Case Studies: Attica Tollway, The Athens Ring Road

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Project Overview
Photo Courtesy of Attica Tollway
Figure 1: Overview of Attica Tollway (detail)
Attica Tollway (Athens Ring Road), Greece
Project Type: Greenfield
Contract duration: maximum of 25 years or earlier if the maximum Return on Equity has been reached.
Budget: EUR 1300M (This budget includes Project Development Costs)
Project Time Line
Conception: 1963;
Tender: 1992;
Contract Award: March 1996;
Date of contract ratification: 23/5/1996 Law 2445/1996;
Financial Close: 6 of March 2000;
Open to traffic (1st section): March 2001 to serve the new Athens International Airport;
Open to traffic (2nd section) and Project Completion: August 2004 in time for the Athens Olympic Games;
Works Completion Certificate (WCC) issued: 2 Dec. 2004


Attica Tollway is a pioneering project constructed on a concession basis and constitutes one of the biggest co-financed road projects in Europe. It belongs to the first generation of co-financed projects awarded in Greece during the '90s and essentially paved the way and laid the foundations for the execution of future successful concession contracts, in Greece and in other European countries. Attica Tollway in Greece forms part of the Trans European Network, as planned by the European Commission. It extends along 70 km and connects the 30 municipalities of the Attica basin. It actually constitutes the backbone of the entire transport network of the metropolitan area of Athens and it meets the transportation needs of millions of people on an annual basis. It constitutes a unique piece of infrastructure, even in European terms, since it is essentially a closed toll motorway, within a metropolitan capital, where the problem of traffic congestion is acute.

Attica Tollway is an urban motorway, with three traffic lanes in each direction and an emergency lane. In the centre, it has a special traffic island, reserved for the operation of the suburban railway that has been constructed and is operated by another entity.

Attica Tollway is part of the PATHE road axis (Patra - Athens - Thessaloniki - Evzoni) and connects the Athens - Lamia National Road with the Athens - Κorinthοs National Road, by-passing the centre of Athens. Being a closed motorway, it has controlled access points and consists of three sections:

  • The Elefsina – Stavros – Spata A/P motorway (ESSM), extending along approximately 52 km;
  • The Imittos Western Peripheral Motorway (IWPM), extending along approximately 13 km; and
  • The Egaleo Western Peripheral Motorway (EWPM), extending along approximately 5 km.

Works include:

  • Other main lines: 31,33 km.
  • Network Utility / side roads: 150 km.
  • Interchanges: 32
  • Road bridges (Overpasses): 104
  • Road bridges (underpasses): 38
  • Rail Bridges: 37
  • Footbridges: 15
  • Tunnels (Cut & Cover): 63
  • Total length of tunnels and Cut & Cover: 15,64 km.
  • Anti-flood works: 66.7 km.
  • Total area of support facilities premises: 122,000 sq.m.

Figure 2: Attica Tollway sections
Photo from

The idea of building the Attica Tollway dates back to 1963, when Wilbur Smith came from the United States to undertake the first ever regional traffic planning study for the city of Athens and its metropolitan area. Sprawling development to the north of Athens over the years, the decision in the late 1970’s to build the new airport in its present location at Mesogeia and the decision to build a city connector road along the foothills of the Mountain of Imittos in the early 1990’s departed from the concept of a “ring” road, and transformed the Attica Tollway into an urban tollway that serves the heart of the city.

In addition, the Attica Tollway during its construction and operation introduced a number of innovations to the Greek construction and motorway operation sector. More specifically, construction within urbanized area under adverse geotechnical conditions called upon employing vibration recorders to restrict peak particle velocity below 6mm/sec in open-cast mining excavations; the ΝΑΤΜ (Drill & Blast) method, the tunnel construction method using Roadheader machinery was also applied to reduce vibrations (the peak particle velocity was limited to 0.7 mm/sec) and to avoid using explosives in areas of historical interest (monuments, churches etc.) for tunnel construction; the Incremental Launching System has also been used for constructing the superstructure of bridges; road pavement was constructed using the latest construction methods and mechanical equipment, reliable materials and specialized laboratory measurements and tests to ensure durability over time. A deep level sewer installation, employing a trenchless technology method (pipe-jacking) was used for the first time to drive sections over 200 m in length under the city. (Sofianos et al, 2004). In operations, the Attica Tollway was the first to introduce in Greece an electronic toll collection system.

