Bid specifications for the section of the Athens-Thessaloniki highway between Raches (on the Maliakos Gulf) to Kleidi (after the Vale of Tempe) were presented this week. According to Souflias, the project will be assigned by autumn of 2005 and take about 4.5 years to complete, paving the way for a series of roadworks co-funded by the contractor, who will exploit the project for some years. The minister described an integrated web of highways that will transform the country at a total cost of about 8 billion euros. According to the Public Works Ministry, tenders will be called by 2006, with work to be completed gradually between 2010 and 2012. Aside from the Raches-Kleidi section that will include a tunnel diversion at Tempe, Souflias also presented the schedule for the other four highways, also to be completed within the next decade. – Corinth-Patras-Pirgos, budgeted at 2.2 billion euros: The ministry believes the contractor will be announced by spring of 2006. Some doubts have been expressed about the decision to re-route the highway away from the coast instead of adapting the current route, which will raise the cost and take more time. According to the ministry leadership, the bid specifications will be presented to interested consortiums within the first half of 2005. – The completion of the Ionia Highway, linking Antirio with the Panayia intersection near Metsovo, in Epirus, will be budgeted at 1.5 billion euros. Construction has been halted due to funding problems; the remaining work is to be contracted out. According to Souflias, the contractor could be chosen before that for the Corinth-Patras highway (within 2006). – The E65 highway in Central Greece, linking Lamia with Trikala and Kalambaka, and eventually joining the Egnatia Highway, also at the Panayia intersection, is of interest to the minister, who hails from this region. With a preliminary budget of 1.5 billion euros, the project is expected to be assigned after the summer of 2006. Concerns have been expressed in some quarters over Souflias’s reference to the link with the Egnatia Highway, which is thought to be of limited commercial interest to contractors. – The budget for the Corinth-Tripolis-Kalamata highway, finally, is 700 million euros and the contractor is expected to be assigned in early 2006. Toll fees expected to rise on all roads Speaking in Veria after the opening of the new stretch of the Egnatia Highway earlier this week, Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias virtually announced imminent increases in toll fees on all national highways. Claiming that highway toll fees in Greece are just one-third of the European average (0.016 euros per kilometer in Greece, compared to the EU average of 0.040 euros), Souflias hastened to reassure the public that the fees in Greece would not be raised to levels in the rest of Europe. The increases were indirectly attributed to the need to find resources to build the rest of the Egnatia Highway, given the cuts to the Public Investment Program that call for new «co-funding» arrangements, for example, for the remaining sectors. As for the new highways (Maliakos-Kleidi, Ionia Highway, Central Greece, Corinth-Patras and Tripolis-Kalamata), Souflias said the contract terms would clearly require the contractors – and subsequent administrators – to link toll fees to the distance in kilometers covered, something that could not be done on the Attiki Odos.