Traffic woes ‘need single plan’

Transport experts lashed out at the government for failing to do more to ease traffic congestion in Athens, sources said yesterday, arguing that a lack of coordination between different ministries is keeping the city’s streets clogged with cars. Sources told Kathimerini that a meeting between Transport Minister Michalis Liapis and a team of transport experts on Monday focused on how the government could get some quick results in its attempt to lower car usage in the capital. The experts criticized government officials for effectively neutralizing each other’s action plans due to poor coordination. Although the experts recognized the work done so far, the sources added, they pointed out that the Transport Ministry alone cannot solve the city’s traffic woes and called for a single metropolitan body to oversee any implementation plans. A few months after the conservative government was elected in March last year, Liapis said that the state aimed to get one in two Athenians to rely on public transportation on a daily basis by 2008 – an optimistic target given Athenians’ heavy reliance on their cars. According to data released in June, of the 6.6 million journeys that are made each day in the city by commuters, 41 percent of them are made using public transport. The government is currently examining a series of radical traffic measures that will also help bring down the city’s high pollution levels. One of the changes being examined is the banning of the inner traffic ring – which allows cars into the city center based on number plate numbers – and replacing it with a toll system similar to the congestion charge currently being used in London. Additionally, Transport Ministry officials are reassessing the hours trucks are allowed to supply shops in the center. As the city’s metro continues to expand, a car park outside the Syngrou station with 640 spaces is likely to open in the first 10 days of November and authorities hope it help draw more commuters to the metro system.