The Rion Antirion bridge

In 1880, Harilaos Trikoupis became Prime Minister of Greece. Born in Messolonghi, one of the main cities on the North coast of the Corinth Gulf strait, he had the vision of a bridge joining the people from Achaia (Peloponnese) and Etoloakarnania (North Western Greece). The bridge project was discussed at the Greek parliament at the end of the 19th century. However such a project was not technically feasible until the late 20th century and it was one hundred years later that the Greek State decided to invite tenders for building a fixed link on the Corinth Gulf strait.

The 1991 invitation to tender and the December 1993 tender led on 3rd January 1996 to the signing between the Hellenic Republic and the company Gefyra S.A. of the Concession Contract for the Design, Construction, Financing, Maintenance and Operation of the Rion-Antirion bridge.

As for most concession schemes, this agreement was not put into force until the full financing for the project be achieved. It took two years to close the first private infrastructure concession financing in modern Greece with the main loan agreement signed on 25 July 1997 and financial close achieved by 17 December 1997.

The Effective Date, reference start date for the project, occurred on 24 December 1997. On 19 July 1998, Costas Simitis, Prime Minister of Greece, in the presence of Constantinos Stephanopoulos, President of Greece, cast the first stone for the Rion-Antirion bridge.

It is believed that tectonic movements, which generate the current important seismic activity in the area, result in the South Rion coast drifting away from the North Antirion coast by several millimeters a year.

It is amusing noting that around 500,000 years b.c., the Corinth Gulf presumably was an inland sea and the Peloponnese linked to mainland by two isthmus: East with the Corinth isthmus cut today by its famous Canal and West with the Rion isthmus, which the Rion - Antirion bridge shall shortly replace.

The 7 year construction period comprises: a 2 year preparatory period (1998-1999) where the main works consist in completing the final design for the bridge and installing the construction site with the main task of building the dry dock, a 5 year building period (2000-2004) where the bridge is actually built

The concession company Gefyra S.A. shall operate and maintain the fixed link from its completion forecast by December 2004.

In 1995, the traffic crossing the strait, using the current ferry services, totalled an average of 7,000 vehicles per day. It is forecast that, at opening, the bridge shall attract an average of 10,000 vehicles per day. Studies show that in addition to the likely overall increase of the traffic since 1995, the opening of the bridge should generate a significant amount of local traffic.

The Concession Contract provides for maximum tolls to be levied by the Concessionaire. Below these levels, the Concessionaire is fully responsible to market its tolling policy and intends to boost local traffic demand with season and frequent user tickets.

The Operation Period shall end no later than 42 years from the Effective Date (24 December 2039). The bridge shall then be handed over to the Greek State for its own operation.