Greece Pledges to Restore Confidence in Train Services as Investigations Continue
Greece’s new transport minister, Giorgos Gerapetritis, pledged on Wednesday to ‘clean up’ the Greek railway system so that it could “likely” resume services by the end of the month after services stopped, following the head-on collision of two trains in Tempi, Central Greece, which killed 57 people last week.
Speaking to the press on Wednesday, amid ongoing protests and transport strikes in cities across Greece, Gerapetritis said all the necessary actions would be taken to accelerate the finalization of contracts for the modernization of the country’s railway infrastructure.`
Apologizing for the tragic loss of lives, Gerapetritis admitted that “had a complete remote surveillance and signaling system been in place, the accident would not have happened”, adding however that it was a result of human error.
The minister also admitted that the surveillance and signaling system was only “partially operational” due to implementation and procedural failures and that over the last 15 years staff had been significantly reduced.
“No train will set off again, if we have not secured safety at the maximum possible level,” he said on Wednesday.
The minister went on to add that Greek parliament will further discuss the railway deficiencies, the change of management, and the removal of employees not fit for the jobs.
A key priority for the government now is to ensure train services resume in “absolute safety” said Geraptetritis, adding that two stationmasters would from now on be assigned at each post and that actions would be taken to ensure greater coordination and technological integration.
Thousands of Greeks Protest, Call for Justice
In the meantime, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in cities all over Greece over the neglect that led to the deaths of 57 people, dozens injured or unaccounted for. Rail worker strikes have been ongoing since the accident and growing protests are calling for justice.
It should be reminded that in October 2021, former transport minister, Kostas Karamanlis had announced that a finalized program of works worth 13 billion euros were scheduled to be carried out across the country, with 3.3 billion euros going towards railway works, “the government’s first priority”.
In November 2021, he announced the launch of the country’s largest-ever railway overhaul budgeted at 4 billion euros to be carried out in collaboration with operator ErgOSE and which would include among other the installation of the European Train Control System (ETCS).
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.
The two trains – a cargo and passenger train – traveling from Athens to Thessaloniki along the country’s main railway collided on February 28 near Larisa. The Tempi collision is the worst in Greek history, which is already marred by several similar accidents.
Greek infrastructure development is plagued by a perpetual ‘inertia’. Everything is said… little or nothing is done. Short-sightedness leading to negligence to criminal negligence abounds. Whatever gov is in power changes nothing. The tourist industry is the most ‘efficient’ in Greece because it is the public face of Greece to 30 million tourists a year. It cannot fail or be seen to fail. But behind the tourist facade, inertia rules and has done for 200+ years. This is why 500,000 educated Greeks leave Greece to live/work in the EU. The Greek State is barely functional in the 21C, some would say it is dysfunctional. The tragedy at Tempi seems to highlight this. Esp. as no one has yet disclosed the nature of the combustible materials that ignited, causing 57 people to be burned to death. Even when the persons responsible for the collision are put away, the big question of ‘was the freight train carrying something illegal?’… will remain.