Greek Olympics gets Swiss rail cars: visitors to the 2004 Olympics in Greece this August will probably ride through Athens in new Swiss-made light-rail cars. Swiss News reports on this timely delivery.

AuteurShepard, Lyn

The Roman poet Virgil's epic masterpiece 'The Aeneid' tells us of a great exploit of military stealth: the Greek conquest of Troy, staged by Athenian soldiers hiding in the belly of a huge wooden horse.

Now the Swiss--in a show of modern peacetime engineering--are supplying a twist to the saga. It's a whole herd of "iron horses" built by the Swiss to serve Athens and its 2004 Olympic games visitors on the Peloponnesus peninsula. Its delivery deadline: July 1--hardly a month before the games begin.

Curiously the all-Swiss consortium's delivery of some 29 light-rail vehicles (LRVs) occurs due to a Greek partner's shortcomings--a lapse retailing Euripedes' harsh advice: "Put not thy faith in any Greek."

According to Virgil--as well as his Greek counterpart Homer--the Trojans in 1250 BC unwittingly wheeled the horse within their gates, thinking a retreating enemy had left it behind as a useless souvenir of a failed 10-year siege. But the concealed soldiers slipped out by night, opened Troy's gates to the Athenians, and helped sack and burn the mighty fortress.

This led Virgil to write the damning line that translates "I fear the Greeks even when bearing gifts" or its shortened version "Beware Greeks bearing gifts."

Worse: No Gifts At All

The Trojan wars are all ancient history to the three-firm Swiss team now finishing and shipping its LRV order to Athens. But the prime contractor, Stadler Bussnang AG in Canton Thurgau, still smarts from a no-show performance by its original Greek partner, Hellenic Shipyards (HSY). HSY offered no gifts at all.

As Stadler spokeswoman Silvia Baer recalls, her firm entered into its original contract with the Greek State Railways (OSE) by agreeing that 20 per cent of the work would go to HSY.

"That was the rival reassembly part. It was to create local jobs. It's often that way," Baer tells Swiss News in a phone interview. "So we provided the prototype chassis to HSY as agreed, but it merely stood there two years in Greece without them doing anything else."

After long discussions, Baer says, Stadler managed to reclaim the casing and reorganise the contract--this time as an all-Swiss job. The "last minute" rescue partners: the Swiss subsidiary of Canada-based Bombardier (responsible for electrical and electronic work) and the Chur-based Rhaetian Railways (RhB). The RhB--operator of Canton Grisons' semi-private Alpine railway network--tackled the crucial mid-project tasks at its yard shop in Landquart.

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