Further toll action in offing

Local officials and residents of areas north of Athens situated adjacent to the main highway to Lamia greeted the introduction of tollbooths on slip roads leading to the highway with a mixture of anger and determination to take legal action against the imposition of the new 1.85-euro charge. Nea Odos, the company responsible for managing the section of highway between Metamorphosi in northern Athens and the Maliakos Gulf in central Greece, announced at the end of last month that it would be introducing higher tolls and more tollbooths. However, the company delayed the installation of the new booths on the slip roads after a negative reaction by residents in the areas affected. The locals were upset at the charges as they use the highway to go about their daily business and claim that the side roads running parallel to the highway are poorly maintained and dangerous. One local official claimed that Nea Odos had taken advantage of the attention being paid to the change of government to set up new booths at Malakasa, Oinofyta, Thebes and Tragona, which are between 38 and 133 kilometers north of Athens. «I am very disappointed – even before the new government has begun its work, the company has exploited a vacuum to start the new tolls without improving any of our side roads,» said Malakasa community leader Constantinos Litsas. «We will not stand for this.» Litsas reacted to the news late on Monday that the new booths were opening by ripping down a sign at the one that had been set up in Malakasa. Community groups in Afidnes, north of Athens, have planned to hold a public protest on Sunday, at which they will also decide what further action to take. However, other local officials suggested that protests of this kind are a waste of time. «Forceful protests have no purpose since the contract [between the government and Nea Odos] has been approved by Parliament and is the law of the land,» said Kapandriti community president Evdoxia Giannakouli. «That is why we are going to tackle this through legal recourse.»