Protests in Greece hit gov’t, EU, IMF over rail disaster

By John Studer
March 27, 2023
Konstantinos Zilos/NurPhoto via AP

Thousands of workers and youth marched across Greece again March 12, protesting the Greek government’s responsibility in the head-on collision between a passenger and a freight train that killed 57 people Feb. 28. They demanded those involved be punished. More than 8,000 protesters flooded streets in Athens, above, with signs saying, “We won’t forget. We won’t forgive!” and “We will not mourn more kids on the altar of profit.”

They marched to the headquarters of Hellenic Train, which was taken over by the Italian rail company Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane in 2017. Hellenic Train runs the operating equipment and train crews, while state-owned Hellenic Railways is responsible for maintenance of the tracks.

Some 5,000 protested in Thessaloniki. The passenger train wrecked Feb. 28 was carrying hundreds of students and others from Athens to Thessaloniki after a holiday weekend. Another round of protests is scheduled for March 16.

The government tried to blame the station manager on duty that night, saying the disaster was the product of “human error.” But the railroad has been underfinanced and deteriorating for years. Under the pressure of demands by the International Monetary Fund and EU for the Greek government to slash social expenditures to repay outstanding loans, successive administrations have cut jobs and failed to keep equipment working.