HELLENIC RAILWAYS has called bids for detailed engineering design on the first phase of the proposed rail network intended to open up the western side of the country.

Under an agreement signed by former Transport Minister Christos Verelis and EU Transport & Energy Commissioner Loyola de Palacio, the Western Railway Axis has been included in the list of TEN priority projects which will receive EU funding in 2006-14.

The Western Railway comprises two main corridors. One will run west from the existing OSE terminus at Kozani through Kalambaka to Ioannina and Igoumenitsa on the Ionian Sea coast opposite Kerkyra (Corfu). The other will run south from Ioannina to Andírrion where it will cross the Gulf of Patros to the Peleponnese, where it will continue through Patras and Pyrgos to Kalamata on the south coast.

The Greek government has committed to start work on the east-west route in 2006 for completion by 2012. The north-south corridor will follow in 2008 and should be finished by 2014.

Plans have already been approved for the Kozani - Kalambaka - Ioannina - Igoumenitsa route, together with a branch from Siatista to Kastoria. Detailed alignments, preliminary technical work and geotechnical surveys have already begun, and the next step will be to complete an environmental impact assessment.

To meet the deadlines agreed with the EU, the government decided earlier this year to push ahead with appointing consultants to undertake engineering design on the first phase. According to the official OJEU notice, this work is worth €21m. Meanwhile, preliminary design and geotechnical studies are getting underway for Phase B, together with hydraulic studies for the various tunnels. Work is also in hand to select locations and design station structures.