Tempi valley tunnels to be completed in March

The section of the Athens-Thessaloniki national highway at Tempi that is due to be completed by the end of March will include the longest road tunnel in the Balkans measuring 6 km in length, said Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Christos Spirtzis on Thursday after a visit to the site.

Once the remaining work on the three tunnels is done, it will be possible to bypass the Tempi valley and the work begun on the Maliakos-Kleidi section of the national highway in 2007 will finally be complete, the minister said. The project, with a total budget of 1.3 billion euros, was originally due to be delivered in 2011 but was stalled for three years due to the crisis.

Its completion also marks the final completion of the 550km Athens-Thessaloniki national highway, which started in the 70s and remained incomplete for decades, Spirtzis added after a tour of the worksite.

Replying to questions, the minister denied press reports claiming that the contractor was given additional money to speed up completion of the project, saying that the request was denied since the project was “already well along”. Regarding the contractors other financial claims, Spirtzis said that rulings had been issued by the courts and that the government had saved roughly 36 million euros through negotiations.

Replying to other questions, the minister said that the only road tolls to be installed are those envisaged under the original construction contracts. The goal, he added, was to change the road toll system entirely by 2018, removing the “stage-point” toll barriers that span the highways and installing a system of progressive entry/exit tolls based on the distance travelled.