New traffic rules go into effect in Athens

ATHENS: Athenians woke up yesterday to find their right to drive around the city in their car had been limited to just one lane as Olympic traffic restrictions went into effect. 

According to the new regulations, one traffic lane has been cordoned off for Olympic use only while another is to be used solely by public transport vehicles. This leaves only one traffic lane – the middle one – for the thousands of private cars. 

The restrictions start at 6.30am every day and end at 12am, while during the days of the opening and closing ceremonies of the Aug 13-29 Olympic Games the measures will extend until 2am. Also from today, no car will be allowed to enter or park near Olympic venues without a permit. 

A strong force of 2,200 traffic police officers, aided by a sensor-laden security blimp and several police helicopters mounted with high-resolution cameras, will be responsible for enforcing the new traffic code. 

Those who break the law and enter the Olympic lane will be facing a fine of US$187 and up to a year in prison, while those who decide to drive on the lane designated only for public transport vehicles they will be called to pay a fine of US$200. 

The government in recent days launched an advertising campaign urging Athenians to abandon their cars and use the city’s upgraded public transport services, thus avoid any traffic jams. 

“Our objective is for the public transport system to become the conscious choice of citizens for their commuting,” said Transport Minister Michalis Liapis. 

Athens launched a new 24-hour tram service this month, linking the city centre to seaside venues for the Olympics and on Friday inaugurated vital subway and suburban rail links to the city’s international airport. In addition, Athenians can use a network of buses and trolleys. 

Some 1 million free transport maps have been printed – both in Greek and in English. – AP 

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