Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Friday officially opened the last section of the Moreas motorway for use by the public, inaugurating the Kalamata Ring Road during his visit to the city on the southern shores of the Peloponnese. The completion of the ring road also marked the completion of the main road axis for the Peloponnese, Tsipras said, while joking that this will be free for citizens travelling for general elections “but it will be a long time before you enjoy this benefit because the elections won’t be held until September 2019.”
Tsipras noted that the Moreas highway had been a project stalled since 2013 when the government took over power, while there was a clause saying that if the project was not completed by March 2017, the country would have to pay fines amounting to 504 million euros. Through a revised contract signed by Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Christos Spirtzis, he said, the government ensured the project’s completion and also helped to protect the state’s interests, saving more than 200 million euros.
Among others, the new agreement provided for the installation of a new system of road tolls, based on the distance travelled, at the expense of the concessionaire and a study for a decrease in the overall cost of road tolls, including discounts for local users, exemptions for special categories of users and provision for the needs of local residents where no alternative road network was available.
In addition, the concessionaire had undertaken to produce studies for three road construction projects in Messinia costing 12 million euros, Tsipras added, noting that the era when major works were associated with deliberate delays, penalty clauses and contracts damaging to the public interest was now ended.
The new motorway linked four of the major urban centres in the Peloponnese – Corinth, Tripolis, Kalamata and Sparti – while reducing the journey time from Corinth to Kalamata via Tripoli by about a third, to one hour and 45 minutes, the prime minister noted. The Kalamata Ring Road inaugurated on Friday would also significantly improve quality of life and the environment in the city, rerouting non-local traffic toward Mani away from the city’s centre and thus reducing congestion and air pollution in the city.
After a tragic five years in which Greece lost 25 pct of its GDP, Greece was “emerging from the tunnel and emerging while meeting its commitments,” Tsipras said.
“We are not afraid to negotiate and we don’t write blank cheques, as others did,” he added, saying that Greece was now traversing “the last few difficult metres of the race” and would get past the difficulties, ending 2016 with the economy in positive ground and returning to a growth trajectory from 2017, with forecasts predicting GDP growth rates of 2.7 pct in 2017 and 3.1 pct in 2018.