Greece’s prime minister has promised to improve the safety standards of the country’s railway system following its deadliest train crash on record which sparked mass protests.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis again apologized for last month’s incident, which saw a passenger train carrying mostly university students returning from a three-day public holiday collide with a freight train near the city of Larissa, leaving 57 people dead and dozens injured.
“I reiterate my public apology on behalf of all those who ruled the country for years, but mainly personally,” Mitsotakis said.
“I therefore assume responsibility. And we cannot, we do not want to, we must not hide behind a series of human errors,” he added.
The day after the deadly collision, Mitsotakis blamed “tragic human error,” sparking demonstrations against chronic faults in the railway system and demanding justice for the victims. In a change of tone, on Sunday he emphasized that Greece “cannot, will not, and must not hide behind human error.”
Speaking on Thursday, the Prime Minister promised “absolute transparency” and said that if the installation of digital control systems had been completed “this incident would have been practically impossible to have happened.”
The fact that this system “will be up and running in a few months from now is no excuse,” he added. “It makes my personal pain even greater as we didn’t get to install it before this tragic incident happened.”
Tens of thousands of people participated in protests organized by worker unions and student groups on Wednesday across major Greek cities, calling for government responsibility and better safety standards.
“This crime should not be covered up,” they chanted, holding signs with the names of those killed.
Further strikes are due in Greece to protest the fatal collision.
European Commission experts have met with the Greek government to discuss “the complete reorganization” of the Greek railway.
Mitsotakis said during the ministerial council that he has asked the commission for technical assistance and additional funding.
The Greek government was initially planning to hold elections in early April but is now widely expected to push it back until after Easter. Its term ends in July.