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Greek protesters torch toll booth

Industry news

Athens, Greece - A group of 500 anti-government demonstrators set fire to a toll booth on a motorway east of Athens on Sunday to protest a near-tripling of prices.

The announcement last week of the toll hike from 55 cents (R8.35) to €1.45 (R22) tapped into general rage by Greek motorists who complain that they are paying a high price for roads that are not always properly maintained.

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A protester hurls rocks at police during a violent anti-austerity demonstration in central Athens February 12, 2012. Historic cinemas, cafes and shops went up in flames in central Athens on Sunday as black-masked protesters fought Greek police outside parliament, while inside lawmakers looked set to defy the public rage by endorsing a new EU/IMF austerity deal. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis (GREECE)

Austerity measures hitting Greek citizens are also fuelling the indignation.

Greek police said the demonstrators Sunday blocked the motorway, set fire to tyres and chanted slogans against the government. They dispersed hours later.

‘PART OF THE DEAL’

But transport minister Mihalis Chryssohoidis said on Friday the toll increases were part of the contract signed with the motorway operators in 2007.

“Whoever obstructs passage through the tolls is acting to the detriment of the Greek people,” he said.

He said however that everyday commuters using the tollway at the centre of the protest would pay the previous lower fare.

According to a document Chryssohoidis presented to parliament, Greece has raised €1.3 billion (R19.7 billion) in toll revenue since 2008. He said average tolls were among the lowest in Europe.

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