Reports of potential “human error” have emerged following Tuesday’s fatal train crash in Greece.
As the search for missing passengers continues, an investigation launched by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) has pointed to failings in the train’s signalling system and a lack of investment in the railway service over the last number of decades.
According to researchers, if this equipment was functional it could have prevented the train crash which killed more than 50 people.
But anger is growing, as thousands of people, including rail workers, took to the streets on Thursday to confront the government on a degrading railway system.
“We are angry at the company, at the government and past governments that did nothing to improve conditions in the Greek railway,” said pensioner Stavros Nantis in Athens.
A government minister said austerity during Greece’s economic crisis in the 2000s had contributed to a lack of investment in the railways.
So far, the investigation has concentrated on the cause of the blast which occurred post-collision.
The ex-station master of Larissa is facing very serious charges, after being prosecuted on Thursday for disrupting transport security, which carries sentences ranging from ten years to life imprisonment. “He took responsibility for his part, what counts is to not look for the tree but for the forest,” said his lawyer.
According to the station master’s colleagues, he was inexperienced for the job and was only in the post since January and should not have been alone on such a difficult shift. “The regulation says nowhere about station masters’ experience. After the training, he assumes duties”, replied the Secretary General of The Hellenic Railways Organisation.
On Wednesday, an audio document was released by the authorities in which the station master was heard telling one of the drivers involved in the crash to ignore a red light.
So far, the number of deaths has reached 57 and about the same amount remains missing. 48 people are still in the hospital, six of them in intensive care units.
The fire brigade said temperatures inside the first carriage – which burst into flames – had reached 1,300C, making it “hard to identify the people who were inside”. As a result, families of the victims are still waiting for DNA test results to help identify the victims.