Finally, the project was constructed in parallel with flood protection works (contract value of EUR 791M), as the Attica Tollway passes through the three large hydrographic basins of Attica (Thriasio Pedio, Athens basin and Mesogeia) and interrupts the surface runoff coming from the Parnitha, Penteli and Imittos mountains to the sea. The morphology of the aforementioned areas, now featuring minimum natural receptors, the exponential expansion of the land use and the various types of human interventions had rendered the construction of substantial extensive flood protection works within the scope of the Attica Tollway implementation imperative. The flood protection works constructed were dimensioned to be adequate for the existing and future land use.

The Contracting Authority (Public Party)

The Attica Tollway project was planned on a central government level, by the Ministry of Development, Competitiveness, Infrastructure and Transport Networks (previously called Ministry of Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works). Ε.Υ.D.Ε. / L.S.E.P is the special agency of the Ministry which undertakes the supervision of the motorway’s operation and maintenance.

A breakdown of key objectives, as stated by the Government, consists of the following:

  • to develop the ring road for the Metropolitan area of Athens and integrate a full road network for fast and safe transport in the entire Attica region;
  • to provide the connection to Athens International Airport;
  • to decrease traffic congestion in the main arteries of Athens;
  • to provide the crucial segment of PATHE TEN-T (priority axis 7) by connecting the two main National Roads of Greece (National Road of Patras – Athens and National Road of Athens – Thessaloniki);
  • to contribute to an integrated regional/urban plan for Attica;
  • to provide direct connection between the western and the eastern areas of Attica

Other secondary objectives quoted by the Government include:

  • to access a future spur (presently served by a 4 to 6 lane arterial street) that will connect to the passenger and cargo harbor of Rafina, which offers quicker connections to central and northern Aegean islands than the main port of Piraeus.
  • to support significantly the flood prevention system for the entire region of Attiki by substantial interventions in the three main hydrographical basins of Attiki, i.e. the Thriasio Plain, the Athens Basin and Mesogeia.

Central government was directly involved in all stages of the development, design, tendering and negotiation procedure, and is also overseeing operation and maintenance.The concession contract was approved by parliament as Law 2445/96 and amended by Presidential Decree 75/99.

The Concessionaire (Private Party)

Attiki Odos S.A was formed as a joint venture of almost all large Greek construction companies [AKTOR, AVAX, ALTE, ATTI-KAT, HELLENIC TECHNODOMIKI, ETETH, SARANTOPOULOS, PANTECHNIKI, TEV, TEG, EGIS PROJECTS.]. ATTIKI ODOS S.A. is the SPV, the consortium Attiki odos is the construction consortium and Attikes Diadromes S.A. is the operator. All companies were involved in all three formulations with slightly varying shares.

A subsequent consolidation in the Greek construction industry has led, through bankruptcies, mergers and acquisitions, to the formation of a few large construction groups. Attiki Odos consortium was a catalyst for this consolidation.

The Concession Company's shareholders' current (31.12.2013) structure consists of: - AKTOR CONCESSIONS S.A. (member ELLAKTOR S.A. Group) 59.25%, - J.&P. AVAX S.A. 21.00%, - ETETH S.A. (member J.&P. AVAX S.A.Group) 9.82%, - PIREAUS -ATE BANK S.A. 9.88% and - Transroute International. 0.04%.

"ATTIKI ODOS S.A.", is the Concession Company (Concessionaire) of the project, which has undertaken the design, construction, financing, operation and maintenance of the motorway, through the execution of a Concession Contract with the Greek State. he Concessionaire has established Contracts back to back with the Concession Agreement with “ATTIKI ODOS CONSTRUCTION JOINT VENTURE” for the project construction and with “ATTIKES DIADROMES S.A.” (also known as Attica Tollway Operations Authority) for the operation and maintenance of the project.

A total of 138 contracts and agreements were let to 65 different contracting parties. The contracts included: - 23 Principal Engineering Contracts; - 78 Lending and Guarantee Agreements; - eight Special Fees & Payments Contracts; - seven Other Special Agreements; - 22 Other Contracts.

The construction was financed (tl 1.346.309.241 euros) as follows:

  • Equity: 157.577.077 euros
  • Loans: 666.246.607 euros (the majority were EIB loans)
  • Greek State: 420.569.293 euros
  • Income from interest: 11.985.546 euros
  • Income from operation (during construction): 89.930.718 euros


The motorway is open to all users private vehicles and freight traffic.Attica Tollway serves, however, mainly passenger cars and the main purpose of travel of its users is commuting. It provides links to the Athens International Airport and to the two main National Roads (NR Athens –Thessaloniki and NR Athens-Corinth-Patras). In addition, many large logistics centers have emerged or relocated to the western part of the Tollway, since this location combines large open spaces and quick access to ports, railway and National Roads.

