Fatal train crash in Greece was “a crime waiting to happen”

The tragedy in Tempe was not something that came like a bolt out of the blue.

There have long been indications that a very dangerous situation has developed in rail transport, both for passengers and for workers. There were numerous warnings from workers that it was only a matter of time before a serious accident occurred, which were apparently ignored by the government and the company.

This is confirmed by the complaints about the poorly maintained network, about shortcomings and gaps in safety systems, staffing and critical infrastructure such as signage. Therefore, this is not “bad luck” but a crime that was bound to happen, having causes and culprits.

Late in the evening of February 28, two trains, one passenger and one cargo, collided head-on near the city of Larissa, resulting in the injury and the tragic loss of dozens of people.

Dimitris Koutsoumbas, General Secretary of the KKE (Commnist Party of Greece), called it a day of “unspeakable sorrow…but also of anger.” The Party says the crash was a crime waiting to happen and is demanding a full investigation into the causes of the tragedy.

“This is a crime that happened after years of initially “liberalizing” and then privatizing railways in Greece, under the responsibility of all the governments of ND, PASOK and SYRIZA. The latter was even the one that reached and voted for the agreement to privatize TrainOSE and sell it to the Italian monopoly Ferrovie in 2017.”

Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane is Italy’s huge state-owned rail corporation, which also manages transport and other infrastructure in countries throughout Europe. Ferrovie made profits of €193 million in 2021 (about $280 million CDN) and it receives an annual subsidy of €50 million from the Greek government.

This is the result of longtime policy of railway liberalization, state underfunding, the fragmentation of the railway system into many parts and the privatization of the former TrainOSE (Greece’s railway). Under its framework, workers have been made redundant, flexible working conditions and intensification have been imposed on those who remain, and the Italian company has been heavily subsidized.

“Communist trade unionists in the railways have been sounding the alarm about the situation through successive statements,” said Koutsoumbas. “The most recent one was issued on 7 February 2023, where they pointed out that ‘It is now outrageous that these incidents are almost a daily occurrence and that no substantial measures are taken, no improvements in infrastructure and operation are initiated, no control is exercised over the actors involved and no responsibilities are sought. Like previous governments, the current one has other priorities and not the safe movement of citizens. They perceive safety as a cost.’”

Most of the victims in the train accident were university students, returning to their place of study from a short holiday.

On March 1, the students’ unions in Athens, Thessaloniki and Larissa held silent demonstrations outside the company’s offices at the railway stations, with the slogan “Our dead – their profits.”

In Athens, police attacked the students and tried to disperse them with tear gas. The students marched to Parliament, with police following them and continuing their attempt to disperse them through chemical attacks.

PV staff, with files from KKE Press Office

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