Reckless savings

The recent revelations regarding a fleet of 21 asbestos-lined train carriages procured by the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) are really the last straw. First of all, it is outrageous that the carriages were purchased from a lot withdrawn by the French National Railway Company (SNCF) following the discovery that they contained carcinogenic asbestos. But the state’s attempt at hushing up the whole incident, and then misleading the public after the whole agreement was exposed in last Sunday’s Kathimerini, only adds insult to injury. Also, it is surprising that Transport Minister Michalis Liapis – OSE’s chief on the political stage – failed to make a public statement following the revelations, to accept responsibility on behalf of the ministry as the «supervisory authority,» to dismiss OSE’s management, or at least to call for an urgent legal investigation… But the most worrying aspect of this whole affair is the fact that the state had evidently been fully aware of the risk posed by the asbestos-lined carriages well in advance. State officials had first embarked upon talks aimed at procuring the carriages from SNCF in 1999, but they had abandoned negotiations after learning about the asbestos problem. In 2002, OSE officials made another proposal to SNCF for the procurement of the same carriages. The third attempt to acquire the carriages, last November, was «successful» after the contract ensured that OSE had waived any legal claims it may have against SNCF…

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