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Rail network / Patras: The market, issues and options

Nicos V. Milionis Transport planner

The old port (North Port – at close proximity with the city center)

The new port (South Port) in front of the old industrial area

Patras at TEN - T

TEN-T Pr. 7: Road axis Igoumentitsa – Patra – Athens – Sofia - Budapest

TEN-T Pr. 29: Western Rail Axis

National rail network

Major European rail axes

EU –Motorways of the Sea

Some history Railway development started quite late (compared to West Europe) in the newly born Greek State. A dispute between the major political players of those times was the reason of the delayed decisions: one side favored the development of the Greek network as an extension of the core network of the Othoman State in the Balkans, whilst its opponents were in favor of a regional perspective for a network development based on flexible track and operational characteristics, adaptable to terrain conditions and to market requirements. Since the supporters of the regional perspective prevailed (1882), the network was developed segment by segment, (by different concessioners and as separate operational entities). The first track in operation outside Athens was the Katakolo – Ancient Olympia line (in Western Peloponnese, app. 20 km). Patras was reached in 1887. Rail connection allowed the transport of the most valuable export product of those times to the port: raisin. Its exports became the locomotive of the urban development of the city and the backbone of its economic, social and political life. In all terms, “contemporary Patras is a city “born by the port and nurced by the train”. In network terms, two operationally independent networks were eventually shaped by early 20th century: - a metric gauge network in Peloponesse, Aitoloakarnania and regional Thessaly - a normal gauge width for the Athens – north borders line which was connected to the main network of the Balkans. It was only in the 1950’s the two networks came under the same operator, the state owned OSE (Greek Railway Organization). It was only after 1990 that normalization and modernization of the railway infrastructure has gained priority and important projects are deployed (including the Athens – Patras line).

The train at Patras Given the physical terrain of Patras, there was only one available right-of-way for the alignment of the track: the coastal line. The track was there when the city expanded gradually to its contemporary limits. The main passenger terminal in operation (“Central Station” at 3 Symachon Sq. – tip: for the “3 allies” Britain, France and Russia who supported Greek independance from the Othoman Empire – and finally forced it in 1827) was built after the 2nd WW inside the port zone. Track realignment and improvement works are in progress at the Kiato – Patras segment with cofunding from EU. Initial time schedules were proven over optimistic: the new track will not be completed within the on-going programming period 2007-13as planned (works to end at 2014). Under the best of circumstances, upgrading will stop at Rion. Further extension to Patras must wait for the next programming period 2014-20. The technical solution to be adopted for the Rio – South Port of Patras is still under consideration. Initial plans for lowering the track by constructing a rail tunnel across the coastal line (min. tunnel bed elevation – 14 m. from surface) are based on the dominant alternative, which was proposed and adopted back in 1993. According to the plans, the tunnel – with a double track - will run across the port border, pass via the Agios Dionysios yard -where a new modern passenger terminal will be built - and enter the South Port area, where a passenger terminal will be built (to serve the port and the south city area) – before proceeding southwards to connect with the existing Patras – Pyrgos track. The project as planned has been rejected from funding. ERGOSE is considering a less deep tunnel with single track as a possible alternative. The process is ongoing, alternative ideas have not yet submitted for funding. It seems that a final decision is still quite far away.

Rail track segment to be lowered

Recent train-related developments

In 2008-09, a Master Study for the development of a tram network at Patras was conducted by TRAM S.a. (the Athens tram system operator), financed by EU, aiming to check the feasibility of the deployment of a tram system. The study evaluated several alignment alternatives, but the option of operating on the existing rail track – or on an upgraded track in the future – was not included as an option: TRAM didn’t want to be dependent on OSE’s schedule or priorities. The outcome was a suggested alignment of 26,4 km. – connecting the city center with the University Campus in the north and the TEI Campus in the east – but of very high system cost (app.260 mi.€), hardly feasible and definitely non financeable under the prevailing economic situation. In 2010 the Patras Suburban Rail “Proastiakos” started operation, initially from the city center to Rion, extended later to Ag. Vasilios. Is has been proven a big “success story”, (although the idea was not the outcome of any market research and its support by TRAINOSE was not based on projections, but, rather on a will to avoid personnel transfer from Patras to elsewhere). However, whilst it started with 2.000 pax per month, today it serves 100.000 pax per month. It has gained preference by a substantial market share of commuters and has been established high standards of Level of Service in terms of reliability and comfort. Proastiakos today has only supporters , no opponents.

