Train crash in Greece: a foreseeable disaster?

The weekend was marked by large demonstrations and also rioting in Athens, Thessaloniki and other Greek cities in reaction to a train crash in which 57 people were killed. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis initially blamed human error for the accident, but later apologised in a Facebook post for the dilapidated state of the railway.

Efimerida ton Syntakton (GR) /

The young tell the brutal truth

Efimerida ton Syntakton can well understand why young people in particular are so angry:

“Young people call crime ‘crime’ and murder ‘murder’ and demand justice. They speak the language of truth because we have left them no room for illusions or fairy tales. They are growing up in a country with a fettered economy, with no prospects, no way out. They have witnessed their country being sold off piece by piece, its infrastructure left to rot, its healthcare system broken and its education system eroded. ... They are growing up in families that are suffering under the burden of the economic crisis. ... They are the children who travel by train.”

Capital (GR) /

Only Mitsotakis can take the appropriate steps

The pro-government website Capital comments:

“Citizens are rightly taking to the streets to demand safe and modern transport and accountability for this tragedy. Beware, however, of the wily ones who use this as a pretext to demand etatism [and criticise privatisation]. Of course, the government also bears a great deal of responsibility for what happened. The current government could have been bolder and more resolute in combating the negative effects of etatism in the economy and society. But it is never too late to make decisions. And these decisions, which need courage and assertiveness, cannot be made by anyone other than Kyriakos Mitsotakis.”

Spyros Dimitrelis
Phileleftheros (CY) /

A scapegoat has already been found

Phileleftheros is outraged by the simplistic apportioning of blame:

“Grief turns to anger and rage. The stationmaster is under attack! Yes, he is clearly responsible. He’s already admitted his tragic mistake! How convenient for everyone. The victims’ relatives will vent their anger on him. The company will cover up any responsibility for the tragedy. ... The true responsibility lies with many though. And it has done so for years. For years the shortcomings, the problems, and the accumulated negligence have been sounding the alarm about an impending tragedy. In essence, this is a huge crime. ... It is not only the stationmaster who is guilty. ... It is the criminal negligence of the various respective governments.”

Giorgos Kallinikou
Kathimerini (GR) /

Decades of failures

Kathimerini is appalled by the conditions on the railway line:

“Kilometre-long sections without signals, communication using mobile telephone systems that don’t work in tunnels. A 20,000 euro car has a warning system. A smartphone can track the route of a ship at any point on the sea... Modern navigation systems were purchased from 2000 on, one hears, but they never worked. And all this on the country’s one major railway line with a handful of branch lines. ... One wonders how all those people who have failed over the last twenty years in their duty to create conditions that could have prevented such a serious accident will be able to live with the burden of guilt.”

Takis Theodoropoulos
The Guardian (GB) /

Not the first victims

The question of why the Greek rail network is so unsafe must be addressed, The Guardian comments:

“Greece’s rail safety record has been the worst in the EU over the past decade, according to statistics from the EU railway agency — although this is easily skewed by its small network, about 2% of the UK’s size. A high proportion of deaths have been track workers rather than passengers. The Greek rail operator Trainose was privatised in 2017 — as part of reforms imposed alongside the EU bailout of Greece. ... Although there is no evidence of what caused the crash, some in Greece are already asking questions about the financing, staffing and maintenance of the railway.”

Gwyn Topham
Naftemporiki (GR) /

Anachronistic technology

The conditions at the Hellenic Railways Organisation are untenable, Naftemporiki fumes:

“In the age of drones, satellites, the Internet, digitalisation, AI, robotics and UFO balloons, the OSE failed to notice that two trains were speeding towards a head-on collision. ... In the age of the digitalisation of the public sector, the OSE insists on manually regulating train services on two lines. In the age of e-books, smartphones, tablets, electronic signatures, telematics and teleworking, OSE stationmasters keep manual logbooks. This is the modern OSE, these are the modern investors, the Greek state, which, no matter how much it is modernised, will always be slow, anachronistic, rusty and detested.”

Platonas Tsoulos
Infowar (GR) /

Infrastructure deliberately neglected

Infowar sees the disaster as a direct consequence of the privatisation process:

“The period before privatisation often sees the most rapid deterioration of state infrastructure because the governments that want to sell it off systematically devalue it to show the world that ‘the state can’t manage it’. This has been the case with the Hellenic Railways Organisation for years, with several successive governments preparing for privatisation. Such a disastrous state of affairs is very difficult to reverse after privatisation.”