NEWS

Rail accidents were ‘kept secret’

Dozens of extra trains left Athens for towns and villages across Greece yesterday but sources revealed that the debt-ridden Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) is failing to keep any official statistics for the number of accidents that take place on its tracks. Sources told Kathimerini that over the last month there have been seven accidents or close calls that have not been officially reported but were allegedly kept secret by OSE. One of these incidents included a signaling problem at the Doxara station near Larissa two months ago which almost led to an Athens-to-Thessaloniki train taking the wrong track. Four similar incidents had occurred in this area over the previous six months. In February, a Proastiakos suburban railway train that was not carrying any passengers derailed at Athens International Airport just before arriving at the terminus. Another four derailments occurred during the first three months of this year, including one in which 28 people were injured. The European Railway Agency (ERA), a body set up by the European Union to increase the cross-border compatibility of national systems and to ensure that safety standards are met, is said to have repeatedly contacted OSE to ask for detailed statistics about safety on its lines but has not received any response so far. OSE employees said that many of the accidents are due to human error but they also highlighted the fact that engineering work has been going on for some time in the Larissa area, causing technical problems for trains and station masters. «The most serious incidents occur at points where the new and old signaling systems exist side by side,» Andreas Vassilopoulos, a member of the Panhellenic Federation of Railway Workers (POS) told Kathimerini. «It is also quite common for stations to open and close [without warning], causing confusion among employees.» POS also claims that railway workers who are responsible for safety issues are being overworked, often putting in 12-hour days or working 30 days a month.