"Chronic" problems: Athens admits government failure after train accident

After the train accident in Greece with almost 50 dead, a railway employee takes responsibility.

"Chronic" problems: Athens admits government failure after train accident

After the train accident in Greece with almost 50 dead, a railway employee takes responsibility. On the other hand, the bad condition of the railway network has long been known, the government now admits. The rescue work continues.

After the serious train accident in Greece, the government has admitted state failure. Delays in the modernization of Greece's rail network are due to "chronic" problems and "decades of failure" in administration, government spokesman Giannis Economou said. In the meantime, the station master responsible for the section of the route took personal responsibility for the accident. In the meantime, almost 50 dead have been recovered during the rescue and recovery work, and there was hardly any hope of survivors.

On the route between the capital Athens and the port city of Thessaloniki, an Intercity with more than 350 people on board and an oncoming freight train on the same track collided shortly before midnight. Two carriages were crushed by the force of the collision, the dining car went up in flames, numerous people were trapped in the derailed and wedged wrecks. A few hours after the accident, the station master who was on duty in the nearby town of Larisa at the time of the accident was arrested.

The 59-year-old is charged with negligent homicide and negligent bodily harm. If convicted, he faces life imprisonment. According to his lawyer, he has now admitted the allegations. His client "admitted what he did," said the lawyer. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis spoke of a "tragic human error" on Wednesday after visiting the scene of the accident. Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis resigned. His successor Giorgos Gerapetritis apologized to the families of the victims and announced that he would take a self-critical look at the accident.

After the accident, a heated debate broke out in Greece about the state of the railway network. According to the train drivers' union OSE, the route between Athens and Thessaloniki is in a very bad condition. All signals are controlled manually, said union boss Kostas Genidounias. In an open letter in February, railway employees pointed out that the security systems were incomplete and poorly maintained. As part of a comprehensive privatization program as a result of the financial crisis, the Italian state railway Ferrovie di Stato (FS) took over the Greek railway in 2017. There were protests in Larisa and in front of the Hellenic Train headquarters in Athens on Wednesday evening. "Privatization kills" was written on signs by the demonstrators in Larisa. In Athens, police used tear gas against protesters who threw stones at the train station.

According to the fire department, 48 dead were recovered at the scene of the accident, most of whom had been in the first three wagons. Because of the fire in the dining car, some of the corpses are charred beyond recognition and their identification must be made using a DNA test. More than 80 other people were injured. They are being treated in hospitals in Larisa, Thessaloniki and Katerini, some in intensive care. The rescue workers continued to work their way through bent metal debris with heavy equipment. Some passengers are still missing, but the authorities did not provide any precise information. The coroner Roubini Leontari from the hospital in Larisa spoke on the ERT transmitter of more than ten missing.