Police brace for holiday traffic

As thousands of city dwellers are due to start setting off for holiday destinations in the countryside, the government yesterday announced an increased police presence along national highways in a bid to boost road safety over the festive period. Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis said there will be 24-hour policing of the national roads linking Athens with Patras and Thessaloniki, as well as the highway from Thessaloniki to the Turkish border. Some 19 traffic police departments will be involved in the operation, which will be mainly focused on accident black spots such as the Maliakos Gulf stretch of the Athens-Thessaloniki highway, where seven teenage students were killed in a school bus crash on September 27. The traffic police will provide 126 squad cars and 33 motorbikes, and helicopters will also be used. The scheme comes into effect today and will be in place until January 9. Meanwhile, trucks are to be banned from national highways on Fridays, Sundays and public holidays according to measures announced by Transport Minister Michalis Liapis yesterday. During the winter, vehicles weighing above 1.5 tons will not be allowed onto highways from 4 p.m. until 9 p.m on Fridays and from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays. The scheme will be extended by one hour on each day during the summer and will be applied on the eve of public holidays as well.