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BBNers - International Experiences Thread - Sharing Global Information & ExperiencesViews: 577
Nov 14, 2006 8:02 am re: re: re: BBNers - International Experiences Thread - Sharing Global Information & Experiences
Siddhartha Deb Athens would always be THE place I have loved most amongst all that I have visited abroad. Unlike other European parts, as one begins to descend down on the Athens airport, the landscape resembles pretty much like India….very much brown, barren hills and very unlike the lush green that hits the eye in other parts of Europe. And you almost feel at home! The similarity doesn’t end there…the weather, warmer than most of Europe, again keeps telling you that you may just be in India.

Things change dramatically, as you step outside the Airport and from then on its never the same. True to what one reads in the books, the Greeks are a stunningly beautiful people. From the guy outside guiding the cabs into the queue to the girl you see traveling in the tube, almost everyone is an eye catcher. The Greeks and especially the women know a thing or more about what fashion is and for all the hype about Paris being the fashion capital, the average Greek ladies on the streets and in public places beat their Parisian counterparts hollow. I was there to participate in an International Seminar on developing Roads and Highways and had the chance to interact and socialize with delegates from across the globe, including ofcourse Europe and US. And over drinks, the views on legendary Greek looks and the very obvious fashion were unanimous.

That apart, Greek people take special pride in talking about their ancient structures, their many Gods and Goddesses and actually find it a pleasure to talk to Indians who come from a God-for-all-seasons-and-all-reasons background. The venue where the famous musician Yanni played live in recent times at Acropolis is actually the The Auditorium of the Theatre of Dionosys. This auditorium is where the tragedies of Aeschyles Sophocles and Euripides and the comedies of Aristophanes were first performed in 5th century BC. While Acropolis remains the flagship tourist destination in Athens, the city itself is dotted with remnants of ancient history reminding one every now and then of the Greek history one reads so often in books.

However, it’s the charming modernity in Athens that impressed me most and since I was there to understand their road transportation systems as well, it was very obvious from what I saw that the Greeks have been continuing with their historical ability to do large projects. The Project I am referring to here is Attiki Odos. This is an urban motorway Project built in the city of Athens (in operations for some 5 years now) to tackle the ever increasing traffic growth as also to meet up with the demands of the Athens Olympics.

This is a project from which our city planners have much to learn. Athens is a busy city unlike some of its other European counterparts where traffic is thin and hence its easier to execute urban projects. There were several aspects about this project which are worthy of noting:
a) This road network criss crosses through the city for a total length of about 65 km.
b) Average trip length of commuters is 15 km which would not be very different from what people in Bangalore are used to.
c) The alignment of the road was meticulously planned and once decided, the administration just did not allow any new settlements to come up along the stretch.
d) The job was entrusted to Private players who were given the liberty to charge Toll from the road users. Remember the average guy in Athens was hitherto not used to paying tolls for road usage and hence making him to pay the toll and then later actually endorse the benefits of a tolled but a good road system took a lot of effort.
e) This Road network clocked an average of 2,60, 000 transactions per day in March, 2006., so that gives one an idea of the extent of traffic volume handled.
f) Athens is located on both hills and flat terrain and therefore it was an Engineering challenge to make this project happen.
g) It has both Manual and Electronic systems for Toll Collection
h) It also has an extensive Traffic monitoring and management system and thus while the Athens policeman may not exactly be seen making desperate attempts to control traffic, efficient monitoring is done all the same.
i) This system is so efficiently managed that about 96% of the road users have recorded ‘satisfied to very satisfied’ levels of response.
j) 38 Toll stations, 193 lanes, a series of big and small tunnels are indicative of the extent to which this system covers Athens’ roadways.

The developers of this Project and the city administration acknowledge the immense positive contributions this Project has had towards the entire country. Athens had pretty chaotic traffic conditions at one time and much of that has now been solved with this road network which coupled with an efficient underground rail network has offered the Athenians a close to perfect solution.

So rewarding this system has been that the developers of Attiki Odos have decided to now focus on other road ways in Greece. What once began as an ambitious project to tackle Athens’ traffic issues has turned out to be an engine for improvement of transportation systems across Greece. And indeed the object of praise of many of the globe’s traffic planners.

A small example of the benefit: Athens was never known to have snowfalls but as India gets hotter, Athens had an unexpected snowfall last winter. And it so turned out that the city administration didn’t have Snow clearing machines but Attiki Odos had! And it was with their equipments that much of the city’s roadways were cleared of snow.

I came away impressed…Athens is indeed the land of the beautiful and the determined. And also with a thought…if they can, why cant we?


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