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ATHENS — Earlier than a passenger and freight prepare collided explosively Tuesday — leading to Greece’s deadliest-ever rail crash, killing a minimum of 57 — the 2 trains had been on the identical tracks for 12 minutes, in response to new accounts given to Greek media.
Neither know-how nor man intervened to avert a catastrophe.
As emergency employees continued Thursday to choose via the charred forward-most carriages, many Greeks had been already turning their focus to the causes of the catastrophe, and to a rail system that had lengthy been in worrisome form.
Practice collision in Greece kills a minimum of 43
Although the crash had components of human error — with a station supervisor arrested for negligence — numerous officers, in addition to a rail union, additionally related the incident to a broader set of rail infrastructure issues plaguing a rustic that also bears the bruises of final decade’s monetary disaster.
Greece’s transport minister, who resigned instantly after the crash, stated that the nation’s rail system “doesn’t befit the twenty first century.”
A nationwide federation of railway staff on Thursday held a day-long strike, citing unmet wants for “hiring everlasting personnel, higher coaching and, above all, fashionable security know-how.” These proposals, the union stated, had at all times ended up “within the trash can.”
Greek police clashed with protesters in Athens the day after two trains collided head on in central Greece on Mar. 1 and killed dozens. (Video: Reuters)
The crash is prone to tackle a political dimension with Greece — at the moment led by a center-right authorities — poised to carry nationwide elections within the coming months. One of many left-wing Greek newspapers on Thursday blared the headline: “It isn’t a mistake, it’s a crime.”
The passenger prepare, with roughly 350 folks on board, had been making the journey from Athens to Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest metropolis, when it collided with the freight prepare. Many on board had been younger individuals who had been celebrating the raucous carnival vacation, held finally after three years of pandemic interruptions. In a night briefing Thursday, officers stated that 48 folks stay hospitalized, with six in intensive care.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis stated an unbiased panel would examine the causes of the accident and its purview would come with trying on the “perennial delays” of rail tasks.
Vigils and protests had been held in Athens and Thessaloniki Wednesday. In Athens, protesters threw stones on the rail firm places of work earlier than being dispersed by riot police.
A few of the preliminary scrutiny facilities on the technological security options of Greece’s rail strains. The Kathimerini newspaper, a serious Greek each day, reported that an digital signaling system — a typical security characteristic throughout Europe — had been put in however was not functioning, both due to injury or sabotage, and that efforts to revive the system had been long-delayed.
In a report final yr on rail security, the European Union stated what are generally known as “prepare safety programs” are “extensively thought-about one of the efficient railway security measures for lowering the chance of collisions between trains.” In international locations reminiscent of Italy and Germany, practically all tracks have such a system in place. Greece was the one European Union nation, the report stated, that was totally with out such a safeguard.
Final yr, Christos Katsioulis, the president of a committee chargeable for works underneath the European Practice Management System, stepped down citing “unfinished upkeep of the railway community.”
He additionally warned in his resignation letter about potential safety points, saying there might be trains “working at 200 km/h with none indications of the circumstances of the tracks, even a rupture.”
Konstantinos Genidounias, the president of the Affiliation of Greek Practice Drivers, advised state broadcaster ERT that “nothing works,” together with a central monitoring system.
“The sunshine alerts don’t work nor does the site visitors management system,” he stated. “If these labored the drivers would see the crimson gentle and the trains would have stopped safely, 500 to 1,000 meters from one another.”
“Now we have requested. Complained. Nothing works.”
“All the pieces relies on the human issue” consequently, he stated. “We’re on handbook.”
Greece’s infrastructure points predate its monetary disaster, when the nation required bailout loans from worldwide and European collectors. However the issues intensified throughout that interval, in tandem with harsh austerity measures. The consulting agency PwC, in a report on Greece’s infrastructure, stated that between 2009 to 2019, Greece ranked lowest amongst E.U. international locations within the proportion of its GDP spent on infrastructure, “undermining” its high quality.
Greece was additionally pressured to unload property as a solution to recapitalize its banks, leading to a wave of privatizations. Greece in 2017 offered its rail firm to Italy’s state railways Ferrovie dello Stato for 45 million euros ($48 million).
Earlier than the pandemic, which brought on a dramatic drop-off globally in journey, Greece had been one of many few European international locations the place prepare use was diminishing.
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However Greece, now not certain by austerity measures, has tried of late to extend its infrastructure funding. It final yr inaugurated a fleet of higher-speed trains that reduce down the journey between Athens and Thessaloniki from six hours to 4.
The Greek collision comes as the US is within the midst of a political firestorm over a path derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, that didn’t lead to any fatalities however unleashed poisonous chemical compounds into the air, water and floor.
An preliminary federal accident report discovered that, earlier than the derailment, two detectors designed to note overheated bearings didn’t go off as a result of the temperature hadn’t but exceeded a threshold set by the railroad. Because the prepare saved transferring, a 3rd detector triggered the warning, nevertheless it was too late to offer the crew sufficient time to cease earlier than the bearing failed and the prepare derailed.