Greek train drivers call for improved safety before going back to work

Greek train drivers call for improved safety before going back to work
Credit: Belga

The Greek railway drivers’ union, PEPE, called on Tuesday for increased safety measures ahead of the planned resumption of railway traffic, halted since the 28 February accident that killed 57 people.

In a letter to operator Hellenic Train, the union called for better monitoring of level crossings, improved tunnel lighting, data on bridge inspections and track cleaning, especially the removal of debris and vegetation.

“We believe that if these issues are not resolved, services will not be able to resume in areas” affected by these problems, the union said.

The government announced last week that rail services suspended after the 28 February tragedy “would be gradually restored” from Wednesday until mid-April.

The accident, Greece’s worst ever, sparked widespread angry, sometimes violent, protests and dealt a blow to the popularity of Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ conservative government ahead of elections due by early July.

Greece’s transport minister resigned in the aftermath of the disaster, but responsibility for the accident was attributed mostly to the station manager on duty at the time of the crash. He has been charged and remanded into custody. Three other railway employees have been prosecuted and will be heard by the end of the month by an investigating judge.

But railway unions had long warned of the network’s problems, noting its underfunding, staff shortages and frequent accidents.

The drivers’ union, moreover, recalled that it had repeatedly sounded the alarm about safety shortcomings, and lamented that these warnings had been “downplayed or not taken seriously.”

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