As of March 2004, all taxi owners operating in Greece’s largest cities will be obliged to replace their vehicles every eight years and install air conditioning, according to a new draft bill presented by the government yesterday. Taxi drivers responded by calling a 24-hour strike for Monday. Transport Minister Christos Verelis, who met Prime Minister Costas Simitis to brief him on the new taxi bill as well as on plans to create more Athens bus lanes and upgrade the urban electric railway service, told journalists that taxi owners would also be encouraged to form companies or cooperatives. The minimum requirement would be the participation of 100 cars, for Athens, Piraeus and Thessaloniki. «We have well-grounded hopes that the functioning of taxis will improve over the next two years,» Verelis said, adding that by obliging taxi owners to renew their vehicles, he hoped that some 30 percent of Greece’s entire fleet will «soon» consist of new cars. The new measures will come into effect in March 2004, five months before Athens is due to host the Summer Olympics.