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Since Harilaos Trikoupis' vision when he was Prime Minister of Greece
one hundred years ago, Greece has had the great dream of a bridge crossing the
3 km Corinth Gulf strait. In 2004, a long-standing dream became reality.
The bridge plays a significant role in strengthening the links between Patras, the third biggest city of Greece and the more rural North Western Greece.
The Rion-Antirion bridge is the longest cable-supported bridge in the world with a continuous deck of 2,250 meters.
The Rion-Antirion bridge is located at the intersection of two major roads: the Patras-Athens-Thessaloniki motorway which links the three most important cities of Greece and forms part of the European motorway network, the Kalamata-Patras-Igoumenitsa Western axis.
History-The geological background
It is believed that tectonic movements, which generate the current important seismic activity in the area, result in the South Rion coast drifting away from the North Antirion coast by several millimeters a year.
It is amusing noting that around 500,000 years B.C., the Corinth Gulf presumably was an inland sea and the Peloponnese linked to mainland by two isthmus: to the east with the Corinth isthmus cut today by its famous Canal and to the west with the Rion isthmus, which the Rion-Antirion bridge has replaced.
The project background
In 1880, Harilaos Trikoupis became Prime Minister of Greece. Born in Messolongi, one of the main cities on the North coast of the Corinth Gulf strait, he had the vision of a bridge joining the people from Achaia (Peloponnese) and Etoloakarnania (North Western Greece). The bridge project was discussed at the Greek Parliament at the end of the 19th century. However, such a project was not technically feasible until the late 20th century and it was one hundred years later that the Greek State decided to invite tenders for building a fixed link on the Corinth Gulf strait.
The 1991 invitation to tender and the December 1993 tender led on 3rd January 1996 to the signing between the Hellenic Republic and the company Gefyra S.A. of the Concession Contract for the Design, Construction, Financing, Maintenance and Operation of the Rion-Antirion bridge.
As for most concession schemes, this agreement was not put into force until the full financing for the project be achieved. It took two years to close the first ever private infrastructure concession financing in modern Greece with the main loan agreement signed on 25 July 1997. The financial close was achieved by 17 December 1997.
The Effective Date, the starting date for the project, occurred on 24 December 1997. On 19 July 1998, Costas Simitis, Prime Minister of Greece, in the presence of Constantinos Stephanopoulos, President of Greece, cast the first stone for the Rion-Antirion bridge.
The construction period
The 7-year construction period comprises: a 2 year preparatory period (1998-1999) where the main works consist in completing the final design for the bridge and installing the construction site with the main task of building the dry dock, a 5-year building period (2000-2004) where the bridge is actually built.
The operation period
The concession company Gefyra S.A. shall operate and maintain the fixed link from its completion forecast by December 2004, onwards.
In 1995, the traffic crossing the strait, using the current ferry services, totalled an average of 7,000 vehicles per day. It is expected that, at opening, the bridge shall attract an average of 10,000 vehicles per day. Studies show that in addition to the likely overall increase of the traffic since 1995, the opening of the bridge should generate a significant amount of local traffic.
The Concession Contract provides for maximum tolls to be levied by the Concessionaire. Below these levels, the Concessionaire is fully responsible to market its tolling policy and intends to boost local traffic demand with season and frequent-user tickets.
The Operation Period shall end no later than 42 years from the Effective Date (24 December 2039). The bridge shall then be handed over to the Greek State which is going to be responsible for its operation.
This text is cited December 2004 from the West Greece Region General Secretariat URL below, which contains image.
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