For the first time in Greece, tolls were imposed in urban axis and this practice was foreseen at the beginning as controversial. The high level of provided service by Attica Tollway succeeded to diminish any reluctance of paying tolls.

The forecasted AADT was estimated to level off at approx. 245.000 vehicles after 10 years of operation with a gradual increase from 160.000 in 2004.

The motorway was fully operational as of mid 2004 and presented some 30% AADT in the years 2004 to 2009 (pick traffic in 2009 307.993 AADT). Ever since due to the economic crisis AADT has dropped to 200449 in 2013 (281 217 in 2010; 250625 in 2011 and 215767 in 2012). AADT has leveled off at approx 200.000 AADT.

Key Purpose for PPP Model Selection

The Greek Authorities and the European Commission had agreed within the framework of the Community Support Framework 1994 -1999 (CSF II) to maximize private sector partnerships in the development of transport related infrastructure (PwC, 2005). For Greece, this provided funds and off-balance sheet debt. The Athens Tollway was an opportunity.

The hybrid structuring of the project was essential to the project’s success. The public sector, the Greek Government, wanted to allocate most of the project risks to the private sector. It was clear from the beginning, however, that due to several factors (e.g. this was the first PPP in the road sector in Greece, construction difficulties were envisaged, and help was needed in dealing with 30 local authorities), the project required strong state help. This financial help was necessary because, at that time, sponsors considered that the road traffic levels and the tolls the users were prepared to pay were not enough to provide an adequate return on the investment they were required to make. Therefore, the project was developed as a PPP in order to:

  • Minimise public funding. Public funding (including EU Structural funds) covered 34% with the private sector providing the remaining 66% project funding.
  • Allocate risks to the private sector. The project structure allowed the Greek Government to allocate most risks to the sponsors.

EU funding was requested to close the financial gap, turning the project into a hybrid. The project was not viable for the private sector if the private sector had to provide 100% of funding. EU Structural funds allowed the private sector to reduce its financial commitment by 34% while maintaining the same level of revenues. As a consequence, the bankability increased.

Figure 3. Attica Tollway Concession Structure

Project Timing

After the 1960’s, decades passed by without any attempts to start the road project, mainly due to the lack of funding, coupled with its expected high cost. The project’s real advancement began in 1985, when it became part of the official transportation infrastructure plans for metropolitan Athens, along with the goal of obtaining the Centennial Olympic Games in 1996 (they marked the 100th anniversary of the modern Olympic Games). It was in the early 1990’s that the Greek Ministry of Public Works adopted the method of co-financing the road through a Build–Operate–Transfer contract.

The construction work started in 1997 and the motorway was given to traffic in sections. The first one opening to traffic was in March 2001, achieving the milestone of serving the new Athens International Airport. The last section was opened to traffic in 2004. Attica Tollway was built on time and within budget and it met the crucial deadline for the Athens Olympics Games in 2004.

Project Locality and Market Geography

Attica Tollway is an urban motorway and part of the Tran European Network (TEN), connecting the 30 municipalities of the Attica basin, allowing quicker access to areas, which, before its construction, required a great amount of travel time.

Procurement & Contractual Structure


An international tender was announced in 1992 and in March 1996, the project was awarded to the lowest bidder of the three international consortia that participated in the process. The Ministry of Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works was responsible for all the analysis,preparation and tendering. The Concession Contract was ratified by law by the Greek Parliament on the 23rd of May 1996.

The Concession Agreement provides a maximum toll rate that can be charged. It also includes a safety mechanism, securing the interests of the Greek State through a maximum Return on Equity. The Concession period will extend for a maximum of 25 years (including construction period), or it will end earlier, in the case that the maximum Return on Equity (13.1%) has been reached.

Contract Structure

The Concession Contract was ratified by the Greek Parliament in December 1996 by law 2445/96 due to lack of legal framework. It should be noted that any amendments to the concession contract need to be ratified by the Greek parliament. The maximum applicable tariff is defined in the contract. It also includes a safety mechanism, securing the interests of the Greek State through a maximum Return on Equity. The Concession period will extend for a maximum of 25 years (including construction period), or it will end earlier, in the case that the maximum Return on Equity has been reached (11.6%). This is a typical concession scheme, under the DBFO structure.

