Brussels clears Peloponnese highway project

The European Commission on Wednesday approved the release of more than 250 million euros in structural funds for the completion of the Corinth-Kalamata-Sparta highway but the positive development for motorists was tempered by the news that toll charges on the Egnatia Odos could rise later this year.

In a statement, the European Commission?s office in Athens said that 252 million euros of structural funds would be awarded for the project with the aim of the road being completed by the end of next year. The construction of the highway is a public-private partnership that began in 2008 and was financed by funds from the 3rd Community Support Framework.

?The construction of this highway in Greece represents an example of how structural funds can successfully promote public-private partnerships,? said Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn. ?It seems that the priority projects are progressing at a satisfactory rate.?

This is the second highway project in Greece that has received approval for major funding from Brussels, which must give a separate OK for any schemes that receive more than 50 million euros of EU money. Earlier this month, the Commission approved 180.9 million euros for the construction of a major trunk road to connect Aktio with Amvrakias. The two highway schemes are part of 181 priority projects presented by the Commission in November 2011 with the aim of speeding up the Greek economy?s return to growth.

Meanwhile, a joint decision by the Transport and Finance ministries allows a 20 percent rise in tolls on the Egnatia Highway in northern Greece later this year. The ministries also approved the construction of a sixth tollbooth on the road, between Strymona and Chrysoupoli.

The decision allows the next transport minister to raise toll charges from July 17. In 2011, 15.9 million euros was raised from the tolls motorists were charged to use the Egnatia Odos. This money went directly to the banks as the construction company had mortgaged future revenues from the highway.

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