Rail section where Greek accident took place now has signalling
Approximately 5 months after the largest train accident in Greek history, killing 57 people, the signalling of the section from Larissa to Plati and the Larissa Traffic Control Center (TCC) are now approved for operation, says the Greek Ministry of Transport. This should have already long been in place, as the contract was signed in 2014, but was never delivered.
While investigations are still ongoing into the causes and responsibilities of the railway accident on the night of February 28, the head-on collision of two trains could potentially have been avoided if modern safety systems were in place. The Greek Railway Regulatory Authority (RAS), said in its first findings that there is “serious evidence of infringement by OSE (the Greek manager of the railway infrastructure) related to its Safety Management System”.
The remote control signalling that has now been put in place on sections of the main line in Greece, was already planned to have long been installed, but this did not happen, the exact reasons for which are under investigation. The contract in question, named contract 717, was signed in 2014, with the project contractors TOMI, a joint venture between Aktor group and French multinational Alstom, undertaking to deliver within 2 years.
The project concerned the overall upgrade of the infrastructure with signalling throughout the network and the operation of remote control for real-time monitoring of the routes, and its execution was a key condition for the subsequent awarding of the ETCS (European Train Control System) installation project. Reportedly, the contract had many technical ambiguities and loopholes, and the project partners clashed at some points, reported Euractiv and part of the project taken over solely by Alstom in northern Greece was said to be delivered.
Progress on the installation
Now, progress on the installation of the signalling has finally been made. The administrative acceptance for use of the signalling of the 130-kilometre section of the double line from Larissa to Plati took place this week, after carrying out the necessary tests, says the Greek Transport Ministry in a statement. With the completion of this section, full signalling now works in the sections of Ag. Anargyroi – Oinoi, and remote control from Tithorea to Thessaloniki, as well as from Thessaloniki to Promachona. At the same time, the Traffic Control Center (TCC) of Larissa was handed over, which controls the traffic of trains on a length of 200 kilometres of double railway track, in the section from Domokos to Platis. On 29 June, the RAS announced that the ETCS Level 1 system was approved on the Domokos – Larissa section.
The Ministry estimates that by the end of September, the last signalling section – from Oinoi to Tithore – will be put into operation. With the delivery of the upper signalling section and its inclusion in the SKA Remote Control Center, the axis from the Athens exit to Thessaloniki will be fully remote-controlled, increasing much-needed safety on the line. When that is done, the implementation of the 717 contracts for the installation of signalling and remote control will be completed.
There is also progress for the implementation of the installation of the automatic train protection system ETCS, the AS 10005/07 contract, says the Greek Ministry. At the end of June, tests of the ETCS system on the SKA – Oinoi section were completed, while at the end of July, the necessary certifications were submitted to the Railway Regulatory Authority in order to put this section into operation. The ETCS tests on the Larissa – Platy section, as well as on the connection to Domokos, are also being completed this week so that they too can be certified and put into operation. The Greek Transport Ministry estimates that by the end of November, the ETCS train monitoring and control system on the line will be operational along the entire length from SKA to Thessaloniki.
Course of events under scrutiny
“In cooperation with the management of OSE and ERGOSE, with a plan and political will, we are addressing long-standing weaknesses and outstanding issues, enhancing passenger safety and creating the conditions for better, higher quality and modern rail infrastructure and services”, the Transport Ministry, headed by Minister of Infrastructure and Transport Christos Staikouras. He took office in June after the previous transport minister, Kostas Karamanlis, resigned following the deadly Tempe train crash and after Giorgos Gerapetritis temporarily took over. Karamanlis and his predecessor, Christos Spirtzis, might face an investigation as well, as the Greek office of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office forwarded the case file it has prepared for contract 717 of ERGOSE to the Greek Parliament, according to Greek media.
The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), through its Greek section, is conducting an investigation into the management of the funds allocated for the project, jointly funded by the European Union and the Greek State, which was launched several months before the fatal accident in Tempi. According to Greek media, a total of 26 non-political persons, mainly employees of ERGOSE and executives of the joint venture TOMI – Alstom, which signed the contract, were summoned as suspects to receive copies of the case file and to provide explanations.