Trains in Europe regarded as safe mode of transport

The number of people killed in rail accidents in the European Union has drastically decreased over the last 10 years, according to Eurostat.

Specifically, fatalities posted a reduction of some 45% between 2010 and 2021 and trains are usually regarded as a safe mode of transportation.

However, it should be emphasized that the data for 2019-2021 coincided with less travel due to the pandemic.

The number of suicides on railways in 2021 (2,234) far exceeded the number of accident victims.

Tellingly, train passengers were only a small portion of these deaths from rail accidents. From 2010 to 2021 for which statistics are available, only a small proportion of 1-5% of fatalities were passengers, while in 2021 the figure was just five across the EU.

The low number of fatalities in Greece in recent years is related to the limited rail network and will obviously be much higher when this year’s figures are published.

The government on Friday announced the formation of the committee of experts to investigate this week’s killer train collision without, however, the consensus of opposition parties.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had tasked new Transport Minister Giorgos Gerapetritis to set up the committee immediately upon assuming his new duties.

The statement concluded that the causes must be investigated by the “competent authorities.”

For its part, PASOK also refused to enter into a discussion on the composition of the committee for two reasons: firstly, since, according to party sources, the prime minister has already concluded with his announcement that it is a human error and, secondly, the committee has not been classified as an inter-party committee, so there is no reason to get involved.

The government said on Friday the special committee will “investigate and highlight the systemic problems and malfunctions that led to the Tempe rail tragedy.”

The committee has three members – Ioannis Konstantinos Chalkias, honorary president of the State Legal Council (chairman), Athanasios Ziliaskopoulos, professor of transport and production in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Thessaly, and Vassilios Profillidis, professor of transport engineering at the Democritus University of Thrace.

V.S., 59, became a station master in one of the Greek railway network’s most important railway station’s Larissa, after a short training program that started in August 2022 and ended in January.

Just 35 days into his new job, the disastrous railway crash, the deadliest in Greece’s history, happened in Tempe, with him largely responsible for the decisions taken at the moment.

On Saturday afternoon, he will appear before a magistrate in Larissa to answer multiplecharges of negligent homicide and injury.

V.S. was hired by Hellenic Railways in February 1989. In Spring 2011, with Greece already deep into the financial crisis and mandated by its creditors to cut personnel in several state agencies, including the railways, he asked for a transfer to another state agency, making use of a just voted law on personnel mobility.

His application was submitted on April 27, 2011. Five days later, on May 2, he was transferred to a desk job at the Ministry of Education’s Primary Education Division in Larissa, which oversees the regional unit’s kindergartens and primary schools. Maybe the fact that his wife is a primary school teacher in Larissa influenced his decision to join this particular agency.

Eleven years later, in April 2022, he asked to be transferred back to Hellenic Railways. The company, short on personnel, had wanted to hire 18 station masters, again through the personnel mobility system.

V.S. was accepted into the station master trainee program in June. Eight more civil servants were transferred to Hellenic Railways; one more to be trained as a station master and the rest in technical and administrative support positions. For transferred personnel, the maximum age of 42 for hirings in Hellenic Railways is waived.

Larissa station master was new to the job

Station master training started in August with theory lessons, completed on October 22. In the practical training phase, V.S. was posted in all five stations of the Larissa administrative region, or “inspectorate” in company parlance and duly completed training on January 23; he noted this in a Facebook post.

Again, he was posted in all inspectorate stations before returning to Larissa a few days before the fatal accident.

When arrested, he initially denied responsibility in a preliminary hearing before acknowledging it; on Saturday, at 2 p.m. he is set to fave the examining magistrate and a prosecutor.



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