In a press conference on Wednesday morning, state Minister and acting Transport Minister Giorgos Gerapetritis announced a series of measures for the trains safety after the fatal collision in Tempi that killed 57 people on February 28.
Gerapatritis admitted “serious errors” in the railway security protocols.
“If we had a remote control system in the country, the accident would not have happened,” he underlined.
He announced the first interventions for railway safety as “the mandatory presence of two stationmasters at each station” and the aim is to restart trains traffic by the end of the month, even though with reduced schedules.
Gerapetritis assured that all the necessary actions will be taken in order to proceed at a rapid pace with the contract for the technological equipment of the Greek railways. while he stressed that the trains will be moving again safely as soon as possible.
From now on two station masters will be mandatory placed at each station, even if this implies a reduction in passenger transfer.
In the coming days, there will be a replacement of the OSE and ERGOSE administration. Resignations have been already submitted to PM.
The railway system will be supported with additional financing.
Upgrade in relation to recruitment and staff training, while the training framework will be evaluated. the Minister noted that education currently consist of 6.5 months of theory and practical training with daily mandatory participation of the candidates and field practice..
Stricter legal framework for network sabotage, theft of copper and other materials and destruction of the network.
“No Cover Up”
“The government will not allow any cover-up and will not seek any kind of pointless partisan confrontation.”
“I want to express my pain and heartbreak for what happened in Tempe, it is a national tragedy that marked us all. This suffering should find a catharsis,” he said, while again apologizing for the accident on behalf of the government to the families of the victims and the Greek citizens.
Larissa train station
Speaking about the accident and the investigation at the site, the minister said: “I was at the scene of the tragedy and had the misfortune to have a personal opinion on the conditions under which the administration system operates in Thessaloniki and Larissa. The findings I made were that the Larissa local remote control center was operating continuously and there was no outage at the Larissa local remote control center. So even on the fateful night the automatic route planning should have been done. Manual key change was also not done at second level and at third level there should have been monitoring on the board for a distance of 5.5 km as well. If there had been monitoring on the board after the departure of the train it would have been found that the train had moved to the wrong rail track.”
“There were lapses in human management, but this does not negate the fact that regardless of human error, if we had a complete remote control system in the country, the accident would certainly not have happened,” he stressed.
Specialized staff needed
Regarding the staff shortage on the trains, Gerapetritis said: “As far as the staff is concerned, I would like to say that it is obvious that more, more specialized staff are always required. A great effort has been made in recent years to strengthen the railways. In the last 15 years, there has been a significant reduction in staff, caused by our country’s recruitment rules and a massive wave of retirements. We didn’t have a significant replenishment. With the present government there has been an effort at 3 levels through mobility, through the recruitment of about 200 DPI, 69 locksmiths and 73 station masters and the routing of a significant number of permanent recruitment to the OSE. For 2021, we had the competition for the recruitment of 117 people, of which 36 were station masters, and in 2022 another 100, i.e. a total of 217 additional people.”
Railway degradation – Modernization contract
The minister acknowledged that the railway has been degraded in terms of its functionality, maintenance and upgrading.
“The railway operated for 50 years with an emphasis on manual operation. For the first time in 2014, the contract was signed with which we will have a universal infrastructure upgrade with signaling and the universal operation of remote control.
This contract was partially developed until 2017 and 32% of the deliverable had been delivered and unfortunately there were significant bugs and only 18% was truly operational. In 2017, the implementation of the contract was stopped because errors occurred in the implementation and the relevant EU due diligence authority found that there were errors. From 2017 to 2019 there was absolutely no delivery. Then the management of ERGOSE changed and from November there is an attempt to withdraw the contract. An additional one was signed in 2021. Then the contract restarted. Now 70% of the contract has been delivered and in 2023 we will have the delivery of the remaining part. (…) All actions are being taken so that the contract proceeds at a rapid pace. The prime minister contacted Alstom and asked for the completion time to be made as soon as possible. I will be on top so that there is absolutely no delay,” he pointed out.
How will the railway operated again?
Regarding how the railway will operate again, the minister said: “It is important to start operating again without waiting for the technological upgrade. We need to support public confidence in the railway because it is a popular means of finance. The restart will only take place under conditions of absolute safety. For the rest of the time, it will operate with 2 stationmasters per station compulsorily and this may mean a reduction in transport work. And with a greater coordination of actions through the technological capabilities we have”. “I have spoken to Hellenic Train representatives and they have agreed,” he said.
“No train will start without the additional safety valves and in the coming days the discussion will begin with all those involved to reduce trains, routes or stations and whatever is needed,” Minister Gerapetritis reiterated.