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Politics

Greek Ministers Defended Unsafe Railways to Keep Selling Tickets

ATHENS – Following the head-on collision that killed 57 people, reports emerged that successive Greek governments had failed to implement necessary safety measures in the railways. Shockingly, it was revealed that the failures were known and overlooked to avoid discouraging people from using trains.

Just a few days before the disaster, then-Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis assured the public that the railway system was safe and even dismissed the opposition’s concerns as baseless. However, after visiting the site of the catastrophe, he resigned from his position. Despite an ongoing investigation, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has included Karamanlis on the party’s list of candidates for the upcoming elections, a move that may keep him in the public eye for some time to come.

Mitsotakis’ embarrassment is only growing as even pro-government media outlets are criticizing his administration for their failure to implement necessary safety measures, despite his attempts to shift some of the blame to previous governments.

Adding fuel to the fire, Development and Investment Minister Adonis Georgiadis drew negative attention during the period of mourning when he defended Karamanlis on a TV appearance, claiming that disclosing safety lapses would have discouraged travelers from purchasing tickets.

Social Europe published a critical piece that emphasized a series of errors, including rail workers unions warning just a few weeks before the disaster that a tragedy was imminent. These blunders ultimately led to the catastrophe.

A stationmaster admitted to making an error by allowing a passenger train carrying 350 people to travel on the same track as an oncoming cargo train on the route from Athens to Greece’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki. Many of the victims were students returning to universities in Thessaloniki.

The government formed a three-member panel to investigate the cause of the crash, but one had to step down immediately due to a conflict of interest. He had previously served as chief of the railways and had cut staff during his tenure, which rail workers say contributed to the collision.

Protests erupted in both Athens and Thessaloniki, resulting in clashes with riot police. The government has pledged to implement safety measures over the next eight months to allegedly make rail travel safe.

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