Government and opposition spar over new privately-operated highway
by Stratos Lefkaditis
The government ministers and legislators of the Moderate Democratic Party (KMD) clashed with opposition legislators belonging to the Social Solidarity Movement (KKA) yesterday, during a question raised by the latter over what they termed "extravagant tolls" on the privately-built and run highway running from the northwest of Pefki, on the border with Europolis, to the southeast, on the border with Sahrawi Union. Though a series of highways had connected all sides of Pefki in the past, the new, state of the art highway termed "Ethniki Odos 1", or "National Motorway 1", is the first to connect two borders of the Duchy directly. The ambitious project has sparked interest for a similar endeavour in the opposite direction, to connect Pefki's border northeastern and southwestern borders.
Opposition shadow-cabinet member for infrastructure and technology, Orpheus Xenopoulos, questioned whether the considerable tolls paid by Pefkiots and foreigners on the new highway are appropriate. As the motorway was built by private corporations and is privately operated, tolls are charged to pay for the project's considerable construction and operation costs. However, Infrastructure Minister Elias Moutsos responded that the tolls were more than reasonable, adding that "it is preferable for those using the motorway to pay for its costs, rather than for the entire country to be indebted for their benefit as well as that of international users." Minister Moutsos added that the highway has already proven pivotal in facilitating trans-European trade and tourism, in addition to making Pefkiots' lives much easier.
Opposition member of the Ducal Legislative Council Alexandros Papatheodorou, of the National Front, pointed to the example of the Pefkiotic Railways A.E., a government-owned corporation which has surprised in Pefki and abroad by running so efficiently that it has brought any sort of privatisation out of the question. The Minister responded that Pefkiotic Railways A.E. is a special and unique case not just in the Duchy but across the European Union, as the surprise of many of its foreign users as well as analysts upon finding out it is a government-run institution serves to attest. "If we were to nationalise all infastructure projects, they would go the way of Pefkiotic Airways,"the Minister said, referring to Pefki's now privatised and once nearly insolvent flag carrier.
As Pefkiotic Railways' recently introduced a new series of high-speed trains for the Pentele-Herakleion line running through Pefki at about the same direction as Motorway 1, the question of private and public operation of important infrastructure projects remains hotly debated.