The project financing has been ensured through State contributions including EC Structural Cohesion Funds, private equity and loans. Commercial banks involved include: Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, HypoVereinsbank, Commercial Bank of Greece, HSBC Athens, National Bank of Greece, Société Generale, European Investment Fund, ABN AMRO Bank NV, Agricultural Bank of Greece, Alpha Credit Bank, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena (London), Bank of Scotland, De Nationale Investeringsbank NV, Piraeus Bank Greece, European Investment Bank, ING Bank NVand Ergobank.

Expropriation cost was undertaken entirely by the Greek State. Loan guarantees were provided by the concessionaire during construction and by the State for the operations phase.

Risk Allocation

Overall, the Greek government was able to transfer construction, operation, and traffic risks (subject to a standard non-compete clause) to the SPV under the concession contract. The lenders to the SPV were therefore fully exposed to these risks, mitigated as they might be through the construction and operation subcontracts. However, EIB's policy is that they do not accept construction risk, and they will usually accept remaining project risks only after a period of satisfactory operation and the demonstration of acceptable cover ratios. Accordingly, as is usually the case, the EIB was guaranteed by the other lenders and, in this case, by the sponsors, providing 50% cover each. Once construction was complete, the EIB allowed these guarantees to be replaced by a guarantee from the Greek government. In this way, the Greek government did effectively transfer construction risk to the SPV, but has taken operation and traffic risk back through the guarantee, albeit at a reduced level compared with the risk at the outset.

A project of such scale met significant difficulties during its realisation. The financial close was delayed, mainly because of uncertainties surrounding the project. These uncertainties increased the risks for the banks, delaying the signing of the financial agreement and forcing the public sector to provide funds to the sponsors to begin construction before financial close was reached. Other difficulties were due to variation orders issued by the State, mainly for environmental reasons, which involved significant design changes.

Furthermore, the concession contract did not include mechanisms for extensions of time and delay make-up in case of State-instructed variations. Solutions were found after extensive negotiations between all parties involved, and amendments to the concession contract were introduced, leading to the satisfaction of the banks and reaching financial close. Risk allocation is depicted in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Risk allocation

The environmental risk was undertaken by the State in reference to environmental law changes. The Greek State for environmental reasons has proceeded to design changes in Imittos Western Peripheral Section, after the concession commencement. Variation orders were also related to water management in the area of the project. On the other hand, the compliance with environmental guidelines was solely attributed to the SPV.

Land expropriation risk was allocated to the Greek State. Considering the difficulties of expropriating land in a city, such as Athens (as opposed to expropriating in the countryside) the concessionaire allocated full risk to the public sector as it .


The Independent Engineer was responsible for evaluating construction performance, along with the awarding authority, which is responsible for evaluating operating performance during the operations period.

Table 1 below shows the performance indicators set out in the Operation and Maintenance Agreement with the Attica Tollway Operation Authority.

Attica Tollway Operations Authority (Attikes Diadromes S.A.) has adopted an integrated monitoring system, based on measured Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). The system consists of 35 indicators covering all the major aspects of operation, such as traffic management, toll operation, infrastructure maintenance, human resources, violation enforcement, etc. A reliable and accurate system capable of measuring any fluctuation of performance on the key areas of safety, maintenance effectiveness, mobility, level of provided services and user satisfaction was developed. Various methods were used to measure the KPIs, one of the major sources of data for the KPIs system is the conduction of extensive surveys, such as Road Side Survey (RSS), telephone survey for the subscribers and "mystery shopping". Indicatively, the annual RSS covers about 7500 questionnaires and "mystery shopping" about 8000 questions on an annual basis. The results of the KPIs are widely used for the continuous improvement of the operation and the services provided to the Tollway users (Tyrogianni et al, 2012).

Table 1: Attica Tollway Performance Indicators

Ref. Item Planned Level of Service
1 Response time in case of incident 20 minutes
2 Repair time for damage of equipment causing danger to users Action shall start within 12 hours
3 Repair time for other serious damage of equipment Action shall start within 24hours
4 Average waiting time in each Toll Station

Level A: waiting time between 0 and 120 seconds Level B: waiting time above 120 seconds

Waiting Time Level B must not exceed 90 hours per year, unless due to exceptional circumstances outside the control of the Operator
5 Standards for money handling: Maximum Accepted Toll Collection Discrepancy (MATCD) between the system and the amount deposited in the Banks MATCD as per the Manuals Phase B

Furthermore, Attica Tollway considers carbon footprint assessment to be a very powerful tool in understanding the impact of the tollway’s operational activities on global warming. In this context, the company has installed measuring devices and carries out calculations of its carbon footprint (Mandalozis et al, 2012).

