It may have seemed like an unusual scene from one of the TV series that he has starred in, but there was nothing make-believe about the decision of actor-turned-mayor Apostolos Gletsos to take command of a municipal bulldozer in central Greece on Monday and knock down the barriers at the side of the national road to allow residents to bypass a toll station.
Gletsos?s buccaneering was the latest move in an ongoing argument between residents of several villages and towns in central Greece and the Peloponnese who are opposed the growing number of tolls and the increasing charges that drivers have to pay to use the Athens-Thessaloniki highway.
Gletsos, famed for top roles in Greek soap operas, drove the bulldozer through the crash barriers on either side of the Pelasgia toll station, near the town of Stylida, where he was elected mayor in last November?s local elections. The budding politician said the action was designed to allow drivers to steer their way around the booth without paying the toll charges, which are set to rise to 2.60 euros from today.
Locals have complained to Aegean Motorway, the company managing this section of the road, and to the government that they are totally reliant on the highway because there are no country roads they can use to get to other towns or villages. The government had supplied some 1,000 Stylida residents with a discount card that allowed them to pass through the tolls for only 0.50 euros but this offer ended at the beginning of the year. Charges are due to increase today at another three toll stations apart from Pelasgia.
Gletsos said that he would not abandon direct action until residents of his municipalities are provided with ?free and unfettered? access. A local prosecutor launched action against the mayor for his decision to knock down the highway barriers.
In the Peloponnese, a local organization formed to protest toll charges hailed as a success a campaign on Sunday, when members forced some tollbooths to allow cars to pass for free.