(Athens) Rail traffic in Greece will resume “gradually” from March 22, three weeks after the serious train accident of February 28 which killed 57 people, Transport Minister Georges Gerapetritis said on Tuesday.
Rail traffic, which had been interrupted after the head-on collision of two trains in Tempé, 350 km from Athens, “will gradually resume from March 22”, said Georges Gerapetritis quoted in a ministerial press release.
“When there is a global stoppage of trains, the recovery must be done gradually” for security reasons, said the minister.
He specified that traffic will resume first with “the intercity train [de passagers] which connects the port of Piraeus, near Athens, to the international airport” of the Greek capital, Eleftherios Venizelos, the freight train which connects Thriasio in the department of Attica to Thessaloniki (north) and regional trains in the north of the country.
On March 27, local trains connecting towns in Peloponnese (south-west) will resume circulation, while traffic on the Intercity passenger train which connects Athens and Thessaloniki, the country’s main line, will not resume until March 1.er april.
It was in the middle of this line near the city of Larissa (center) that the collision between a passenger train and a freight train had occurred, the worst accident recorded in Greece in recent years.
Additional security measures will be taken including two drivers in intercity trains and “three attendants instead of two so far in Intercity passenger trains between Athens and Thessaloniki”, added the minister.
The accident at Tempé has shocked Greece and sparked anger against the conservative government in power for four years, accused of neglecting the modernization of rail safety.
Qualified by the authorities as a “national tragedy”, this accident, whose victims were mainly young people, was mainly attributed to “an error” by the head of the Larissa station, who was charged and placed in pre-trial detention.
But it also revealed the “chronic pathologies” of the railways whose modernization of safety systems has not been completed by the governments of recent years.
Massive protests last week rocked the country where general elections are scheduled for early July.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis assumed “responsibility” for this accident, Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis resigned the day after the tragedy and was replaced by Georges Gerapetritis.
But experts, media and public opinion have pointed to the dysfunctions of the state weakened during the financial crisis of the last decade.
After a 24-hour strike in the public sector last Wednesday, public and private unions called for a new “general strike” on Thursday to demand “a thorough investigation into the causes of the accident and reveal those responsible”, according to a press release from the Confederation of Employees, GSEE.