General News: 'I won't pay' movement disables public transport ticket machine

Members of the 'I won't pay' movement struck in several places throughout Athens on Sunday, disabling machines used to stamp tickets in buses, trolley buses and stations throughout the metro, electric railway and tram systems.

Several ticket machines were damaged after members of the grassroots movement visited the majority of stations and poured glue into the slots so that tickets could not longer be inserted. In some cases they succeeded in removing the entire ticket machine and getting away before they could be stopped by the private security guards at the stations.

The management of public transport companies estimates that the damage is extremely extensive, since apart from the cost of replacing and repairing the machines they are also losing revenue because commuters are unable to stamp their tickets, which can then be reused.

The same movement took similar action at toll posts on highways, raising the bars so that cars could pass freely.

Members of the movement were strongly criticised by Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Dimitris Reppas in an interview with the Sunday Kathimerini newspaper, who stressed that Greece would not acquire a "lawless identity" and again referred to those refusing to pay as "freeloaders".

"The reactions of those losing privileges confirm the depth of the changes we are making and presage the degree of their effectiveness," he stressed, saying the ministry was asking the citizens to act according to rules in a framework that contained both rights and obligations.

Concerning public transport strikes, Reppas said these would be an 'interval' and repeated his reluctance to resort to a civil conscription to force drivers back to work.

In the ticket system on Greek public transport, tickets are bought in advance and are inserted into a ticket machine when passengers enter the means of public transport they intend to use. The machine stamps a date and time on the ticket, thus making them valid for travel for a period of 1.5 hours.

'I won't pay' movement raises the bar throughout Greece

Members of the 'I won't pay, I won't pay' movement travelled to toll posts throughout Greece on Sunday, raising the bars and allowing drivers free passage without paying road tolls. From Manari to the Isthmus, in Attica and the north, they protested in this way against what they said were unfair and exploitative agreements that gave contractors a free rein.

Sunday's action, which started at around noon and peaked at 3:00 p.m., was decided in January during a meeting of the nationwide coordinating action committees against hikes in road tolls and the companies failure to build alternative access roads for local communities.

The aim of the organisers was to open all toll posts throughout the country, while in many areas they arranged rallies and transported people to the locations involved by bus.

Speaking for the organising committee in the Oropos area, which blockaded the Afidnes toll post, Stratis Loupatatzis told the ANA-MPA that members of the movement were not fighting for lower road tolls but better contracts.

"What we are seeking is the abolition of all the contracts that have been signed and follow a logic of pre-payment. We pay taxes on fuel and road taxes so that roads can be built. We will not pre-pay road tolls as well," he stressed.

Loupatatzis pointed out that Oropos-area residents were currently having to shell out roughly 1,500-1,700 euro a year to get around their own neighbourhood.

He also dismissed the legal action against members of the movement, saying that this was an attempt to frighten people into backing down.

"We are waiting for group summons and we are ready to go to court because we have also filed complaints against the companies at the Council of State, asking for the concession contracts to be cancelled," he said.

According to the "Citizens of West Athens" movement member Dimitrios Davos, meanwhile, the contracts signed were illegal and abusive.

"It simply isn't possible to have to pay for something that hasn't been built yet," he stressed, while noting that the company that collected the road tolls on the Attica highway had contributed a very small percentage to the cost of construction and was set to make massive profits through the constant increases in tolls.

"It's not so much an 'I won't pay, I won't pay' movement. It's more a 'I'm not getting paid, I can't pay' movement," he added.

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