly". The latter is said to have led to a very significant economic benefit, estimated as 44 million euro from 2001 to 2007.

Social Impact

The bridge constitutes a landmark of modern Greece holding world records, documented also by a number of international awards. In addition, it has removed the discontinuity of the network, contributed to internal cohesion and international connectivity and improved significantly accessibility of the isolated regions of Western Greece, while providing jobs and growth prospects in the region, one of the most lagging areas in EU in terms of GDP per capita and employment. Nevertheless, Western Greece's relative low ranking in economic performance and employment is still pertinent. The bridge is only a facilitator in this process and its value is expected to be multiplied through the synergies following the completion of complementary transport infrastructure projects within the Trans-European Network Transport.

Environmental Impact

During 1988, Efpalinos Techniki SA conducted the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Study of the Rion–Antirion project, which was complimented by the University of Patras in 1992. This study determined the major potential negative environmental impacts of the bridge. According to the study, the impacts during construction were noise, air pollution, the location of the worksite and the impacts due to its operation and the potential impact upon marine life of the antifouling product used on the part of the structures permanently under sea level. During operation, the impacts were noise and air pollution from traffic, as well as aesthetic issues due to the integration of the bridge with historical sites (the castles of Rion and Antirion). Despite the above, the operation of the bridge diminished the pollution and general disruption caused by the car and truck congestion in the ports of Rion and Antirion, which are now free of congestion. Furthermore, the reduction of the number of ferries has significantly decreased the former heavy pollution of the marine environment. Finally, the environmental friendliness of the operation of the bridge is enhanced by additional measures taken by the operation company. These include the minimization of greenhouse gas emissions by using new technologies for its own operation (lighting, own cars, heating and ventilation, etc), initiating marine environment protection policies and activities in the gulf of Corinth, carrying out awareness and educational campaigns regarding eco-driving, and hedging their greenhouse gas emissions with green energy investments in India.


  • Law 2395/1996 amended by Presidential Decree 387/1997. GEFYRA S.A. concession contract. Government gazette.
  • Interview with Gefyra S.A.
  • P. Papanikolas, A. Diakidou, A. Roumboutsos, A. Pantelias, 2014, Rio-Antirio Bridge, in A. Roumboutsos, S. Farrell and K. Verhoest, COST Action TU1001 – Public Private Partnerships in Transport: Trends & Theory: 2014 Discussion Series: Country Profiles & Case Studies, ISBN 978-88-6922-009-8
  • KAPAROS, G. Analysing The case of Rion-Antirrion bridge through the lenses of a redefined notion of MUTP success, 12th WCTR, July 11-15, 2010 – Lisbon, Portugal
  • “Project Profile: Greece Rion Antirion Bridge”. Report compiled by the Greek OMEGA Team, Research Unit of Infrastructure Technology Policy and Development, Department of Planning and Regional Development, University of Thessaly Greece
  • Moraiti, P. (2015), “Rio-Antirio Bridge” in Łukasiewicz, A., Roumboutsos A., Liyanage C., Pantelias A., Mladenovic G., Brambilla M., Bernardino J. and Mitusch K. BENEFIT Database, Deliverable of WP6, BENEFIT Business Models for Enhancing Funding and Enabling Financing of Infrastructure in Transport, Horizon 2020, DG Research and Innovation