People demonstrate for safe transport in Athens, March 8, 2023.
Athens – The police in Athens today used tear gas against the radicals, who threw stones and Molotov cocktails at the police towards the end of the demonstration with the participation of about 40,000 people. This was reported by the AFP agency. About 15,000 people demonstrated today also in the second largest city of Greece, Thessaloniki. People took to the streets, as they have for a week, over the February 28 train crash that left 57 dead. Demonstrations for women's equal opportunities on their international holiday were added to the demonstrations for safe transport today. The new Minister of Transport, Jorgos Gerapetritis, also today announced measures to improve the safety of train transport, including immediate emergencies, so that rail traffic can be restored as soon as possible.
Photo gallery: Train crash in Greece
Life in Greece was also paralyzed today by the protests of a number of trade unions, which thus joined the weekly strike of railway employees, who blame the government for contributing to the train crash through austerity measures and laziness. Public transport in Athens, for example, was paralyzed from the morning, where some metro stations were also closed. But some trains left before noon so that people could get to the demonstrations. Trains are not running across the country, their operations have come to a standstill following last week's collision. The railway workers have been on strike ever since. Today, the ADEDA civil servants trade union also announced a 24-hour strike.
Transport Minister Gerapetritis, who took office last week after the resignation of his predecessor due to the tragic train crash, apologized again today to the survivors and to all Greeks for the fact that the government she could not prevent the accident. He emphasized that if the country had a functioning railway control and warning system, the accident would not have happened.
The trains ended up on the same track due to the mistake of the driver, who admitted responsibility and is in custody. He faces up to life in prison for endangering traffic safety. The daily Kathimerini wrote today that the investigators will probably accuse three other people in this connection, namely the inspector who assigned the station master to this position, although he did not have enough experience, and the station master, who had the afternoon shift and was supposed to stay until 11:00 p.m. but he went home early, and the manager responsible for distributing shifts.
Gerapetritis told reporters today that the government will accelerate the implementation of the contract on automatic control and signaling on the railway network. He added that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis contacted the head of the French company Alstom about this. This contract was already signed in 2014, but according to the Kathimerini newspaper, its implementation stopped due to the discovery of errors in deliveries in 2017 under the previous government. The Minister of Transport said today that in 2019 the new government, i.e. the government of Prime Minister Mitsotakis, tried to withdraw from the treaty, but finally signed its amendment in 2021.
The minister also said that the cabinet will introduce an immediate emergency security measures such as the allocation of two priorities to each train station, which, however, due to the lack of people, will probably mean the reduction of connections and possibly the temporary closure of some stations, i.e. fewer train stops.
“We want to restore rail traffic as soon as possible, I hope by the end of the month,” said the minister of transport, according to the Kathimerini newspaper.
The European Commission has also offered help with speeding up the modernization of the Greek railway network, according to the AMNA agency, representatives of the European Railway Agency are to meet in Athens today.