“Safeguards were there to a significant extent, but at Tempe accident, the safety protocol was not followed which were defined by the railway operating regulations” said the Minister of State and Transport George Gerapetritisduring his visit to Larissa, at the new Traffic Control and Remote Control Center being completed at the city’s railway station.

Mr. Gerapetritis was given a tour of the old local remote control system at the Larissa station, where both the managing director of OSE Panagiotis Terezakisas well as the stationmaster George Zindros they explained to him the local importance of the system and the possibilities it had and has for monitoring the course of the trains in a length of about 8 kilometers before and after the railway station of Larissa.

Mr. Gerapetritis’ briefing continued at the state-of-the-art Traffic Control Center which is being completed in a few days and will be fully operational by the end of June and will control every train movement from Domokos and Paleofarsalos to Aeginio Pieria in a length of 167 kilometers.

THE George Gerapetritis among other things he said: “After the Tempe accident, the government, realizing the magnitude of the tragedy, made three commitments. The first commitment was to reach the end of the investigation into the causes of the tragedy in order to assign responsibility. The second was to restart the railway under conditions of major security. The third is to adhere very strictly to the timetables for upgrading the security services and systems related to remote control and signaling as well as all communications and automatic braking systems. As far as the investigation of the causes is concerned the opinion of the expert committee has been submitted and it is an opinion which is unbiased and all the facts with all the objections that anyone has. However, it is an objective approach. With regard to the critical night as well as the pathologies that exist in the railway systemically and structurally, it has already been forwarded to the competent Larissa Prosecutor’s Office, which is conducting the investigation, and the judicial investigations are progressing rapidly.”

The minister added that “the second demand was the restart of the railway. There was an operational plan that includes a series of interventions related to the upgrading of security systems. For example the reinforcement of the staff, in a short period of time there is a significant increase in the potential of the OSE. Regarding the critical specialties of the two stationmasters and the locksmiths, the possibility of more drivers and staff being on the train. Very important interventions were made by the Hellenic Railways Organization for greater safety at critical points such as tunnels. And this with surveillance systems and with the reinforcement of fire extinguishing and fire detection means. The section of suburban Larisa in Thessaloniki will be operational at the end of next week. The passenger public has placed confidence in the railway. The completeness shown is very satisfactory. It was our concern in a very short period of time to complete the contracts that provide for universal management and signaling as well as the accompanying automatic braking systems on the Athens-Thessaloniki section of the main axis.

On the critical night of the accident, the local remote control station was in full operation, which makes it possible to automatically draw a route, i.e. to draw the course on the board, a fact that prevents any risk of the train being in the opposite stream. Now in the local remote control we see, that is, on the board, the movement of the train. It was possible to watch the train on the critical night as well. The board was working perfectly as it turns out because just before the accident there was an automatic engraving. The local array is converted to a hyperlocal array. The traffic control center will be operational at the end of June.”

Characteristically, regarding the safety valves on that night of the tragic accident in Tempe, Mr. Gerapetritis said that “of course there were safety valves. The safety valves were the obligation of the automatic engraving. There were the security systems for changing the keys, there was the possibility of monitoring on the remote control panel, there were the security valves which are now becoming more numerous. But there will always be a human factor.

The human factor at the end of the day is always there… Obviously if the systems being developed now were in place there would be even more safeguards. This board incorporates many more small local remote control centers… If the protocol, which provides for mandatory automatic marking, had been followed, we would have had a different result.”

Finally, Mr. Gerapetritis said that at the moment on the Athens-Thessaloniki axis there is remote control in the Acharnes-Oinoi section, in the Oinoi-Tithorea section it will be delivered at the end of September, from Tithorea to Domokos the remote control is already working, from Domokos to Aeginio Pieria, including Larissa and Paleofarsalos will be delivered to operation by the end of June and from Aeginio and Platy to Thessaloniki is in operation.