Road rage over new tollbooths

A local official in one of the areas north of Athens affected by a change in the way that drivers who use a section of the national road are charged yesterday threatened to go to any lengths necessary to stop the company managing the highway from installing any new toll stations. Nea Odos, responsible for the section of highway from Metamorphosi in northern Athens to the Maliakos Gulf in central Greece, said on Monday that a series of new tollbooths would open the next day and that drivers will be charged 0.037 euros per kilometer to use the road. Tolls were due to open at Kapandriti, Malakasa, Oinofyta, Thebes and Tragana but the company did not make all of them operational yesterday, apparently fearing a backlash from residents of Athens’s northern outskirts who shun poorly maintained local roads to use a relatively short section of the Athens-Lamia highway to go about their daily business. Nea Odos also temporarily shelved its plan to charge drivers 1.85 euros at the Afidnes tollbooth and asked them to pay 1.40 euros instead. However, these gestures did little to mollify locals. «We do not accept having to pay tolls to go home or to work,» Constantinos Litsas, the community leader in Malakasa, north of Athens, told Kathimerini. «Our local tax office, for instance, is in Aghios Stefanos. Does this mean we will have to pay to go there? «Our only alternative is a terrible side road that is dangerous and badly maintained. We are determined that a tollbooth will not open in Malakasa and we will do anything necessary to ensure this does not happen.» Both New Democracy and PASOK approved in 2007 a law that awarded the toll concession on a 175-kilometer stretch of the Athens-Lamia highway to Nea Odos for 32 years so that it can raise the money to build the Ionia Odos, or Ionian Highway, from Antirio to Ioannina. The agreement allows Nea Odos to place tolls on all the entry roads to the Athens-Lamia highway, even those in Athens. The government intervened this week to stop the construction of toll posts on the capital’s northern outskirts at Varibombi and Aghios Stefanos.