Another asbestos scare for railways

Following reports last week – and confirmed by independent tests – that Greek train carriages being used on Balkan routes contained asbestos, Sunday’s Kathimerini has obtained official documents showing that the gravel laid under railway tracks on at least one line contained a substantial amount of the carcinogenic material as well. The results of a test carried out by the Institute of Geology and Mineral Exploration (IGME) and concluded in December 2003 were obtained by Sunday’s Kathimerini. They indicate that a large batch of gravel supplied to the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) by a quarry in the prefecture of Magnesia over the previous few years contained asbestos levels of up to 20 percent. The report makes it clear that the presence of asbestos could pose a problem for the health of workers at the quarry and recommended further inspections on the use of the gravel. Since then, the quarry has been shut down, following a campaign by local residents and media. The gravel is thought to have been used in the Palaiofarsala-to-Kalabaka line in central Greece, although some sources indicate that it might have been laid under tracks on the Athens-to-Corinth line as well as on the Athens suburban railway. The local authorities, OSE, the Public Works and Development ministries were all aware that the gravel in question contained asbestos, according to the documents seen by Sunday’s Kathimerini. On Thursday, experts said that asbestos was used on the inside of 21 carriages bought by OSE from France.

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