NEWS

Tempe road reopens, at a price

Five months after a deadly rockfall closed the stretch of the Athens-Thessaloniki national road that passes through the Vale of Tempe in central Greece, the section of the highway is set to reopen tomorrow but motorists will have to pay 30 percent more in tolls than they did last year. The company responsible for managing this section of the road, Aegean Motorways, said yesterday that all the necessary repairs have been carried out to the asphalt and that safety nets have been put in place to ensure that rocks do not fall onto the highway again. The repair and safety work, which included the removal of tons of rocks and the installation of 5,000 square meters of metal netting, cost a reported 5 million euros to carry out. Sources said yesterday that Aegean Motorways will seek to have at least part of the cost refunded by the government. The company argues that the rockfall, which led to one of its engineers, an Italian man, being killed last December, was a natural disaster caused by heavy rainfall. The Infrastructure and Transport Ministry, however, argues that Aegean Motorways had taken on the task of carrying out safety work as part of the contract that it signed when it assumed management of this section of the road. The company, meanwhile, argues that it did not carry out the work because the Environment Ministry had asked it to wait for the results of an environmental impact study. It will not be just the government facing a big bill, it emerged yesterday, as the reopening of the Tempe section will also lead to the inauguration of two new toll stations. One will be located at Gyrtoni, the other at Makrihori. As a result, it will cost motorists 11.10 euros in toll charges to drive from the Maliakos Gulf to the Kleidi junction, where the national road meets the Egnatia Highway. The same journey cost 7.10 euros at this time last year.