Greek rail services to resume gradually from March 22
ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece will next week start resuming rail services suspended following a train crash, the country's deadliest rail disaster on record, a state minister overseeing transport said on Tuesday.
Passenger and freight services on the route linking Athens and the northern city of Thessaloniki, the busiest across a 2,500-km (1,550-mile) rail network, have been halted since the train crash on Feb. 28 which killed 57 people and injured scores.
Freight rail and suburban trains in the capital Athens and Thessaloniki will resume operation on March 22, said state minister George Gerapetritis, who took over the transport portfolio after the crash. In the rest of the country, passenger trains will start operating on April 1.
Greek rail workers have held rolling 24-hour strikes, blaming the crash on years of neglect, underinvestment and understaffing which led to a creaky rail infrastructure and deficient safety systems.
A prosecutor is investigating the crash.
Rail unions and industry sources have pointed to a remote surveillance and signaling system, which controls train traffic and guides drivers, saying it had not been functioning properly for years.
Gerapetritis said on Tuesday that more staff would be hired. In areas where signalling systems are not operational, trains will need to reduce speed.
Earlier, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Gerapetritis discussed the issue with officials from Greece's railway infrastructure operator OSE and Italy's Hellenic Train, which oversees passenger and freight services.
"We must win this war," Mitsotakis said at the meeting, adding that he was determined to eliminate the factors that led to the crash.
(Reporting by Aneliki Kountantou and Lefteris Papadimas; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)