Protesters set fire to toll booth north of Athens after hike in charges

A group of 500 anti-government demonstrators has set fire to a toll booth on a motorway north of Athens to protest a near-tripling of prices, Greek police said.

The announcement last week of the toll hike from 55 cents, rising to 1.45 euros tapped into general rage by Greek motorists who complain that they are paying a high price for roads that are not always properly maintained.

Austerity measures hitting Greek citizens are also fuelling the indignation. The demonstrators in Malakasa on Sunday blocked the motorway, set fire to tyres and chanted slogans against the government. They dispersed hours later.

But Transport Minister Mihalis Chrysochoidis said Friday the toll increases were part of the contract signed with the motorway operators in 2007.

"Whoever obstructs passage through the tolls is acting to the detriment of the Greek people,» he said.

He said however that everyday commuters using the tollway at the centre of the protest would pay the previous lower fare.

According to a document Chrysochoidis presented to Parliament, Greece has raised 1.3 billion euros in toll revenue since 2008. He said average tolls were among the lowest in Europe.