Myriad questions but no evidence yet for cause of Greece train crash

Investigation may uncover signalling or human error, but some are already propounding the role of railway privatisation

By Gwyn Topham
Mar 1, 2023

The horrific crash involving a passenger train and a freight train in Greece is the worst in a decade on Europe’s railways, with dozens killed in a high-speed, head-on collision.

Initial pictures seem to make clear that both trains were travelling on the same track, crashing head-on just after the passenger train from Athens to Thessaloniki passed under a road bridge.

A standard speed for trains on the lines would be up to 125mph, less for freight trains, and one witness said the northbound passenger train was travelling at about 100mph. The damage from a head-on collision at such speeds is clear – while several carriages were visibly burned and derailed, the leading two, the regional governor said, “no longer exist”.

At time of writing, there was no evidence made public as to what caused the crash, but a clear question for investigators will be whether the signalling was functioning properly, or whether human error or other circumstances left two trains on the same tracks on a double-tracked line.

Although much of Greece’s small railway network has been closed, it has invested in the major rail artery between Athens and Thessaloniki, and the trains were travelling on what appears to be a well-maintained stretch of the electrified mainline.

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Greek train crash: anger grows as officials admit rail network problems

By Helena Smith in Athens
2 Mar 2023

Thousands of Greeks have taken to the streets for a second day of protests as anger mounts over the loss of life in Tuesday night’s head-on train crash.

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Braving torrential rain and thunder, demonstrators marched from the office headquarters of Hellenic Train in Athens to the Greek parliament, chanting “this crime will not be forgotten”.

Many were as young as the vast majority of those killed in the collision between a passenger train and a freight train. Of the 57 confirmed dead so far, almost all were students. Late on Thursday, authorities announced that another 56 people on the passenger list were still missing.

“They’ll try to cover it up but we’re not going to let them,” said Stelios Dormarazoglou, pulling his hood tight around his head and shouting “the dead will become one voice, their blood will pursue you”.

He said: “Everyone knows that if the Greek state had wanted, this accident could have been prevented. My own son worked on upgrading the signalling system – nine years ago. Ever since it’s been stalled because companies are only ever interested in profits.”

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