Breaking down barriers

There has been much attention paid in these pages and elsewhere to the woeful inaccuracy of traffic forecasts that have spelt doom for some toll road-related business plans.

One example of this: research undertaken by independent transport consultant Rob Bain showed that – assuming a ratio of 1.0 for toll road projects where performance was in line with the prediction – the average result was 0.77. This meant that the toll road traffic forecasts under scrutiny were over-optimistic in their assumptions by a hefty 23 percent margin.

But is it inconceivable that toll road traffic forecasts in Greece might be 43 percent over-optimistic? Until recently, the answer might have been yes. But that was before Greece’s campaign of civil disobedience came along  – a campaign which, according to a report in UK newspaper the  Sunday Times – now extends to a refusal to pay road tolls.

According to the report: “A recent rise in Greek road tolls has seen drivers openly disobeying the law by lifting aside barriers at motorway toll booths to drive through without paying the £2.20 (€2.48; $3.65) fee”.

The report says that around 20 percent of Greek motorists are thought to be refusing to pay in protest at the rising cost of living that has accompanied the Greek government’s austerity measures. Add this 20 percent of non-payers to the 23 percent average over-optimism  identified by Bain and, hey presto, you arrive at 43 percent.

Mind you, this may be a temporary phenomenon. The government recently pushed through a law making it a criminal offence to avoid paying tolls, punishable by a £170 fine and a possible driving licence suspension. Might this be enough to bring those business plans back into line?