Questions about the safety of Greece’s trains

Doubts have been raised about the safety of train travel in Greece by the staff unions of the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) who claim trains are insufficiently maintained (just half of all rolling stock are in service), are lacking staff, have insufficient training for personnel and lack spare parts and equipment. Unionists say the Hellenic Railways Organization’s rolling stock (wagons and engines) are not being maintained at all, while management is planning to call for tenders after Easter for new stock budgeted at 1.1 billion euros, although it has not provided for the maintenance of either the old or the projected new equipment. OSE staff claim many trains now in circulation are long past their retirement dates and have not been serviced. General services are as important as those carried out on aircraft and are considered essential for the safety of the trains. Staff admit that in most cases any maintenance that does take place is not recorded in detail. Lack of servicing has resulted in about half of the freight engines being taken out of circulation, forcing management to rent others. OSE has 1,800 positions for specialized maintenance staff but at present only 1,500 of those are filled due to transfers to cover shortages elsewhere. Yet even the existing staff do not appear to be following international rules regarding ongoing training. Staff members claim that OSE does not have even one instructor on hand at stations or workshops. The major problem concerns trains with newer technology, about 40 of which are on the OSE network and 70 on the suburban rail. A result of the staff shortages is the fact that many engines on the Athens-Thessaloniki run have a maximum kilometer limit of 1.2 million kilometers but have already reached 1.7 million without having been serviced. Staff say only 11 engines of a total of 26 of this type have been serviced. Freight engines have also been neglected; out of the 28 in the Peloponnese network, only 18 are in circulation, as repair work takes up to two years. To cover the shortfall, management is to lease about 10 freight engines. Intercity trains As for spare parts, eight of the 18 intercity trains are out of action for lack of spare parts and equipment, so there are no back up trains that could help prevent delays during summer. On the Peloponnese network, a 30 percent reduction in maintenance has immobilized seven of the 10 intercity trains, and five of the 10 smaller MAN trains. OSE staff also believe that a major issue, apart from the 50 percent reduction in inspections, is the fact that no records are made of maintenance and servicing, something that affects the value of the equipment. These inspections last from just a few hours up to two days and then the state of the trains is recorded on special forms. This procedure, according to staff, has been ignored for the past eight months.

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