Consortiums considering limited reduction in road tolls

Representatives of the consortiums constructing five major roads in exchange for the right to charge tolls on Tuesday said they were willing to consider lowering tolls on sections of the roads that were still under construction. They were not willing to commit, however, to the 50 percent reduction announced earlier by Deputy Infrastructure Minister Yiannis Magriotis.

"It is a matter of the overall negotiation," they said during a press conference on Tuesday, while strongly attacking the increasing number of people currently refusing to pay road tolls at all. They revealed that they have asked the ministry to make refusal to pay tolls a traffic violation, as well as a misdemeanour offence.

They pointed out that one in 10 private cars and up to 30 percent of trucks are currently refusing to pay the tolls at the Afidnes toll post, in particular.

According to consortiums, one of their demands in exchange for lowering tolls is an extension of the period of the concession.

The five companies also stressed that they have no profits as yet from the projects they have carried out, while the money being earned from tolls is very small relative to the sums invested. They also noted that banks have 'frozen' the funding for certain consortiums and that the flow of cars is much lower due to the economic crisis.

All five of the roads under construction are currently behind schedule, by an estimated two years for the Corinth-Pyrgos-Tsakona road and similar periods of time for the Antirrio-Ioannina and Lamia-Egnatia roads. A delay of approximately one year is expected at the Maliakos-Kleidi section of the national highway, while the Corinth-Kalamata road in the Peloponnese will be delivered on time and the road to Sparti will delay by roughly a year.

All the consortiums attributed the delays to snags in the necessary land expropriations but stressed that they would not pull out but stay and complete the projects. They underlined, however, that the tolls were the "oxygen" for completing the roads.

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