ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Rail services in Greece resumed on Wednesday for the first time since a deadly train disaster three weeks ago, and just one day after the conservative prime minister announced snap elections for May.
The February 28 head-on collision, the deadliest in the country’s history, killed 57 people and left dozens injured, with nine still hospitalized.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whose centre-right government is struggling to regain balance after the collapse, said on Tuesday that he would hold elections in May – a month later than originally planned – but did not provide a precise date.
Greece must hold elections by July, when the government’s mandate expires.
Since the crash, the government’s lead in opinion polls has roughly halved to just three points behind its main left-wing rival.
“It was a tragedy that should never have happened. It is inconceivable to think that in Greece in 2023 there could be two trains on the same track, traveling in opposite directions, and that no one noticed,” Mitsotakis said in an interview with private Alpha television where he discussed the election date.
“I believe that people, while feeling anger and rage, understand that this incident is the result of the sum of mistakes made over many decades. Now we have the obligation to face them in a drastic way… We feel a strong responsibility”.
Domestic and suburban rail services are split along only limited sections of the rail network, with additional railway and station staff and mandatory speed reduction points in areas where the collision potential is considered to be higher.
The first train of the day was the 04.45am service from Athens to Inoi, 60 kilometers (37 miles) to the north. Suburban train service from Athens to its international airport has also been restored.
Full services will resume on April 11, including rail transport between Athens and Greece’s second largest city, Thessaloniki.
The fatal collision between a passenger train on the Athens-Thessaloniki route and an oncoming freight carrier highlighted long-standing problems with the network’s safety monitoring systems.