Train accident in Greece: failure on the whole route
More and more details show how serious the failure of the railway and the authorities was, which led to the head-on collision with 57 dead. The Greeks are protesting and demonstrating against the conditions.
A completely black front page with dozens of burning candles – the Sunday edition of the Greek daily “Kathimerini” manages without words because the circumstances simply leave you speechless. After the serious train accident last week, there is increasing outrage in Greece alongside grief.
More and more details that led to the head-on collision of a passenger train with a freight train and at least 57 fatalities are coming to light – and reveal failures along the entire route.
The career of the station master alone, who made the crucial mistake and sent the passenger train onto the wrong tracks, raises countless questions. The man, who is to be questioned again on Sunday, is 59 years old – and only started his training as a station manager last year, although the age limit for training is 42, according to Greek media reports. Previously he worked as a porter and as a messenger in the Ministry of Culture.
Stationmaster in custody
The man should not have been trained in the first place and was reportedly completely overwhelmed. He also sat for days without a more experienced colleague at the important post at the Larisa train station. After sending the train onto the wrong tracks, he is said to have ignored electronic instructions and inquiries from one of the affected train drivers as well as a station master at one of the next stations, reports the “Kathimerini”. The trains therefore raced towards each other unhindered for minutes before the fatal head-on collision occurred.
The 59-year-old has long been in custody and has been charged with manslaughter and physical injury through negligence, among other things. But as heavy as the man’s alleged mistakes weigh, people think that citing “human error” as the reason for the tragedy is not enough.
It is undisputed that all governments of the past 20 years have criminally neglected the Greek railways. That the electronic guidance system and other safety precautions did not work or only partially. That the railway workers have repeatedly complained bitterly about this and demanded changes – not only from the state railway company OSE, but also from the Ministry of Transport. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis apologized extensively on social media on Sunday.
Prime Minister apologizes
“As Prime Minister, I owe everyone, but especially the families of the victims, a big apology – both personally and on behalf of all those who have ruled the country for years,” wrote Mitsotakis, admitting: “We can, want and may don’t hide behind human error.” The accident would have been practically impossible if the electronics had worked.
In his post, Mitsotakis vowed to get better and promised repairs to the electronic control system, a special committee on the failings of the past 20 years, and new trains. This does not reassure the citizens for the time being: According to police reports, around 10,000 people gathered again on Sunday morning at the central Athens Syntagma Square in front of the Parliament to protest against the conditions. After the peaceful march, around 100 autonomists used the opportunity to confront the security forces.