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From Neglect to Fury: Greeks Take to the Streets Demanding Safer Transportation

From Neglect to Fury: Greeks Take to the Streets Demanding Safer Transportation
photo: Vaggelis Kousioras/AP/From Neglect to Fury: Greeks Take to the Streets Demanding Safer Transportation
09 / 03 / 2023

Greece witnessed a massive protest on March 9th, as tens of thousands of people demonstrated and went on strike over the country's worst train disaster that took place on February 28th. The crash left 57 people dead and has stirred public outrage over the crumbling state of the rail network. Striking workers say years of neglect, underinvestment, and understaffing are to blame.

Government spokesman Yiannis Economou responded by saying that there will be no cover-up and that an expert committee is investigating the accident to conduct an administrative and technical assessment. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has also called for an investigation without delay. Demonstrators are also advocating for equal opportunities for women in the health and welfare sector on International Women's Day.

The deadly train accident has sparked widespread outrage in Greece and increased calls for safer transportation. It is hoped that the demonstrations and calls for accountability will result in concrete action to improve the country's transportation infrastructure and prevent similar tragedies from happening again in the future.

Police estimated that more than 60,000 people, including transport workers, students, and teachers, participated in demonstrations in cities across Greece, making it the biggest show of public anger the government has faced since being elected in 2019.

The protests were marked by violence as a group of demonstrators clashed with riot police who fired tear gas at the crowd. Protesters hurled petrol bombs in front of the parliament, setting a van and garbage bins on fire. Many people aboard an intercity passenger train that collided head-on with a freight train while traveling on the same track were university students heading north to Thessaloniki from Athens. The conservative government, which had been planning to call an election in the coming weeks, promised on Wednesday to fix the ailing rail system.

Transport Minister George Gerapetritis, who has been assigned the portfolio to tackle the issue, said that no train would set off again if they had not secured safety at the maximum possible level, adding that they would review safety and invest funds in upgrading infrastructure and hiring staff.

Greece sold its state-owned railway operator, now called Hellenic Train, to Italy's state-owned Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane in 2017 during its debt crisis, and the sale was a term in the country's bailout agreements with the European Union and the Washington-based International Monetary Fund.