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Traffic changes on the table; Road rules that apply in Athens

Greece is looking into ways to reduce traffic congestion in central Athens in a move that could involve the introduction of toll charges for those driving through the heart of the city, according to Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis.

High pollution levels in the capital have landed the country in court after the European Commission decided to launch legal proceedings against Greece in July for failing to do enough to improve air quality levels.

As a result, the Transport Ministry is tightening the number of cars that are eligible to drive down central roads surrounding the city’s two main squares in the areas of Syntagma and Omonia.

The option of road tolls in central Athens could be on the table, in line with environmental taxes being applied across Europe, the minister told SKAI radio.

The changes likely to take place include only allowing only electric powered cars, hybrid vehicles and those with a Euro6 category (emissions of less than 120 GR CO2) from entering central Athens.

Additionally, the ministry is looking into launching initiatives to encourage car pooling, the minister added.

What currently applies

According to Urban Access Regulations in Europe, the following traffic restrictions currently apply in Athens. The full list can be accessed here.

There are two schemes:

1 - In the city centre (Small ring, ΜΙΚΡΟΣ ΔΑΚΤΥΛΙΟΣ, ‘Athens Ring’ or ‘The Ring’)

2 - In the whole Athens area (Big ring, ΜΕΓΑΛΟ ΔΑΚΤΥΛΙΟ, Μεγάλο Δακτύλιο (Megalo Daktylio)), also known as the green ring or ΠΡΑΣΙΝΟΣ ΔΑΚΤΥΛΙΟΣ

For the small ring:

Vehicles up to 2.2 tonnes are only allowed entry to the area on alternating days, depending on the last digit of their license plate (odds or evens).

The scheme is active from Monday to Thursday from 07:00 - 20:00 and Friday from 07:00 - 15:00.

On even dates are cars and lorries <2.2t allowed to circulate with registration numbers on licence plate that end with an even number.

On odd dates are cars and lorries <2.2t allowed to circulate with registration numbers on licence plate that end with an odd number.

For the big ring:

- Vehicles over 2.2 tonnes and buses registered after 1.1.1998 (for 2021).

How is it enforced?

Enforced through cameras and number plate recognition.

Are foreign vehicles affected?

Foreign vehicles are not affected. Rental or hire cars are not affected for the first 40 days

Hours of operation

For both schemes:

Monday to Thursday, 07:00 to 20:00

Friday, 07:00 to 15:00

The measures do not apply on Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays and days of 24-hour strikes of public transport.

Penalty fee

Punished according to the provisions of Article 52, paragraph 6 of the Highway Code (Administrative fine of 200 euros).

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