NEWS

In Brief

FASTER RAIL ROUTES

Trip from Athens to Peloponnese to take nearly half the time The railway trip between Athens and the Peloponnesian towns of Tripolis and Kalamata will be much quicker after the refurbishment of 179 kilometers (111 miles) of railway, the Hellenic Railway Organization (OSE) said yesterday. Completion of the works will cut the Athens-Tripolis and Athens-Kalamata journeys to two hours and 20 minutes and four hours respectively (compared to three hours and 30 minutes and five hours and 35 minutes), according to OSE which did not give a completion date for the project. A budget of 40.5 million euros has been set aside for new rails, railroad ties and new platforms along the route. CLOPHEN PROBE Prosecutor to assess claims that ministry deaths were linked to gas An Athens prosecutor yesterday ordered a preliminary investigation into claims by Finance Ministry staff that the proven existence of high levels of the toxic gas clophen in an electricity substation in the ministry’s basement off central Syntagma Square is linked to employees’ cancer deaths. The probe is to determine the precise health risks posed by clophen (a type of polychlorinated biphenyl, or PCB, used in transformers) and whether any other public service offices contain the same clophen-run transformers as those that are to be removed from the Finance Ministry’s premises by next month. MUSEUM STRIKE Travel agents urge state action As protesting museum guards gear up for the second of two 24-hour strikes this Sunday, the Hellenic Association of Travel and Tourist Agents (HATTA) yesterday complained about the negative impact of such action on the tourism industry. HATTA appealed to the Economy Ministry to raise the salaries of guards at museums and archaeological sites. Middle East The Foreign Ministry, representing Greece in its European Union presidency, yesterday hailed a summit between US President George W. Bush and the prime ministers of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Ariel Sharon and Mahmud Abbas, in Aqaba on Wednesday but called on both sides to make «hard but necessary compromises» in implementing a «road map» for peace. The EU deems the summit «an important step that creates a real prospect for peace after a long and dramatic period of futile conflict and bloodshed,» the ministry said. Forged euros A 33-year-old man faces a prosecutor on forgery charges today after police in Patras confiscated a total of 3,800 euros in counterfeit notes from his home in Zarouchleika, near the Peloponnesian city. Panayiotis Alexopoulos had been distributing the forged currency to businesses in Patras, police said yesterday. Deadly mobile The mobile phone a 17-year-old shepherd from Metsovo used during a storm on the plateau of Politses attracted the lightning bolt that killed the youth, the Athens News Agency said yesterday. Constantinos Sioutas had gone to check on his sheep before getting caught in the storm, the ANA said. On Tuesday evening, another farmer – 61-year-old Athanassios Kourelas – died after being struck by a bolt of lightning during a storm in his village of Kallirahi in Grevena, Macedonia. Overworked Unionists of the Greek police yesterday blocked the entrance to the force’s Piraeus headquarters, demanding that the government should recruit more staff so they can stop working excessively long hours. Protesters discussed the violation of their official work hours with Piraeus’s chief of police. Voula buses Commuters based in the coastal suburb of Voula may have to start finding other ways of traveling to the site of the old airport at Hellenikon to catch buses into Athens and Piraeus if the terminuses of the A1, E1, A2 and E2 bus routes are changed, as bus drivers demanded yesterday. Drivers complain that ongoing roadworks in Voula are forcing them to let off passengers at unsafe spots on busy coastal Poseidonos Avenue.