ATHENS – Greek trains will restart operations gradually as of March 22, beginning with the suburban railroad lines between Piraeus, Athens, and the International Airport, freight trains between Athens and Thessaloniki, and specific local lines in Greece, State Minister responsible for Infrastructure and Transport Giorgos Gerapetritis announced on Tuesday.
The Athens-Thessaloniki line – where the train collision occurred on February 28 that cost the lives of 57 people – will restart operating on April 1, Gerapetritis said.
The minister’s announcement came after a meeting earlier in the day between Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the heads of the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE), rail infrastructure management company ErgOSE, and train service providers Hellenic Train about restarting the railway system that has been suspended since the accident.
Among the measures the state minister announced were the obligatory presence of two stationmasters at each post, methods of communication between engine drivers and stationmasters, the reduction of train speed on segments of the lines that had no telesystem communications, and speeding up the hiring process of new staff.
“Restarting the railroad is necessary to restore the public’s trust,” Gerapetritis said. “In addition, the delay of a restart, even on a limited schedule, contains serious dangers of theft and/or sabotage. Finally, there is a most serious problem in commercial transport to neighboring countries.”
The minister said that restarting the system after a long break required a series of actions to provide the utmost safety, all of which fell under two parts: inspecting the infrastructure for rust, obstascles, breaks, and land subsidence, among others; and restarting gradually over a long time, starting with the greatest needs as related to working people, international obligations, and tourism, such as scenic train routes.
The inspection of lines will require around 4 days, he added, while the gradual restart of operations throughout Greece will be carried out in five phases, with each phase rolling out every five days as of March 22.
Measures also include upgrading the seriousness of crimes of theft and receipt of stolen material and providing support measures to families of individuals who have died in railroad accidents in the last ten years.
“I would like to point out that these measures comprise a transitional response of the state to the tragic event [at Tempi] so that citizens feel that this means of transportation in safe and they can use it,” Gerapetritis said. “It is obvious that when all the works are completed, hopefully by this fall, Greece will have a much more upgraded mechanical system of protection and security. Until then, these strict measures will apply and we, as Greek government, OSE, and ErgOSE will be truly on alert so that citizens can build trust and we can all move ahead to a substantial upgrade, which has unfortunately been lagging for decades.”