Athens transport plan unveiled

After weeks of meetings to discuss the future of transport in post-Olympic Athens, the government yesterday announced a 12-point plan to keep the capital moving, although final measures will be presented in about three weeks. Following a two-hour meeting, Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias, Transport Minister Michalis Liapis and Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis unveiled proposals designed to improve the city’s transport system and decongest roads. «The four-year plan for the Transport Ministry is for one in two Athenians to use public transport, instead of one in three, as it stands today,» Liapis said. «We do not want Athenians to be tempted to use their cars, because then [public transport has] lost them.» The ministers announced that the zone allowing only cars with license plates ending in odd numbers into central Athens on odd dates, and those ending in even numbers on even dates, would remain in place, rejected the idea of introducing a London-style congestion charge and said the restrictive ring would not be expanded. Sources say, however, the government is considering banning SUVs with large engine capacities from entering central Athens. The ministers confirmed plans to introduce more bus lanes and buses specifically for transporting people to metro stations from surrounding areas. They also said they will consider expanding nighttime public transport schedules. Regulation of parking was also identified as a key issue. Talks will be held with local authorities to help devise a system to bring in parking meters and end unruly parking. The ministers also said it was crucial to create spaces for motorbikes and proposed the construction of car parks in suburban transport hubs – Hellenikon, Galatsi, Faliron and the Olympic Stadium – considered strategically important to the new transport plan. Voulgarakis said it was vital to put some 340 roadside CCTV cameras, used during the Olympics, back into operation. Their use is currently banned after a decision by the Authority for the Protection of Personal Data (APPD). The public order minister said he has written to the APPD, asking for the cameras to be turned back on and promising that the software controlling them would be prevented from collecting personal data on citizens. Voulgarakis added that some 1,000 security cameras, which will be removed from Olympic sites, would be placed along national roads for use by traffic police. He said that speed cameras would also be placed at accident black spots around the country in order to catch speeding motorists. Liapis said restrictions on truck deliveries, put in place during the August Games, need to be reintroduced. Furthermore, it was announced that 43 out of the 49 left turns from main roads, banned during the Olympics, will stay banned. The six turns that will be allowed are from Kifissias Avenue onto Karela and Aghias Filotheis, from Vassilissis Sofias onto Bensi, from Vassileos Constantinou onto Rizari and Mimnermou, and from Kimis Avenue onto Kastamonis. Lastly, the ministers agreed something needed to be done about some 40,000 abandoned vehicles estimated to be scattered around the capital. They added that more details on all the measures proposed yesterday would be given in three weeks. Meanwhile, Athens Municipality has sent out some 140,000 demands for payment of parking tickets, whose value is estimated at 7 million euros. Authorities are also considering a controlled parking scheme in central Athens.