Trains in Greece were on collision course ‘for many kilometres’
The first details about the deadly head-on crash between a passenger train and a freight suggest that the trains had been travelling on the same track “for many kilometres” and for at least 12 minutes. Additionally, the passenger train might have been moving at a speed up of to 160 kilometres per hour before the impact.
In comments on the crash, which has so far left 43 people dead, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said “tragic human error” was to blame for the disaster. Also on Wednesday, the station master in Larissa responsible for signalling was charged with manslaughter by negligence. The 59-year-old maintains that there was a technical fault, Reuters reported based on local police reports.
The Greek daily Kathimerini on Thursday broke the news that the train protection system was not functioning and in fact has not been in operation for the past nine years due to neglect and sabotage. Real efforts to repair the systems, which first began in 2014, were postponed time and again.
Rail union members, too, believe safety systems may not have been functioning properly, claiming they have warned for authorities about this for years. “The disrespect shown over the years by governments to the Greek railways led to the tragic result”, a union statement seen by Reuters read. They plan to strike later today, March 2. Hellenic Train has suspended al its planned services for the day. There were protests in Athens, Thessaloniki and Larissa following the rail incident.
When Greek transport minister Kostas Karamanlis resigned over the incident, he indeed said he was taking responsibility for subsequent governments’ “long-standing failures” to beef up Greece’s railway system. Several officials at Hellenic Train and its subsidiary ERGOSE have since also offered their resignation.