Greece seeks EU advice on railway safety after train crash - premier

Trains collide near Larissa

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece has asked the European Union Agency for Railways (ERA) to advise it on ways to improve train safety after a crash on Feb. 28 killed 57 people, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Friday.

A train with 350 people on board, most of them university students, collided with a cargo train in central Greece.

The crash has stirred public protests against the conservative government and a political system that has repeatedly ignored calls by railway unions to improve safety systems and hire more staff.

Mitsotakis told Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou on Friday that he could not "turn back time", but could ensure that the investigation into the collision would be transparent and thorough.

"I won't hesitate to use any European help available," Mitsotakis said, adding that he had asked ERA to draw up a report with suggestions that would be published.

He has also discussed the use of EU funds with EU officials.

The government, which had been planning to call an election soon, since its term ends in July, has blamed the crash mainly on human error but has acknowledged deficiencies in the railway due to underinvestment and neglect - a legacy of Greece's debt crisis.

The first opinion poll since the crash occurred, conducted by the Marc polling agency and published on Thursday, showed the conservatives dropping by about 3 percentage points but still ahead of the main leftist opposition.

Hours after the crash, a minister and railway officials resigned. So far, three station masters and one railway inspector have been arrested and charged over the case.

The state-owned Hellenic Railways Organisation (OSE) is responsible for managing and maintaining rail infrastructure, while Italy's Hellenic Train oversees passenger and freight services.

Panagiotis Terezakis, an experienced railway engineer and former management consultant to OSE, was named as OSE's interim president and chief executive on Friday.

(Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Kevin Liffey)