March 30, 2023

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Train disaster in Greece: Station master’s trial begins, fresh protests

Train disaster in Greece: Station master’s trial begins, fresh protests

Anger has not abated in Greece, where a large rally is planned for Sunday morning in Athens to commemorate the 57 people killed this week in a train crash near Larissa, where the station master in question is preparing to stand trial.

Students, railway and public sector workers gathered at Syntagma Square opposite Parliament at 11am (0900 GMT) on Sunday to demonstrate. For their part, the families of the victims plan to gather near the site of the tragedy at Tempe Station five days after the disaster.

On Sunday, the trial of the 59-year-old station master, who allegedly committed a fatal error that led to the accident on Tuesday evening, was also held, after being postponed to Saturday by the Greek courts.

The investigating judge in Larissa, the closest city to the tragedy, will have to decide at the end of this trial whether he is charged with “manslaughter by negligence”.

The anger that followed the disaster has not subsided, and hundreds of demonstrators gathered peacefully in Athens and Thessaloniki on Saturday at the call of the Communist Youth League.

The man, who has not been identified, had just 40 days of training to become a station master.

According to a judicial source, the investigation also aims to “initiate criminal proceedings, if necessary,” against members of Hellenic Rail’s management of Greek Railways.

It was the third worst train accident in Europe in the past 25 years, after a 1991 train derailment in Germany that killed 101 and a 2013 train crash in Spain that killed 80.

– alone and inexperienced –

Justice seeks to understand how an inexperienced station master found himself alone at the Larissa station for four days, with no one to supervise him, when train traffic on the line was heavy due to a long holiday weekend, according to Kadhimerini newspaper. .

The raid was conducted at Larissa station on Friday.

The government has also decided to appoint a team of experts to investigate the causes of the accident.

Since the day after the disaster, Greeks have taken to the streets to express their anger, pointing to the negligence of the authorities and the dilapidated state of the railway infrastructure.

The burial of the victims began with great emotion.

The tragedy particularly shocked Greece, as many young students who had returned from a long weekend in Thessaloniki, a large university city in the north, were affected.

Outbursts of anger led to clashes in Athens and Thessaloniki. On Friday evening, the police used tear gas and stun grenades in both these cities.

– “Assassins!” –

Anger is directed primarily at the Hellenic train. The word “murderers” was painted in red letters on the window of the headquarters in Athens, in front of which more than 5,000 angry people gathered on Friday to demand accountability.

The company has been implicated for several acts of negligence and lapses that led to the disaster, described as a “national tragedy” by officials.

He defended himself on Saturday evening, insisting he was “on the scene in the first moment” and “set up a call center (…) to provide information”.

The company promised to manage only passenger and freight traffic, while the Greek Public Railway Company (OSE) was responsible for the network and therefore its maintenance and modernization.

Union representatives at Hellenic Railways sounded the alarm three weeks ago: “We are not going to wait for an accident to see those responsible shed crocodile tears”.

Young Greeks are demanding the truth despite the government’s media culpa about the “chronic” failures of the rail network that led to the crash.

“We are filled with rage and cannot accept that such a tragic event could happen in 2023,” said student union president Angelos Thomopoulos.

Trains did not run on Thursday and Friday following a strike call by railway unions. The call was renewed for another 48 hours on Friday. The Athens Metro also planned to strike again on Sunday after the first strike on Thursday.

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