Greece Names New Transport Minister After Deadly Train Collision
Giorgos Gerapetritis steps in as Greece’s new transport minister after Kostas Karamanlis handed in his resignation following the tragic head-on train collision in Tempi, Central Greece, on Tuesday that has so far left behind 57 people dead, dozens injured and many unaccounted for.
Gerapetritis, who is also minister of state, pledged to investigate in transparency the causes of the crash, to ensure the upgrade of the railway system and to restore safety in train travel. He will remain in this position until the elections next month.
“We are experiencing dark days for the country in extremely difficult circumstances. We are all devastated,” he said during the handover ceremony at the ministry earlier today, apologizing to the families of the victims and adding that the system and the state were seriously under question.
Karamanlis resigned on Wednesday after a visit to the site of the crash, saying that it was his duty to do so and that efforts made to improve the rail system “were not enough to prevent such an accident. And this is very heavy for all of us and for me personally”.
The two trains – a cargo and passenger train – traveling from Athens to Thessaloniki along the country’s main railway collided late on Tuesday in Tempi near Larisa. The Tempi collision is the worst in Greek history, which is already marred by several similar accidents.
Rescue teams, the fire brigade and the army are continuing efforts to locate passengers in the debris after the high-speed crash left both trains and cars in flames.
An official investigation has been launched into the circumstances of the collision and the stationmaster was arrested on Wednesday facing charges.
The passenger train was carrying 342 passengers.
Earlier today, the Panhellenic Federation of Railway Employees announced a 24-hour strike as hundreds of protestors held riots at Hellenic Train headquarters in Athens.
“The disdain of all governments across time have shown for Greek Railways resulted in the tragedy at Tempi. Unfortunately, our longstanding demands for hiring permanent personnel, better training and, above all, modern safety technology, always end up in the trash can,” said a union statement.
Describing the fatal collision as “unspeakable tragedy”, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis declared three days of national mourning on Wednesday. In an address to the nation, Mitsotakis pledged to find those responsible for the crash and to launch an independent investigation into the causes of the accident.
According to media reports, railway unionists had repeatedly warned the government of the operational and staff deficiencies.
Greek national passenger and freight train operator TrainOSE was sold off in 2017 to Italian state railway group Ferrovie dello Stato (FS) Italiane for a sum of 45 million euros and renamed Hellenic Train SA last year.
“pledged to investigate in transparency the causes of the crash, to ensure the upgrade of the railway system and to restore safety in train travel”
In 2004 they purchased a brand new signals and state of the art track control systems….. they were never installed according to the Rail Union members!???