ΦΑΣΗ ΙΙΙ. ΔΙΑΜΟΡΦΩΣΗ, ΑΝΑΛΥΣΗ & ΑΞΙΟΛΟΓΗΣΗ ΠΡΟΤΑΣΕΩΝ ΤΡΑΜ Στοιχεία Προτεινόμενης Χάραξης  Proposed tram line, 26.4 km (13.3 km Un. Hospital - TEI, 13.1 km TEI – Un. Hospital)  Ave commercial speed 26.2 km/h  Trip time (ale retour) 60 min  3 alternative yard sites

Transit networks planning and management issues The success of Proastiakos makes the deficiencies of the transit systems in peripheral Greek cities – others than Athens and Thessaloniki – more evident, as far as planning, financing and regulating:


- Proastiakos is operated by TRAINOSE / urban bus network is operated by “Astiko KTEL”: they feel competitors and react as such, - Proastiakos is subsidized / urban bus network doesn’t (bus users cover the 100 % of system costs) - There is no entity responsible for planning or imposing cooperation among modes for coordinated system expansion (involving realignment of the existing bus lines to join the Proastiakos network as feeders). The Municipality has not been involved in transit planning yet. Responsibility for transit planning and management has been transferred to the municipal governments with the last legislative reform ( 2010 ), but, they lack the know-how and the financial resources to effectively cope with. - If there is an realistic possibility for full deployment of a rapid transit system at Patras, it associated with the existing rail right-of-way (the corridor).

How rail in Patras will be affected by the reforms to come?

The Greek Railway Organization OSE doesn’t exist as a single entity any more: it has been split to various entities, as a necessary step for liberalization of rail transport operations, according to EU legislation. The exact type of privatization is still under consideration. Maintenance and operations (passenger and freight) have been transferred to independent organizations, which are now in privatization process. Eventually, urban segments (like the Proastiakos) may attract private operators.

It is highly possible that the Athens – Patras rail line will attract interest of private operators (mainly for passenger and probably for freight operations), depending on the type of privatization which will be adopted. The possibility of future involvement of more operators make the “equation” of the Rion – Patras segment even more complicated: what are the operational requirements that should be considered as planning criteria? Add to the equation the possibility of a private operator in the port, with transport requirements of containers or other freight units (trailers or swap bodies --piggy bag operation). What then?

The Rion – Patras track alignment is not a question of civil engineering / a network driven approach is needed A - personal - conclusion: The Rion – Patras rail track alignment question must be treated under a network perspective, i.e. it is not a question of civil engineering but a decision for a single component of the line and terminals system in the greater Patras area, which must serve 3 separate types of traffic, (each with very different operational requirements): - Intercity passenger traffic over the Athens - Patras – Pyrgos corridor (a traffic category that doesn’t require connection with the new port). - Suburban passenger traffic (a traffic category that requires an alignment serving the densely built area – and definitely isn’t compatible with an alignment running along the coastal line and through the new port for some kms, away from the source of demand). - Intercity freight traffic (a traffic category that is depended from the port operations to a large extent - although not 100%, since there are needs of the local industry to be served. In the design of the already constructed new port a longitudinal rail corridor (18 m. wide) has been included, to facilitate the track and a small passenger terminal. There are plans for a freight quay with substantial freight storage area, but it is not yet included in the construction plans. Since the design of the port doesn’t allow the full deployment of a freight yard in the port area, other alternative sites – OSE properties - for freight terminals must be examined and evaluated.

