Authorities in Greece arrested the station master in Larissa on Wednesday afternoon for the deadly train crash that costed the lives of at least 45 mostly young people and had dozens injured.
According to the Larissa traffic police department that is conducting the investigation, the arrest order has been signed by the public prosecutor who is supervising the inquiry and following the questioning of the witnesses.
The 59-year-old station master in charge of signalling is considered responsible for the accident, in which two trains moving in opposite directions ended up on the same track in a head-on collision.
The passenger train was moving with a speed of 160 km/hour, while the freight train with 100 km/h.
The station master is expected to be charged with manslaughter through negligence under article 302 of the penal code, bodily harm through negligence (article 314 of the penal code) and dangerous interventions in means of transportation (article 291 of the penal code).
As Investigators are trying to find out why the two trains had been on the same track the chronic problems of the rail network in Greece come to surface.
Rail workers unions have been trying to make their grave concerns heard for a very long time -and had even warned about the possibility of just such a crash only *a month ago*. But neither the ministry nor media showed interest or investigated.
All done manually
“The train routes are followed and instructed manually by station masters who inform the next station master via wireless devices. From Athens to Thessaloniki 15 station masters are involved,” President of the train drivers union, Kostas Genidounias told ANT1 TV.
He stressed that they have repeatedly warned of an “upcoming train disaster” the Transportation & Infrastructure Ministry, with the latest warning being issued on February 7, 2023.
The journalist interviewing Genidounias asked him “why the media did not know about these issues.” He replied that they have many public statements, and nobody ever invited them to speak about these issues.
Chronic problems and state negligence
There are no GPS systems on the trains and the ones acquired in the year 2000 were never installed. Not to mention that they are meanwhile, endless outdated.
A “human error” by a local station master led to a national tragedy in 2023? What if this man in lonesome night duty had suffered a stroke in a country that boast to be fully digitized and online platforms for every tiny piece of state paper?
No communication between train drivers, no rail tracks safety system?
That the transportation minister resigned does not clears him of responsibilities for “criminal negligence in updating and modernizing the rail network and allowing the private company Hellenic Train to operate without control.
It is worth noting that Tuesday afternoon, there was an explosion and electric cables fell on a Athens-Thessaloniki train IC 56 in Palaiofarsala station, near Larissa and Tempi where the deadly crash took place.
Survivors of the IC 62 told media that their train stopped for some 15 minutes due to the other incident. Short after the train started again, the crash took place.
According to ANT1, the station master claimed the problems with the IC 56 for “some mistakes in handling with the situation.”
It is certainly more than just a “human error,” by a local station master whom the mainstream media -yes, those fed with millions of euros by the New Democracy government – try to disgrace him claiming he was a luggage porter who had a short training – and a bad one- and he became a station master.
EU refers Greece to Court for non-compliance with railway transport
In a announcement issued on February 15, 2023, the European Commission said it decided to refer GREECE to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failure to comply with rules on railway transport.
Concluding and publishing such agreement is particularly important for the transparency of the upcoming projects in the railway infrastructure network. This agreement should contain essential provisions such as the amount of funds allocated to the infrastructure services as well as user-oriented performance targets (for example line speed, customer satisfaction or environmental protection).
Despite exchanges between the Commission and Greece, the national authorities have still not signed and published the contractual agreement with the Greek railway infrastructure manager, OSE.
The Commission opened an infringement procedure against Greece in December 2020 and sent a reasoned opinion in December 2021. Since Greece remains in breach of the directive, the Commission has now decided to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union, the statement stressed among others.
KTG cannot resist the temptation to report that on Tuesday, there was a press release by the PM’s office apparently saying that Mitsotakis was to visit on Wednesday a “signalling and remote control center” for trains in northern Greece.
However, head of the OSE train drivers Genidounias pointed out that this center is not in operation and everything is done manually.
Note that train service is done by private Hellenic Train, drivers and station masters are employees of state OSE.
Fact is: investigation on the causes that led to train crash must include more people and justice for the innocent victims must prevail.