Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Thursday 1 June 2023 Dublin: 14°C
People hold candles to mourn victims of a train crash in Syntagma Square in Athens, Greece, yesterday.
# Train Collision
Greek station master's court date delayed as protests continue over train crash
Thousands of protesters have demonstrated across the country since Tuesday’s collision which killed at least 57 people.

LAST UPDATE | Mar 4th 2023, 12:58 PM

THE STATION MANAGER involved in Greece’s worst-ever train disaster had his court appearance postponed by a day as the country braced for more mass protests over the crash that killed at least 57 people.

Thousands of protesters have demonstrated across the nation since Tuesday’s collision between a passenger train and a freight train, with public anger mounting over government failure to manage the rail network.

More demonstrations are expected in several major cities today, and a large rally of students and railway employees is set for tomorrow in the capital’s Syntagma Square, adjacent to parliament.

“What happened was not an accident, it was a crime,” said Sophia Hatzopoulou, 23, a philosophy student in Thessaloniki.

“We can’t watch all this happen and remain indifferent.”

The train was carrying many students returning from a holiday weekend and at least nine young people studying at Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University were among the dead, while another 26 others were injured.

greece-tempi-train-collision Xinhua News Agency / PA Images This aerial photo taken on 1 March shows the scene of a collision of two trains at Tempi municipality, Greece. Xinhua News Agency / PA Images / PA Images

The station master at Larissa, central Greece, has admitted responsibility for the accident, which saw the two trains run along the same track for several kilometres.

The 59-year-old was due to appear in court today, where he could face charges of negligent homicide but will now appear tomorrow, his lawyer said. He risks life in jail if found guilty, but his lawyer has argued that other factors were at play.

“In the case, there are important new elements that need to be examined,” his lawyer Stefanos Pantzartsidis said.

Public broadcaster ERT reported the station master had been appointed to the post only 40 days earlier – and after just three months’ training.

The man, whose identity has not been made public, was apparently alone at the station without any supervisor, according to the Kathimerini Daily, despite it being a holiday weekend with high demand and heavy rail traffic.

Police raid

Legal sources suggested that investigators were considering criminal charges against members of the management of train operator Hellenic Train, which took over network operations in 2017.

Police seized audio files and other items during a raid on the Larissa train station in central Greece, where the crash happened, a judicial source told AFP.

Thousands gathered outside the Athens headquarters of operators Hellenic Train to protest at decades of failure to improve rail network safety, despite close calls in past years.

“Murderers!” the crowd cried out, with some protesters daubing the word on the building’s glass facade in red.

Hundreds of people observed a minute of silence outside the Greek parliament, but riot police and a small group of protesters later clashed in central Athens.

At the rally in Syntagma Square, officers fired tear gas and stun grenades at protesters throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, an AFP reporter said.

greece-train-accident-protests Eurokinissi Protesters on Wednesday try to avoid tear gas thrown by riot police in front of the Greek Parliament, in Athens. Eurokinissi

A similar number demonstrated in Thessaloniki – Greece’s second largest city – where police had reported clashes on Thursday with demonstrators throwing stones and petrol bombs.

Greece’s train services were paralysed on Thursday by striking workers arguing that successive administrations’ mismanagement of the network had contributed to the fatal collision.

That strike continued into Friday and was set to last another 48 hours.

‘Complete evaluation’ 

Survivors described scenes of horror and chaos. Some relatives were still desperately awaiting news of missing loved ones.

The clean-up operation continued Saturday with technical crews shifting through scattered debris and removing train carriages from the site.

Roubini Leontari, the chief coroner at Larissa’s general hospital, told ERT on Thursday more than 10 people were still unaccounted for, including two Cypriots.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who is seeking re-election this spring, has blamed the disaster on “tragic human error”.

But rail unions say safety problems on the Athens-Thessaloniki railway line had been known for years.

For decades, Greece’s 2,552-kilometre rail network has been plagued by mismanagement, poor maintenance and obsolete equipment.

After the transport minister resigned on Wednesday, his replacement, Giorgos Gerapetritis, vowed a “complete evaluation of the political system and the state”.

Safety systems on the line are still not fully automated, five years after the state-owned Greek rail operator TrainOSE was privatised and sold to Italy’s Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane and became Hellenic Train.

© AFP 2023 

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment

    Leave a commentcancel