NEWS

Tempe operation being stepped up

Dozens of police officers, 20 snowplows, 10 crane trucks, six fire engines and six rescue teams have been placed on duty on the diversions around the Vale of Tempe where a rockfall last week killed an engineer and forced the closure of a section of the Athens-Thessaloniki highway for at least a month. Two diversions have been set up for cars and another two for trucks and buses to ensure better road safety. Cars are being directed onto country roads that wind their way through the mountains, while larger vehicles have to go the longer way around to gain access to the Egnatia Highway. «We prefer to use these routes because this way we avoid larger vehicles moving along the two diversions being used by cars, which helps to reduce the chances of accidents,» said the chief of Thessaly police, Giorgos Kamarinopoulos. The diversions range between 23 and 53 kilometers in length and add an extra 45 minutes to an hour to journeys but at this stage the authorities’ main concern is that the weather not get colder and they can avoid having to deal with snowfall. There is also concern about the state of country roads in the area of Elassona, through which the bulk of vehicles will pass. «If trucks pass over the old bridges in the area, it is most likely that they will collapse,» said the mayor of Petra in Pieria, Thomas Papadimitriou. Meanwhile, the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) is adding extra wagons to its trains to meet the demand for seats from people who want to avoid travel between Athens and Thessaloniki by car. However, commuters are having problems buying tickets, as OSE’s telephone booking system has not been working since last month, when the state organization’s contract with the private firm that operated the lines was not renewed.