HELLENIC Train reintroduced the first passenger service on the Athens - Thessaloniki main line on April 3, with just one round trip running per day instead of the normal seven trains each way. A round trip was also reintroduced between Athens and Kalambaka in central Greece.
This follows the gradual resumption of passenger and freight services in Greece in March, all of which were withdrawn following the fatal head-on collision between a freight train and a passenger train at Tempi between Larisa and Thessaloniki on February 28 in which 57 people died and many more were injured.
Greece’s new minister of state for infrastructure and transport, Mr Giorgos Gerapetritis, travelled on the first train from Athens to Kalambaka. Speaking before the departure, Gerapetritis thanked infrastructure manager Hellenic Railways Organisation (OSE) and operator Hellenic Train for working hard to improve safety so that passengers can feel confident that safety “meets the demands of citizens and passengers” until “the planned works are completed.”
Gerapetritis said his first priority is “to shed a lot of light” on the accident so as to highlight the responsibilities where they exist. He said the accident investigation is progressing rapidly and the results should be published soon.
The minister said his second priority is to have a safe resumption of services to build public confidence. He had previously promised to restore all train services by April 16. Gerapetritis’ third priority is to reset railway safety standards on a more permanent level.
“Our obligation is to have a railway that will be worthy of the expectations we all have, a modern railway that will be able to develop and be among the best in Europe,” Gerapetritis said. “This is an obligation of the state but it is also a debt we owe to the victims of the tragic accident.
The CEO of OSE, Mr Panagiotis Terezakis, also travelled on the first train. “Both the management, as well as all the employees of the Greek railway network, are determined to put the country's trains back into operation,” Terezakis said. “We declare that we will do everything possible to regain the trust of the travelling public.”
Temporary safety measures include only allowing one train to operate through tunnels at any one time, and speed restrictions at key locations. Hellenic Train says that a GSM-R system was put into operation by OSE for trains entering Tempi tunnel to ensure communication between station masters and drivers.