From promise to project to reality

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis

It is a long tradition in Greek public life, to have repeated launches of projects – especially of major infrastructure with expected high social added-value: roll-outs of plans, inaugurations when breaking ground, well-promoted scale models, further inaugurations when successive further steps are made, grand openings at first-use day.

All of which tend to span several years, with electoral campaigns and their needs being catered to all along. With politically contentious positions being taken over the years.  This time around the contentious Thessaloniki Metro has experienced a quaint opening: crowds strolled to visit completed stations and access the shining train-cars (driverless) lined up to that effect.

A project that started being planned – believe it or not – back in 1976; started getting excavated in the late Eighties; saw construction launched in 2007 (with a 2012 deadline for completion); experienced stop-and-go construction and financing maturation with some EU meddling; experienced repeated further delays, with archaeological findings playing a prominent role.

Weeks before the latest elections an opening ceremony was organized, with posters picturing the stations that were nearing completion and the rolling stock to cross them serving as trompe l’ oeil for reality. So, now that people could effectively go down the gleaming stairways and visit stations and enter the Thessaloniki Metro cars, it was clearly a step forward – for the project and for its future users.

(The nearly 46 months that have flown away are just a fraction of the 2007-2023 period, not to mention the time-span from late Eighties or even 1976 to today ourdays). The question remains open, though: since the Thessaloniki Metro will actually start running sometime in 2023, why speed up the show of visits and public-opinion warm-ups?

Everybody steeped in Greek politics clearly knows the answer: as Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis quipped, days ago, “there is a whiff of elections in the air”. Whenever elections loom ahead, such festivities crop up. Whether this helps projects to go on – to something closer to completion – this is open to discussion.