Traffic taking a toll on villagers

There were more protests by residents living close to the Athens-Lamia national road yesterday but this time not due to the introduction of new toll booths or higher charges but because the increased cost of traveling on the highway is leading to more drivers using side roads that pass through their communities. Residents of towns and villages north of Athens have blocked the national road repeatedly since last October when, during its final days in power, the New Democracy government approved toll hikes and the construction of new toll stations. Nea Odos, the company responsible for managing the section of highway between Metamorphosi in northern Athens and the Maliakos Gulf in central Greece, unveiled plans at the time to set up new stations at Malakasa, Oinofyta, Thebes and Tragana, which are between 38 and 130 kilometers north of Athens. Yesterday, residents from Tragana some 130 kilometers north of the capital, closed one of the highway’s side roads to protest the high number of cars now passing through their village to avoid paying more tolls. «Anyone wanting to avoid the Tragana toll station joins the side road at Skala, near Atalanti, and then rejoins the highway at the Malesina junction,» said Argyris Alexiou, who heads the residents’ association. «As a result, there is significantly more traffic in our village, which has only 1,200 inhabitants, and trucks are passing right in front of our nursery school. In addition, the extra traffic is destroying a road that was already in a poor state anyway.» Meanwhile further north, residents of Leptokaria in southern Pieria also protested yesterday. They briefly closed the national road because of their objection to the reopening of the local toll station. «Our aim is to force the indefinite closure of the toll station,» said Panagiotis Angelidis, who is heading the residents’ campaign. «It is not acceptable, when the Tempe section of the highway is closed [due to a rockfall], for them to reopen the tolls. They are killing off southern Pieria.»

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