Work on a new highway cutting through western Greece from the Rio bridge to Ioannina in Epirus will have started by next summer and is expected to take six years, the government said on Saturday. Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias, on a tour of western and northern central Greece, announced on Saturday that the successful bidder for the self-financed Ionian Highway, as the 191-kilometer road is to be called, will have been chosen by December. Under the terms of the contract, construction teams will be in position by April 2006, while the entire project should be complete by 2012. Souflias said the highway’s construction would be partly financed by toll proceeds from the stretch of the Athens-to-Thessaloniki highway between the capital and the Maliakos Gulf. Starting from Antirio, the Ionian Highway will link up at its northern end with the new Egnatia Highway – which will span northern Greece from east to west and is set for completion in 2008. Sections of the Ionian Highway will branch off to Aktio and Lefkada.