Tougher measures for toll, transport protestors unveiled

People who refuse to pay for public transport tickets or road tolls will face stiffer punishment, according to a bill submitted to Parliament on Thursday.

The government?s draft law proposes that refusing to pay tolls should become a traffic offense, which means offenders can be fined up to 200 euros and have their license plates removed for up to 20 days. Not stamping a ticket on the public transport system should become a misdemeanor, the bill recommends. Currently, anyone caught with an invalid ticket only faces an on-the-spot fine.

The government has been forced into action by a growing protest movement against price hikes, which has led to thousands of people refusing to pay.

The movement against hikes in the cost of public transport tickets found an unlikely ally on Thursday when transport workers backed the protest and accused the government of not showing any interest in combating fare dodgers until now.

PASOK has said it will be tougher on commuters who do not pay their fare after the ?I won?t pay? movement encouraged people not to stamp their tickets. But public transport employees yesterday accused the government of confusing two different issues. ?As far as we are aware, the movement is not made up of freeloaders but of citizens that want to keep the cost of tickets down,? said Giorgos Gavrilis, a member of the electric railway workers? union. He added that the employees were opposed to the vandalism of ticket machines by protestors.

However, he said that the government had allowed fare dodging to grow in recent years. According to the unionists? figures, the transport companies failed to collect almost 58 million euros in fares in 2009 and that more than 5 million forged tickets were in circulation.

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