Greece demands answers in wake of deadly train crash disaster

The fallout in the wake of the disaster has been widespread in Greece. Watch ITV News' reporter Rhys Williams' special report

It was the worst train crash in Greece’s history. Fifty seven people died when a late-night high-speed service collided head-on with a freight train in central Greece following a holiday weekend in February.

The local station master was arrested and the country’s transport minister resigned immediately after the crash, but the tragedy has turned into a wider debate about the legacy of Greece’s debilitating sovereign debt crisis.

Many believe that drastic cuts to public spending led to the failure of successive governments to fix and upgrade the railway system, with industry leaders claiming this was an “accident waiting to happen.”

Protests erupted in all of Greece’s major cities, and mass strikes brought the country to a halt, with all trains cancelled for a month.

Demonstrators hold a banner that reads "murderers" in Greek during a protest for victims of the rail disaster. Credit: AP

The Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, also decided to postpone the parliamentary election due this week.

His ruling party had been on course for a majority but polls show its popularity has suffered.

With a lack of modern automatic signaling and fail-safes, train drivers had to rely solely on information from station masters, leaving Greece’s busiest train corridor extremely vulnerable to individual human error.

It allowed the passenger and freight trains to be on the same section of track for an estimated 12 minutes before they crashed.

Following the tragedy there were protests in all of Greece’s major cities, criticising the state, including in Thessaloniki.

Strikes brought the country’s transport network to a halt, with all trains cancelled for a month.

Drone footage captured the extent of the devastating crash in February

Many of those on the train were young people taking advantage of cheaper late-night tickets.

One of them was Iphigenia Mitska. She was only 23 years old.

Her sister, Christina, told me Iphigenia had been celebrating graduating from University with a weekend away in Athens.

It was the very first time she’d travelled by train.

Christina and the rest of Iphigenia’s family are angry, they feel the crash was avoidable.

Christina Mitska, who lost her sister in the deadly crash, speaks to ITV News reporter Rhys Williams. Credit: ITV News

Stavros Konstantinidis, a transport engineer and former head of Greece’s Civil Aviation Authority agrees.

He says the responsibility lies with numerous political parties “over a number of different years,” and argues that there is a need for an “urgent, drastic and radical reform and reorganisation” of the system.

We asked the Greek Government for a response, but they chose not to comment.

The authorities are now rushing to complete a remote signalling system by September, in line with international safety standards - but for many, it’s not enough.

With a general election now set for mid-May, whoever gains power has much to do.

The crash has exposed serious problems with critical infrastructure that need addressing quickly, but after such a dreadful tragedy, and with a nation still in mourning, they will first need to regain the trust of the Greek people.

  • Watch the full story on ITV1's On Assignment at 11.05pm on Tuesday, April 25

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