The metro of Athens as a wicked-problems mega project: conflicts and contradictions over the siting of stations



Athens metro, conflict, governance, social sustainability, mega projects, wicked problems




This paper investigates the physical planning issues related to the siting of stations on the Athens metro lines. A ‘technical’ choice has become a contentious issue that has brought the debate to a political level. Considering issues of problematic or conflictual siting that had arisen during the planning of the first phase of the metro (base project), the paper focuses on two current acute issues (of line [4]), those of the location and form of the Exarchia and Evangelismos (Rizari) metro stations. Trying to see the problems under the light of mainly eco-environmental and social sustainability in combination with certain approaches to planning, such as those that utilize the concepts of wicked planning and clumsy solutions, and the discourse on mega projects and the complexity, uncertainty, and risk inherent in them, would be particularly useful. The intertwining of these concepts leads us to understand the deeper essence of the problems. The paper argues that if and whenever a solution is attempted, this never-perfect solution logically follows that it should at least be based on extensive consultation with all stakeholders and that the course of such design events should be recorded in a way to ensure institutional memory.

Methodologically, the paper is the product of many years of research on mega projects in Greece and internationally. The research is qualitative, based on discussions and interviews with stakeholders and key figures associated with the projects, as well as on events recorded in the mainstream electronic and print media. The result of this research is derived from the intersection of the conclusions of our previous extensive research on the basic project of the metro and from the research into the current reality of the problems of the design of the new line.

One of the research's key conclusions is that there is an inherent negation in the Greek planning system to conduct substantial communication with the stakeholders if it is expected that they are going to pose ‘difficult questions’ or oppose a project. This ‘poor’ citizen participation is going along an insufficient appraisal of the projects, especially in certain aspects of their eco-environmental and social dimensions. As solutions provided are ‘over’ clumsy, this leads to a vicious cycle of problems leading (at least) to the delays of projects. 

From this research, it is highly recommended that future projects in Greece and internationally should utilise strong consultation procedures, and/or suitable forms of participatory planning or decision-making, in the frame of a new kind of participatory governance and comprehensive appraisal so that they save time and resources and be more eco environmentally and socially sustainable and useful.

Author Biography

  • Prof. Pantoleon Skayannis, POLIS University and University of Thesaly

    Architect AUTH, MA, D.Phil. Sussex, Professor Emeritus, University of Thessaly, Department of Planning and Regional Development, and professor of spatial planning and infrastructure, POLIS University, Tirana. Ex member of the Executive Committee of the Association of European Schools of Planning, Representative of the Mayor of Athens to the Executive Committee of the Organization for Planning and Environmental Protection of Athens/Attiki (2011-2014), and President of the Volos Port Authority (2018-2019).


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