Greece train crash: Rail workers strike as anger over crash grows

Rail workers across Greece have begun a one-day strike after Tuesday’s train crash which killed at least 46 people.

“Pain has turned into anger for the dozens of dead and wounded colleagues and fellow citizens,” the workers’ union said in a statement.

The walkout follows protests in Athens, Thessaloniki and the city of Larissa, near the site of the disaster.

Rescue workers are still going through burned and buckled carriages, searching for victims.

This was the “most difficult moment”, rescuer Konstantinos Imanimidis told Reuters news agency, because “instead of saving lives, we have to recover bodies”.

The incident happened just before midnight on Tuesday. A passenger train carrying 350 people collided with a freight train after both ended up on the same track – causing the front carriages to burst into flames.

The railway workers’ strike began at 0600 local time (0400 GMT), affecting national rail services and the subway in Athens.

Many in Greece see the crash as an accident waiting to happen, and the union blamed successive governments’ “disrespect” towards Greek railways for leading to this “tragic result”.

A 59-year-old station master in Larissa has been charged with manslaughter by negligence and is due to appear in court on Thursday. He has admitted to having a share of responsibility in the accident, his lawyer Stefanos Pantzartzidis said outside the courthouse.

“He is literally devastated. Since the first moment, he has assumed responsibility proportionate to him,” Mr Pantzartzidis said, hinting that the station master, who has not been publicly named, was not the only one to blame.

The country’s transport minister has resigned over the incident, saying he would take responsibility for the authorities’ “long-standing failures” to fix a railway system that was not fit for the 21st Century.

Meanwhile, the government has promised an independent investigation that it promises will deliver justice.

But Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s suggestion that “tragic human error” was to blame has caused anger.

Government spokesman Giannis Oikonomous said in a press conference that authorities shared in people’s sorrow, and promised to carry out investigations and to fix the country’s outdated rail network.

He said “chronic delays” in implementing rail projects were rooted in “distortions” in the country’s public sector going back decades, adding that the government has tried to deal with this but “did not manage to eradicate it”.

On Wednesday, rioters clashed with police outside the headquarters of Hellenic Train in Athens – the headquarters of the company responsible for maintaining Greece’s railways.

Tear gas was used to disperse protesters, who threw stones and lit fires in the streets.

At a silent vigil in Larissa to commemorate the victims of the incident, one demonstrator said he felt the disaster had been long coming.

“The rail network looked problematic, with worn down, badly paid staff,” Nikos Savva, a medical student from Cyprus, told AFP news agency.

The station master arrested should not pay the price “for a whole ailing system”, he added.

“This is an inadmissible accident. We’ve known this situation for 30 years,” Costas Bargiotas, a doctor based in Larissa, told AFP.


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