Greece, Italy to discuss rail ‘restart’ after tragedy: PM
“We will have the opportunity to discuss the way in which the Italian government…will be able to support the restart of Greece’s railways in a more active and substantial way,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told reporters at a eurozone leaders’ summit in Brussels.
Mitsotakis said Italian counterpart Giorgia Meloni had accepted an invitation to talks in Athens before the Greek general election in May.
“I believe we have the potential to jointly create a new future for our railways, whereby the Italian company will invest more in reliable, safer and faster trains” and Greece “will invest more in our network, its safety and its possible expansion”, Mitsotakis said.
Greece’s intercity trains went under private management in 2017, when state-owned Greek rail traffic services operator TrainOSE was privatised and sold to Italy’s Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane, becoming Hellenic Train.
Greek state company OSE still owns the tracks.
On February 28, two trains collided head-on after running on the same track for several kilometres (miles), killing 57 people. It was Greece’s worst ever rail disaster.
Most of the victims were university students returning from a long holiday weekend.
Greece’s transport minister resigned and the disaster sparked weeks of angry and occasionally violent protests, piling pressure on Mitsotakis’ conservative government ahead of the election.
The stationmaster on duty during the accident and three other railway officials have been charged and face possible life sentences.
But Greece’s rail watchdog found serious safety problems across the network, including inadequate basic training for critical staff.
Railway unions had long warned the network was underfunded, understaffed and accident-prone after a decade of spending cuts.
Mitsotakis said he would also discuss migration issues — a priority for both countries — with Meloni during her visit.