The last major section of highway linking eastern and western Attica was opened to the public yesterday, allowing drivers to travel in just 35 minutes the 61 kilometers (38 miles) from Athens’s airport in the east to the industrial port of Elefsina in the west on the highway to Corinth. The new section of the Attiki Odos is 23 kilometers (14 miles) long and links Elefsina with the Athens-Thessaloniki highway. The last bit, due in the spring, is the Doukissis Plakentias interchange, to join the Hymettus ring road with Attiki Odos, which is now expected to save 270,000 hours in driving time and 2 million liters of fuel daily while reducing Attica’s traffic by 8-10 percent. The opening of the new section prompted a rise in tolls from midnight. Regardless of the distance traveled, cars will now pay 2 euros (from 1.80), motorcycles 1 euro (from 0.90), buses and two- or three-axled trucks 5 euros (from 4.50) and bigger trucks, 8 euros (from 7.20). «The Attiki Odos is the first self-financed highway in Greece and this is an achievement, as we showed that we can overcome the tradition that existed,» PM Costas Simitis said, inaugurating the new section. «With the projects being constructed, the tram, the interchanges, the metro, the new Olympic infrastructure and especially with the Attiki Odos, the quality of life in Athens is improving decisively,» he said. «The Attiki Odos constitutes the internal, regional ring road of the capital’s greater metropolitan area. It offers a way out for the city’s traffic problem; it is a lever for development and contributes to the integrated urban planning of Attica,» Simitis said. He pointed out an added advantage of the large number of major construction projects in Greece. «There is a great improvement in quality… because we have gained in know-how; we have gained in experience; we have changed the procedures,» he said. «That is why we have improvement in quality, in schedules, in cost controls.» Though Simitis took the rare step of praising a New Democracy government’s minister, Stephanos Manos, for his contribution, ND focused criticism on the issues he mentioned. «It is typical that this most important project… was completed without an institutional framework to protect public interest. It is being given to the public with a two-year delay, high tolls and is not part of any overall transport plan for the capital,» said ND’s public works spokesman, Savvas Tsitourides.