Greece's rail network on general strike after Tuesday's collision

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Greece's rail network on general strike after Tuesday's collision

In front of the Larissa train station, north of Athens, the population laid candles and flowers in memory of the victims of the collision of two trains which occurred on Tuesday .

Rail traffic was paralyzed by a strike Thursday in Greece, where angry demonstrations are increasing two days after two trains collided head-on, despite the government's mea culpa acknowledging “chronic” failures in the railways.

It's not a mistake, but a crime, wrote the Editors Journal, summarizing the shock and especially the fury felt by the population, while the station master confessed in court, after his arrest on Wednesday, to having made a mistake.

The trains traveled several kilometers on the same track linking Athens to Thessaloniki, the two largest Greek cities, before colliding head-on Tuesday, shortly before midnight, causing the death of at least 57 people, according to the police.

The deaths of Tempé demand answers, headlined the liberal Kathimerini, alluding to the place, near the town of Larissa where ;the catastrophe has occurred.

The two trains that were running on the same track following an error collided head-on on Tuesday, causing at least 57 dead.

At the same time, the trains did not run on Thursday after a call for a strike by the Confederation bringing together the railway unions to denounce the lack of respect shown by governments over time towards the Greek railways, which which led to this disaster. The movement has been renewed for the day on Friday.

Unfortunately, our constant demands for the recruitment of permanent staff, better training, but above all the adoption of modern security technologies have all been permanently thrown in the trash, these organizations lamented.

The president of the train drivers' union OSE, Kostas Genidounias, highlighted the lack of safety on the line where the collision occurred.

“All [signalling] is done manually. It's been since the year 2000 that the systems have not worked.

— Kostas Genidounias, president of the OSE train drivers' union

The union representatives of the Hellenic Train railway company sounded the alarm in this regard three weeks ago.

We are not going to wait for the accident to happen to see those responsible shed crocodile tears, they had warned.

Konstantinos Hasiotis, an expert, for his part regretted AFP the delays in the installation of the PTS (Positive Train Control) electronic safety radar system.

Citizens spontaneously gathered in Larissa following Tuesday's drama.

In the evening, after a stormy first rally the day before, hundreds of people protested outside the Athens headquarters of Hellenic Train, a company bought in 2017 by the Italian public group Ferrovie Dello Stato Italiane (FS) as part of the privatization program demanded by Greece's creditors during the economic crisis (2009-2018).

Residents of Larissa also demonstrated, carrying banners that read: Privatization kills.

On Thursday evening, some 2,000 protesters gathered in Thessaloniki. The demonstration resulted in stone throwing and Molotov cocktails, but calm has now returned, said a police spokesman.

“The delays [in the modernization of the railways] have their origins in the chronic pathologies of the Greek public sector, in decades of weakness.

—Yannis Oikonomou, Greek government spokesperson

The new Minister of Transport, Giorgos Gerapetritis, meanwhile, apologized to the families of the victims, while making a complete self-criticism of the political system and the state. Former Minister Kostas Karamanlis had resigned the day before.

In the midst of controversy, the media made public a letter from the former head of the European system in Greece of Rail Traffic (ERTMS), Christos Katsioulis, in which he noted the poor management of the application of signaling contracts on certain parts of the network.

Until 2010, there was some modernization of the signaling of the railway network, but, during the financial crisis, the safety systems began to break down, recalled Panagiotis Terezakis, an adviser to the x27;Greek Railway Administration. Upgrading systems resumed at the time of privatization, the official said.

Passengers and employees stood no chance under the force of the impact which pulverized the locomotives and lead cars.

As for the 59-year-old station master, prosecuted for negligent homicide and causing bodily harm, he faces life imprisonment if his guilt is established.

He was to explain how a train carrying 342 passengers and 10 railway employees was allowed to use the same track as a freight convoy.

Spokesman of the government assured Thursday that the error had been admitted by the station master himself and his lawyer confirmed that he recognized what he had done.

Media, including the public television channel ERT, however highlighted his lack of experience since, according to their information, he had been appointed to this post only 40 days ago after having worked in the ministry of Education and followed for his new functions a three-month training.

Under the violence of the shock which occurred shortly before midnight, on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday, the locomotives and the lead cars were pulverized and the conductors of both trains killed instantly.

Passengers described scenes s horror and mayhem, amid a rain of shattered glass and debris as the train overturned.

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