Greek prepare tragedy sheds gentle on continual state failures

ATHENS: The prepare tragedy that unfolded in Greece this week, claiming dozens of lives within the nation’s worst rail catastrophe, has uncovered continual failures by successive administrations, insiders say.

This was a crash that was ready to occur, they argue.

A passenger prepare with over 350 individuals on board ran for a number of kilometres on the identical observe as an incoming freight prepare, reportedly after the station grasp within the central metropolis of Larissa didn’t reroute one of many trains.

The 59-year-old, who has been charged with negligent murder, has admitted partial duty for the accident. However there have been different components in play, his lawyer mentioned Thursday.

“My shopper has assumed his share of duty,” mentioned Stefanos Pantzartzidis. “However we should not concentrate on a tree when there’s a forest behind it.”

State TV ERT has reported that the station grasp was solely appointed to the put up 40 days in the past after a coaching course that lasted simply three months.

Many years of mismanagement

For many years, Greece’s 2,552-kilometre (1,585-mile) rail community has been stricken by mismanagement, poor upkeep and out of date tools.

Although the nation’s mountainous terrain isn’t conducive to intensive rail networks, it’s no coincidence that almost all Greeks choose to journey by automotive, bus or ferry.

Accident analyst Konstantinos Hasiotis says there have been lengthy delays in putting in an digital prepare security radar system, which Greece initially acquired 20 years in the past.

“Duty should be assumed by all those that managed the modernisation of the community,” Hasiotis informed AFP.

The chairman of the union of prepare drivers, Kostas Genidounias, mentioned his organisation would quickly launch proof of political duty for security failings.

“There are a lot of paperwork that we’ll make public,” he mentioned, including that as a result of digital safeguards haven’t been operational because the 12 months 2000, prepare management was nonetheless dealt with “manually”.

With Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis hoping to safe re-election in ballots anticipated subsequent month, the federal government has been fast to grab upon the station grasp’s error, and level to the failings of previous administrations.

“I consider the duty, the negligence, the error has been confessed by the station grasp,” authorities spokesman Yiannis Economou mentioned Thursday.

However he additionally admitted “delays” in putting in security safeguards on the route the place the accident passed off, a results of “continual malaise and many years of failure” in state administration.

Community in ‘poor situation’

The accident has additionally uncovered a complicated mixture of obligations between personal rail operator Hellenic Practice – the state firm OSE that also owns the observe community – and a state watchdog nominally tasked with oversight.

“The community is in poor situation – however we don’t examine its situation,” the top of Greece’s railroad regulatory authority RAS Ioanna Tsiaparikou informed state TV ERT on Thursday.

Already in January, Tsiaparikou had mentioned the rail community was poorly maintained and engines have been outdated. She additionally highlighted a scarcity of workers, noting that some stations lay empty.

Greece seeks solutions over deadliest prepare tragedy

Three weeks in the past, commerce unionists representing prepare workers on the board of Hellenic Practice additionally warned of “grave” workers shortages.

In December, the RAS watchdog fined Hellenic Practice 300,000 euros after greater than 800 passengers have been left stranded in harsh climate situations throughout a chilly snap virtually a 12 months earlier.

Final month, the European Fee referred Greece to the EU’s Courtroom of Justice for failing to signal and publish an settlement with OSE required underneath a 2012 directive, within the pursuits of transparency.

Although the directive was not particularly associated to issues of safety, a Fee spokesman on Thursday famous that the EU had already backed 16 railway initiatives in Greece since 2014 with practically 700 million euros ($741 million).

Stalled modernisation

Greece’s Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis, who resigned inside hours of the catastrophe, acknowledged that authorities efforts to enhance situations during the last three and a half years “have been sadly not sufficient to forestall such an accident”.

Greek media printed a letter from the previous head of the European Rail Site visitors System (ERTMS) in Greece, Christos Katsioulis, during which he mentioned that infrastructure upgrades pending since 2016 have been incomplete. Practice speeds of as much as 200 kilometres (124 miles) an hour have been unsafe, he warned.

Katsioulis resigned final 12 months.

“Till 2010, there was some modernisation of rail community indicators, however throughout the monetary disaster, the security techniques started to break down,” recollects OSE advisor Panagiotis Terezakis.

A young to improve the rail community in northern Greece had been scheduled to be launched later this month.