Some confusion over way toll rates are to be calculated

The Attiki Odos consortium is to raise toll fees by 40 percent at the end of the year and up to 3 euros after the Olympic Games. The opening of the new sections, bringing almost the entire project to completion, will mean higher costs for the 120,000 drivers who use the highway on a daily basis. Despite criticism of even today’s access fee (1.80 euros), the consortium is to raise this to 2.50 euros by the end of the year. At least that is what the intention appears to be, and which has caused some embarrassment to the government, with some officials speaking of a «communications game.» Prime Minister Costas Simitis is to attend the September 3 opening of the Hymettus ring road, along with Environment and Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou, according to sources who also say they expect to hear the government’s views on the toll fee issue. Ministry officials meeting with the consortium to determine the fees have maintained that the «rumors are not based on fact.» They explained that with the previous toll increases, the rumors said the fee would be 2.20 euros and yet the final fee was kept to 1.80. «An attempt will be made to keep the cost as low as possible,» said officials. Attiki Odos representatives told Kathimerini that there was no plan to raise toll fees after the Hymettus section was opened, but increases would come after the Elefsina interchange was opened, although they would not be more than the 3 euros provided for in the contract before the Olympics. The ministry is trying to change the way toll fees are calculated in order to take distance into account. However, the idea of charging at exit rather than entry points is unlikely, as it would require considerable reconstruction. According to the ministry «technological solutions» are being sought to introduce graded fees according to distance, although this will not be done before 2005. Along with the toll increases, Attikes Diadromes, the firm which operates the Attiki Odos, is expected to announce discounts of up to 30 percent for regular users and holders of e-passes. «Drivers who use the Attiki Odos once a month can easily pay the toll fee,» said a consortium official, who said that a study was being made of regular customers so as to create a range of discount offers according to need.