Congestion charge sets dilemma

Greece’s leading transport experts are divided over whether politicians should risk unpopularity and introduce congestion charges in cities that suffer traffic problems. Evangelos Matsoukas of Patras University told Kathimerini that any «political cost» for introducing the system, which involves charging drivers entering city centers with their vehicles, would turn into a «political dividend» in the future. «It is an unpopular move and will be a very difficult political decision,» said Matsoukas. However, Yiannis Frantzeskakis of the National Technical University of Athens, believes that other, more basic, measures should be introduced. «We should try to avoid spending the precious time of transport engineers on analyses and decisions for the future that are of no use for the time being when there are actions yet to be taken that could have a tangible impact,» he said. A number of cities in Europe, such as London, Stockholm, Berlin and Cologne have already implemented congestion charging schemes. Frantzeskakis identified a clampdown on parking as one way of reducing the number of cars that enter city centers. He said some 30,000 cars park for free in the center of Athens each day, thereby encouraging drivers to use their vehicles. It was revealed this week that the City of Athens plans to extend its pay-and-display scheme by spring. The head of the Greek Institute of Transport Engineers, Yiannis Handanos, said that any government which decides to introduce congestion charging will have to first educate the public and adopt «a consistent transport policy.»