After train collision that killed 57, railway service in Greece gradually resumes

FILE - Greek Prime Ministers Kyriakos Mitsotakis looks on as he waits for the arrival of Cyprus' new President Nikos Christodoulides before their meeting in Athens, on March 13, 2023. Prime Minister Mitsotakis late Tuesday, March 22, said he would hold elections in May a month later than initially expected but did not give an exact date. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File)

(Petros Giannakouris / Associated Press)

After train collision that killed 57, railway service in Greece gradually resumes

March 22, 2023

Train services in Greece resumed Wednesday for the first time since a deadly rail disaster three weeks ago and just a day after the embattled conservative prime minister announced early elections for May.

The Feb. 28 head-on collision, the deadliest in the countrys history, killed 57 people and left dozens injured, with nine still hospitalized. The collision between a passenger train on the Athens-Thessaloniki route and an oncoming freight carrier highlighted long-standing problems with systems to monitor network safety.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whose center-right government has been struggling to regain its footing after the crash, said late Tuesday that elections would be held in May a month later than initially expected but he did not give an exact date.

Greece must hold elections by July, when the governments term expires.

Since the crash, the government’s lead in opinion polls has fallen by roughly half, to as little as three points over its main left-wing rival.

It was a tragedy that should never have happened. It is inconceivable to think that in Greece in 2023 there could be two trains on the same track, traveling in opposite directions, and that no one realized it, Mitsotakis said in an interview with Alpha television that also discussed the election date.

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I believe people, while feeling anger and rage, understand that this accident resulted from the sum of mistakes made over many decades,” he said. “We now have an obligation to deal with them drastically. … We feel a heavy responsibility.

National and suburban train services restarted only along limited sections of the rail network, with additional train and station staff and compulsory speed-reduction points at areas where the potential for a collision is considered higher.

The first train of the day was the 4:45 a.m. service from Athens to Inoi, 37 miles to the north. The suburban rail service from Athens to its international airport was also restored.

Full services will resume April 11, including railway transportation between Athens and Greeces second-largest city, Thessaloniki.