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Traffic prompts toll thoughts March 19, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Transport Air Sea Land.
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A metro and Kifissia-Piraeus electric railway strike yesterday added between 200,000 and 300,000 cars to Athens’s streets as Transport Minister Costis Hatzidakis suggested that the government is considering introducing congestion charging in the city center.

Almost 3 million passenger journeys are made on the public transport network in Athens each day but 4.5 million trips are carried out by car. This number shot up yesterday as thousands of Athenians had little choice but to use their cars, since a sizable chunk of the public transport system was out of operation. With up to 300,000 more cars on the road, traffic in the city center, on main arteries in and outside Athens and side streets normally used as short cuts was particularly heavy.

“It makes you realize how important public transport is, especially the trains and tram, for the smooth functioning of the city, even though the proportion of journeys made via these modes remains low,” Yiannis Handanos, the head of the Greek Institute of Transport Engineers, said.

The government has flirted with the idea of introducing a toll system in central Athens, similar to the congestion charging schemes applied in other European cities such as London, Stockholm, Berlin and Cologne, to curb traffic on a regular basis, not just when there are public transport strikes.

Hatzidakis said yesterday that he could not rule out such a system being introduced. “The Transport Ministry… wrote to the European Commission yesterday with regard to this particular matter, saying that it could not be ruled out as a thought,” said the Minister. “Before we reach that point, though, we will have to do our research. We will certainly have to strengthen and modernize the fleet of trains.”

Hatzidakis said that transport engineers argue that a city such as Athens should have some 150 train and metro stations. Athens currently has 58 and the Minister said congestion charging could not be introduced before this figure increases.

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