The train market at Patras Intercity passenger traffic: There are no recent figures (at least as far bas I know). Some years ago the Athens – Patras intercity passenger market was at the range of 1,4 mi. pax per year. The economic crisis has affected mobility and mode preferences. Any estimate is highly risky, but as a base a range of 1,5 – 2 mi. pax per year over the corridor can be used, out of which the train could hope for a probable 70 %. Suburban passenger traffic: the 100.000 pax per month figure is approaching capacity limit for the system that is in operation. It is extendable with more frequent train scheduling, probably by 100 % (today there are train departures every 1 hour). Extension of operations southwards (eventually to Kato Achaia) will add ridership (although not at the range of the north segment), but will add operational restrictions (stations of correspondence, scheduling and track occupation, etc.). Intercity freight traffic: A big question. Today the train is out of the port freight market, but also from the bulk and the packed fright for industrial uses. Is there any potential and how much? Consider that: The port traffic to Italy reached a peak – 2009 – at 330.000 truck units (both directions). Today is has been reduced to 150.000 (1997 levels). In passenger traffic terms, the port reached its peak with 1.26 mi. pax per year – 2006 – today it has been reduced at the range of o,5 mi. Part of the traffic loses has shift to the Port of Igoumenitsa. In any case, port recovery is 100 % depended on the economy. Previous traffic projections – in the context of the feasibility studies of the port works – calling for volumes of 350.000 truck units and 1,25 mi pax in 2020 may be proven optimistic.

Port traffic volumes to Italy in decline (pax= green, lorries: blue, pax cars: sky blue) 1.200.000


800.000 Φορτηγά Λεωφορεία


ΙΧ Δίκυκλα Επιβάτες



0 2008





Patras – the track lowering option The existence of the rail track within the urban area results to conflicts (noise, accidents, communication obstacles, etc.). It is a commonly found situation everywhere. However, while in the Western European cities effective solutions have been found the and the negative effects are under control through planning, in the case of the Greek cities, the prevailing attitude has been hostile for the train. The country-wide urban and regional planning campaign [EPA], which was initiated by the Ministry of Environment, Housing and Public Works in 1983, and forms the corpus of the planning documents that are valid today, called for realignment of the rail tracks and the relocation of terminals outside of the city centers. In the case of Patras, the Master Plan of the city drafted as part of EPA (1985) called for a rail bypass of the city. From a network’s point of view the idea of a rail bypass represented a very negative – if no catastrophic – development. Very expectedly, it was rejected by OSE, who proposed (1992/93) the lowering of the line across the city center as an alternative. Although the feasibility questions related with the idea were not investigated, it became the official proposal, which has determined the network planning guidelines since then and has been included in the updated Master plan of the city (2009). However, the high cost of the project (500 mi. € +), that is more an urban reformation than a transport project, result to negative feasibility indexes and make is funding by EU funds as part of the Athens – Patras rail corridor highly improbable (at least at the initially planned scale). If the above is proven true, then we stand today exactly where we were standing in 1993. A feasible alternative is still the question.

Ag. Dionysios Central Station design (as planned for the lowering option)

South Port of Patras – Phase A layout ( 4 berths are in operation, a 5 the freight quay - at left – has not yet been scheduled for construction)


is under construction,

South Port: the train station site, along the rail corridor within the port area

Issues for consideration Proastiakos is already a very important part of the rail system, in terms of market potential and its impacts on sustainable mobility. Thus, it is essential that: - It will be expanded both southwards ( to Kato Achaia) and northwards 9to Aigion) - Its operation is secured (at least with minimum interruptions) during construction times The operational requirements of the several traffic categories are very diverge and sometimes conflicting. Thus, it will be difficult t o be fully satisfied by a simple civil engineering oriented design . A wider system approach is hardly needed. Some examples: - Will a lowered track be able to serve simultaneously passenger and train trains? - The suburban trains will operate with high frequency and require high reliability. How these requirements will be affected by the existence of passenger and – especially freight trains on the same track, not to mention the maneuvering of freight trains within the port? - If all trains are moving on a single track, freight trains will pass by passenger platforms? - Is the available space of the multipurpose freight quay enough for the development of a freight yard within the port? If not, what are the alternative options for the development of a freight terminal facility, hoe it will connected to the port and what operational consequences will result? -What will happen with the operations of Proastiakos during the construction of the project of lowered track? - What the handling requirements of the freight for the needs of local industry will be, where a terminal should be located? - etc., etc.

Thus, there are still a lot of questions to be answered, which make the drafting of a Master Plan of Rail Infrastructure in the Greater Patras area an urgent necessity of absolute priority.

Train patari seminar 2013 v1  
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