Traffic camera film costs city dear

Athens motorists can violate the congested city’s designated bus lanes with relative impunity since, among other reasons revealed by Kathimerini reporters, officials are unwilling to keep the capital’s traffic camera network stocked with film. Within three weeks after the first two of a planned army of electronic eyes were installed in January 2002, traffic police had registered around 1,000 violations and 78-euro fines were soon winging their way through the post to offenders. As a result, violations fell by some 60 percent. From then on, it was downhill all the way. Out of the 10 cameras now installed on Athens bus lanes, only two are digital. The rest have to be regularly restocked with film; one film can take 800 shots and lasts, on average, for three days. However, traffic police and public transport officials are at odds over who should pay for the film, as well as for development materials and photography paper. This results in the cameras being either left unstocked, or being refilled after long periods of inactivity. The digital cameras can hold up to 5,000 shots and are easily and cheaply restocked. Meanwhile, the red tape involved in sending out the fines means that traffic police face a permanent backlog of violations, which can take several days to process. Maintenance of the system – which includes an array of some 50 scarecrow cameras on posts that flash at offenders without actually taking pictures – is at best erratic. In the massive public works upheaval ahead of the August 13-29 Olympics, some of the sensors used by the cameras to record bus-lane violations were destroyed and have not been replaced. Even the dummy cameras do not all work, as some have yet to be connected to the electricity network.