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Greek rail inspector held over train disaster

#Greek #rail #inspector #held #train #disaster

A Greek rail inspector was detained on Friday, a court official said, as authorities investigate last month’s head-on train collision that killed 57 people and shocked the country.

Identified as 63-year-old Dimitris Nikolaou, he was on duty at the time of the accident on February 28, when a passenger train and a freight train rammed into each other.

The inspector, who was charged with the crime of negligent homicide and endangering public transport, is the second rail worker to be detained in the probe of Greece’s deadliest train disaster. 

The stationmaster on duty near the site of the crash has also been charged and jailed, after admitting to being partially responsible for the crash.

Two other rail employees were taken in for questioning and charged in connection with the disaster, but were released on bail earlier this week.

The collision occurred after the trains ran along the main railway line between Athens and Thessaloniki, in the Tempe Valley of Thessaly, central Greece, without any alarms being sounded.

Over 350 people were onboard the two trains, including dozens of students returning to Thessaloniki after a long Carnival weekend.

– Promises to improve –

The crash prompted weeks of service shutdowns nationwide amid angry protests against a government accused of under-funding the network.

At the peak of the demonstrations, more than 65,000 people took to the streets nationwide demanding accountability.

Many Greeks have been alarmed at the decay of public services amid large-scale privatisation, including passenger and freight trains, to pay off debts stemming from the country’s 2009-2018 debt crisis.

Railway unions had long warned the network needed significant investments and hiring after a decade of spending cuts that has raised the risk of accidents.

Greece’s rail watchdog said after the collision that it had found serious safety problems across the network, including inadequate basic training for critical staff.

The tragedy is set to weigh heavily on national elections set for May 21, with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis seeking re-election on pledges of safety improvements.

Greece’s transport minister Kostas Karamanlis, who resigned within hours of the disaster, acknowledged that government efforts to improve conditions over the last three and a half years “were sadly not enough to prevent such an accident”.

The country’s police chief was also dismissed in the wake of clashes between security forces and demonstrators protesting the government’s management of the rail network.

Mitsotakis has vowed to in particular to install electronic safety systems by the end of September if re-elected.

“We are here to correct (mistakes),” he said Tuesday.

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