Finally, the tollway holds one of the best safety records in the world (Papaioannou, 2006). It serves over 250,000 users daily for short and long trips and has exceeded its forecasts by more than 30% (see figure 5).

From the start of operation and until 2011, the actual traffic was higher than the predicted. However, for the first time in 2012, this has changed and the actual traffic was lower than the predicted one. In addition,based on annual financial reports, Attica tollway is making profits. The report for year 2013 showed net profits (before tax) 68.708.000 and 20.918.000 euros (after tax). Net profits dropped by 19.212.000 euros (net after tax) in relation to 2012.As the traffic drop has stabilised, it is considered that this level of profitability is sustained. No changes have been made to toll prices.

Project Outcomes

The Attica Tollway was designed to: 1. provide access to the new Athens International Airport 2. leave urban congestion by providing a ring road around metropolitan Athens 3. reduce accidents 4. reduce environmental impact

All 4 objectives have been met and traffic forecasts under normal macro-economic conditions had been exceeded.After 6 years of recession, the PPP remains profitable even though traffic has been below forecasts since 2011.

The following key critical success factors can be identified:

1. The project was planned since the 1960s. When it was initiated it was a long needed infrastructure to provide alternative route connecting the Athens metropolitan area and reducing traffic through the centre of the city of Athens.

2. The motorway is practically the exclusive access to the Athens Airport. (Alternative are the Athens Metro and sub-urban rail and road link (not-tolled) from the south part of Athens).

3. The motorway is of high quality.

The pioneer construction, the care for the environment, the high-level operation and the pioneer technologies used, in combination with the human factor, are sectors of the project which received international acknowledgements and awards, while they have distinguished Attica Tollway as a model project for Greece.

Attica Tollway was built on time and on budget and it was the backbone of the transportation network during the execution of the Athens Olympic Games in 2004. The problems faced during construction were solved thanks to the good faith negotiations held between all parties involved. Attica Tollway is a successful project and has exceeded forecast expectations of demand. The reason is that Attica Tollway has produced significant improvements to traffic conditions in the metropolitan area, as well as benefits in the economy and overall infrastructure. In addition, it has received enormous public acceptance despite the initial resistance and the imposition of open & flat toll regime.

On the other hand, the long term financial crisis can affect the project significantly. Between 2009 and 2013 the country’s GDP has fallen by 20%. While unemployment has risen from 8% to 29%. Most of this negative impact is concentrated in the Athens metropolitan area where approximately 50% of the population is located. In connection with a significant drop in car ownership and fuel prices, it is considered that the project has show considerable resilience and is still viable. However, it is difficult to predict the future if the situation continues.

The motorway has a very high rate of acceptability. The company runs biannual user satisfaction surveys. These indicate 90% user satisfaction.Only in the very early stages of the project, there was opposition with respect to the flat rate toll as opposed to tolls based on distance.However, this opposition was soon overcome, especially as the scope of the infrastructure was to serve traffic transversing the metropolitan area and not traffic between suburbs.

Regarding project goals, current studies show that the average vehicle - trip time is reduced by 28 mins when choosing the Attica Tollway, there is considerable fuel consumption reduction, while reliability was improved fully in line with expectations and more (ex-post (observed) share of delayed traffic: less than 1%). The same applies to safety with ex-post (observed) total accidents per 1000 vkm by year:0.000547.

Economic Impact

The project had a significant economic impact in terms of supporting development in a region which was previously underdeveloped and rural. The motorway serves the Athens International Airport and provides a link to the major road access in Greece (included in the TEN-T). By relieving congestion in Athens (before all traffic was mainly through the city centre), it also allows for the balanced development in the greater Athens Region.

Social Impact

The Attica Tollway was a challenge for the fragmented Greek Construction Sector to prove technical capabilities and ability to take on a major financing/investment project.In the process many initial consortium members dropped off. The project may be considered a milestone in the development of the Greek construction sector.

Environmental Impact

The impact to the environment (noise and emissions) is continuously monitored. The project reduces fuel consumption.It also included anti-flooding works and in practice is the anti-flooding protection of the Athens metropolitan area.


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