NEWS

Motorway projects looking at dead end

The future of Greece?s five biggest highway projects is at stake because of funding shortfalls, reports warned Wednesday, adding that most of them are already two years behind schedule.

Works have stopped at several construction sites on the E65 road, which is designed to connect the Athens-Thessaloniki national road to the Egnatia Highway in northern Greece. Construction of the Ionian Highway, from Antirio to Ioannina in western Greece, is dogged by similar problems, reports said.

The 44 banks backing the motorway projects have turned off the funding tap in recent months in protest at allegedly low interest rates. Meanwhile, the consortiums involved in the projects are accusing the state of failing to pay some 25 million euros in VAT returns.

Officials representing the consortiums in question have warned that unless a solution is reached by Easter, construction work on most sites will come to a halt.

Work is expected to continue on the Corinth-Tripoli-Kalamata motorway, also known as the Moreas Motorway A7, connecting the main cities in the Peloponnese, as well as the Lefkro-Sparta branch, where construction is at an advanced stage.

Officials place hope in the renegotiation of concession agreements between the government and banks, which is expected to be completed later this month. The Economy Ministry has asked the European Investment Bank to provide funding for the next six months, until the new deals have been signed.

?The projects won?t come to a halt; there may be delays, but the cost of this will not be passed on to Greek taxpayers,? Deputy Transport Minister Yiannis Magriotis told Skai TV on Wednesday. He rehashed previous pledges that toll charges across the country?s highway network will be reduced.