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Greek drivers refuse to pay toll fees, companies concessionaires are looking for a way to collect the lost revenues

08 January 2011 / 11:01:00  GRReporter
7493 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

 

 

More and more Greeks refuse to pay tolls when traveling on the highways in the country. According to some estimates 60% of the drivers when they arrive at the situated on the road cash desks they get down from their cars, raise the barriers themselves and continue their journey without paying.

Traveling on motorways in Greece is paid and the fees are collected by companies concessionaires. The refusal of thousands of citizens to pay these amounts caused serious headaches for the companies which see their finances decrease. In recent days, publications in many newspapers appeared, which mention that "according to the expertise of the Commission for the Protection of personal data companies that manage the five major road axes in the country will be able to use the photos of the drivers who refused to pay and cause the issuance of orders for payment. In today's edition of Eleftherotypia, however, was posted the text sent by the Commission to the competent department. It gives the Ministry of Infrastructure the right to provide data of the drivers who have refused to pay to the companies concessionaires, but it does not include the use of photographs, which are necessary to prove illegality and the imposition of a fine.

The continuously growing movement whose motto is "We do not pay toll - free roads for all" is already organized in local committees "for residents, workers and citizens to fight against tolls". For them, as well as for the forthcoming "raise" of all road barriers in the coming Sunday we spoke with Joseph Papadopoulos, member of the coordinating committee of the movement.

How and when was your movement initiated?

The movement has existed for more than a year now. Many of our fellow citizens had stopped paying tolls each one separately. The initiative for the creation of a movement came from the Committee of Afidnes (a village about 20 km away from Athens – author’s note). These people live in and around Afidnes and work in Athens. On a daily bases they pay in both directions around 4 euros. Ie they paid 100 per month and 1200 per year just to get to their work places and back.

The initiative started from there, but we are already many people who believe that we have paid for roads, and we have done it thousands of times. We believe that private companies cannot  be entitled to use and benefit from roads that are public goods. Therefore, we refuse to pay tolls.

How many people participate in the local committees?

I can not give you an exact number. Anyway we are talking about many people. Committees were established throughout the country. The mobilization is very high. In the coming Sunday we will raise barriers at all the cash desks in the country. We will be in Athens at 16:00 at the cash desks in Afidnes.

In recent days we learned that the Commission for the Protection of personal data has allowed the Ministry to provide the companies concessionaires data for drivers who refuse to pay tolls. What is your stand on this issue?

First I would like to say that they had not been given any permission of this kind. An evidence for this is the fact that they do not present its content and protocol number. Yesterday we took part in a TV show together with a representative of one of the companies. We asked him about this decision, but failed to tell us anything specific.

But even if they had such permission in their hands, companies would still have not been able to do anything more than to ask for orders for payment to be issued in the amount of 20 times the toll fee based on their concession contracts. If we do not pay they threaten to enlist our names on the list of bankrupt and bad payers "Tiresias."

However, all this is nothing more than convulsive action. They can see what the size fo our movement has become and it scares them. They are losing revenues, banks are now refusing to grant them loans because, due to reduced revenues from tolls the companies are not able to issue guarantees. They are just trying to scare the people and make them pay taxes because they can not do anything else. The law from 2007, through which they were given a concession on the roads does not provide for any sanctions.

You personally, since when you do not pay tolls?

For more than 14 months, I don’t pay to any private toll cash desk. Throughout Greece there are only three cash desks, which are managed by the state. They are Malgara shortly before Thessaloniki, at the Egnatia highway and the underwater tunnel that connects Aktio with Preveza. There we do pay for no other reason but because otherwise an order for payment will be issued to us by the State Fund and we will have to pay anyway. We believe, however, that sooner or later those cash desks will be granted to private companies which now also have a small percentage of participation in them. When this happens, we will not pay there as well.

What is the attitude of the authorities towards the movement?

Tags: society protest toll fees
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