Three weeks after the cessation of train traffic following the rail disaster in Greece, traffic partially resumed on Wednesday March 22.
Only some intercity lines around Athens are back in service for passenger traffic, according to data from the railway company Hellenic Train, in particular that linking Piraeus, a large port near Athens, to the Elefthérios Venizélos international airport, 40 kilometers from the capital. Early Wednesday afternoon, a dozen passengers were waiting on the platform for the train to the airport, which is very popular with both tourists and residents of the Attica region around the Greek capital.
The line where the fatal frontal collision between a passenger train and a freight convoy took place on February 28 in Tempé will not be put back into service until February 1.er April, according to the new transport minister, George Gerapetritis. It is the country’s main line, 600 kilometers long and connecting Athens to Thessaloniki, Greece’s second city, in the north.
Freight train traffic that provides commercial transit between Greece and central Europe will not resume until the end of March, according to the authorities. The restoration of all regular routes must take place within five weeks, assured the minister last week.
On board trains on Wednesday, questions about the reliability of the service remained numerous, while the Tempé disaster, which killed 57 people, revealed malfunctions in the dilapidated safety systems of the railways. “We are called to move on to the day after the tragic event that has shaken us all”, declared Panayiotis Terezakis, the new director general of the Public Railways Organization (OSE) who had replaced his predecessor who was sacked a few days after the tragedy. He assured that he would “everything that is humanly possible to regain the confidence of passengers” And “put the country’s trains back into service”.
George Gerapetritis promised additional safety measures last week, including two drivers on intercity trains and “three assistants instead of two so far on Intercity passenger trains between Athens and Thessaloniki”.
Attributed mainly to an error by the station master on duty that evening, this accident, the worst that Greece has known, also revealed certain negligence on the part of the State in the modernization of train safety systems. Rail transport in Greece is relatively undeveloped, comprising only around 2,100 kilometers of track. A dense network of coaches serves the main towns and villages of the country.
The day after the accident, then transport minister Kostas Karamanlis resigned. Large, often violent, angry protests have rocked Athens and other cities since the disaster, pointing the finger at successive Greek governments for neglecting train safety. Under pressure, the Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, announced Tuesday evening that the general elections would be held in May without however specifying the exact date.