The metro of Thessaloniki is a project that has been in people’s minds for a long time. Now, an end-point seems to be on the horizon: in 2020, the first part of the Thessaloniki metro should open. Why has it taken so long, and what is the progress so far? And where will the stations of the metro be? Find all this, and some pictures of one of the first metro stations open to the public, Efklidi, here!
Start of the project
The first time someone proposed a plan for a metro system in Thessaloniki was in the 1910s. The Great Fire of Thessaloniki in 1917 destroyed a large part of the city, and Ernest Hébrard and Thomas Hayton Mawson made new designs. Part of the plan was an underground rail system that would allow people to travel from the city centre to the outskirts of the city. The current metro line 1, which I will show below, is almost the same as the original design. Although the idea was there, it never actually took form. During the 1980s, people revived the plan of a metro line in Thessaloniki. Construction for the metro started in 1989. The project was supposed to finish in 1995. Instead, it got delayed and then abandoned, mainly because of issues with contracts and a lack of government support.
It was not until the 2000s that people picked up the construction of the metro again. Attiko Metro, a state-owned company which also constructed the metro in Athens, became interested in the project. In 2003, the Greek government and Attiko Metro agreed to start up the project once more. In 2006, construction of the Thessaloniki metro started. Originally planned to finish in 2012, several things caused delays to the project, such as archaeological finds while digging out the tunnels, and the financial crisis in Greece.
The metro project is funded mainly by a combination of loans and funds from the European Union and funds from the Greek government. The total estimate of the costs of the project is around 1.57 billion euros.
Lines and stations
For the moment, there are concrete plans for two lines. Line 1, also called the base project, covers the city centre of Thessaloniki. It spans from the New Railway Station in the west of the city, to Nea Elvetia in the south-east. In total, it will have 13 stations, including Dimokratias, Venizelou (close to Aristotelous square), Aghia Sofia and the University of Thessaloniki. It then goes further south. The line will span 9.5 km
Line 2 will provide an extension to Kalamaria, a municipality in the south-east of Thessaloniki. The extension is 4.78km long and adds five stations to the metro network.
There are also some plans for future extensions of the metro system. One plan is to extend Line 2 further towards the airport; another is to construct a loop with eight stations in the western suburbs of the city. Here are the maps of the planned extensions:
As said, the project was supposed to finish already in 2012, but it was delayed several times. Especially in the city centre, below Egnatia street, many unexpected archaeological finds turned up. For example, archaeologists found the city’s Decamanus Maximus, the main road that ran through Thessaloniki during Roman times. An even bigger surprise was the discovery of a
The findings caused controversy and caused further delays in the metro project. Attiko Metro wanted to move the findings and re-assemble them at a different location. On the other side, archaeologists of the city wanted Attiko Metro to change the depth of the metro line. In the end, Greece’s Council of State decided that Attiko Metro had to redesign the line and make the tunnels deeper. The
In 2018, the metro project hit a lot of milestones. In June, the public was able to enter two metro stations for the first time during a three day event about the progress of the metro. At the end of July 2018, the digging of the tunnels finished. In 2019, constructors will start to place rails in the tunnels, and the first train will arrive in February 2019. At the end of 2019, trials for the metro system will start.
If all goes according to plan, Line 1 will open in 2020, except for two stations. Aghia Sofia and Venizelou will open later, because of the archaeological works that are still unfinished. The line will pass these stations without stopping. Aghia Sofia is scheduled to operate in 2021, whereas Venizelou should open in 2023. Line 2 will start working in 2021, even though the construction for the extension to Kalamaria started 7 years after Line 1. As there were no major archaeological finds, there were no delays, which means that the project will hopefully finish on time.
Not everybody believes that the Thessaloniki Metro Project will be successful: recently, an event popped up on Facebook with the title “Inauguration of Thessaloniki Metro in 2099“. Let’s hope the actual date will be a bit sooner, and that the metro project of Thessaloniki will be successful. It would make travelling around the city much faster and smoother!
Information for this article was collected during the Thessaloniki Open House, a yearly event that most recently took place on 24 and 25 November 2018.