The 2022 train accident that predicted the Tempe tragedy

The 2022 train accident that predicted the Tempe tragedy

The 2022 train accident that predicted the Tempe tragedy
Passengers aboard the InterCity 54 call for help after the train collided with a speeding locomotive on January 24, 2022.

On the afternoon of Jan. 24, 2022 — 13 months before last year’s deadly rail disaster in Tempe — an engine problem brought the InterCity 54 commuter train to a halt about a kilometer and a half from Livadia Station in the middle of a snowstorm.

The weather was too severe for passengers to leave the train and transfer by bus, so a second locomotive was sent to the site about two hours later to clear the tracks and get InterCity moving again. It was 7.45pm when the locomotive hit the train because it was traveling too fast. At least six passengers were injured in this collision, and none of them were serious, thank God.

The accident was considered serious and the Rail Regulatory Authority (RAS) conducted an investigation. Its findings were compiled in a report published in May 2023 and reviewed by Kathimerini. The events that occurred that day, such as violations of the general traffic regulation and speed limit by the locomotive, as well as the failure of Hellenic Train and the Hellenic Railway Organization (OSE) to coordinate their responses to the emergency, could be seen as a harbinger of the errors that led to the train collision. A passenger and freight train in Tempe on February 28, 2023, in which 57 people were killed.

Several passengers aboard the InterCity 54 that was struck by the locomotive filed lawsuits against the responsible parties shortly after the accident with the Livadia Public Prosecutor’s Office. In their suits, they describe scenes of fear and panic as passengers fell after their train collided with the speeding locomotive from behind. However, despite the passage of two years, the criminal investigation conducted by the Public Prosecutor into the incident has made little progress.

In an announcement, Hellenic Train – the Italian state-owned railway operator in Greece – blamed the accident on the icy condition of the railway. However, the RAS investigation pointed to a series of errors and violations on the part of Hellenic Train and OSE, resulting in them being fined a total of around €100,000.

The Greek train was fined because the locomotive was found to be traveling at 50km/h, when the speed limit was 40km/h, and should have been slower under the circumstances. The report also noted that the Italian company failed to provide data from the locomotive’s tachometer, which would have provided the exact speed it was traveling at during the collision.

RAS also found that the station manager at Oinoi, north of Athens, failed to issue official notice 1036, which alerts drivers to the fact that part of the route they are on is occupied. Orders were issued verbally instead.

“According to the verbal order, the location is about 1,500 meters away. We suddenly saw that we were much closer to the tail of the train. The brakes were applied immediately, but we could not stop,” one of the locomotive drivers testified to RAS.

Aside from the failure of the OSE station manager to properly inform the locomotive drivers of the situation, the RAS also blames the organization for failing to activate an emergency response plan, as is required in such situations. When asked by the RAS to comment, the OSE representative claimed that the management of available resources was “exemplary”, while admitting that his statement may have seemed “contradictory”.

    (Signs for translation) Accident 

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