New trains pose risk

Passengers may need to think twice about using the much-heralded new train link joining Thessaloniki with Istanbul, as some of the carriages used on the line contain asbestos and were withdrawn from France after being deemed responsible for several deaths, sources told Sunday’s Kathimerini. The Hellenic Railway Organization (OSE) recently purchased 21 carriages, to be used for night travel for its Balkan routes, from the French National Railway Company (SNCF). The carriages belonged to a lot withdrawn by SNCF more than five years ago when it was discovered that they contained asbestos, sources said. The French company has consequently been forced to pay compensation to some employees after they developed lung cancer. It has also paid out pensions at double normal rates, to widows whose spouses died after working to remove the hazardous material. In an attempt to find a solution, SNCF had the asbestos removed from the trains in 2002 but it still remains in the carriage’s insulation. The news of the deaths spread across the world, particularly within the railway sector, and OSE initially rejected purchasing the carriages in 2000. But it decided to go ahead with the deal five years later due to an increased need for night trains. Sources said that the latest recommendation made to OSE’s board did not make any mention of the asbestos, however, an attached 500-page report pointed out the problem. The purchase price of the 21 carriages was a very low 476,630 euros. The signed agreement also ensured that OSE waived any legal claims it may have against SNCF.

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