Parliament’s Special Permanent Committee on Institutions and Transparency convened on Monday to hear the positions of former infrastructure and transport minister Kostas Karamanlis regarding the tragic rail accident at Tempi and the state of the Greek railways when he took over as minister four years ago, as well as the actions taken in that time.
The hearing was also attended by his predecessors in the post over the past decade (Michalis Chrisochoidis, Christos Spirtzis) and his successor, the current Minister of State for transport and infrastructure issues Giorgos Gerapetritis, who will be asked to give their own account of events regarding the implementation of contract 717 for the installation of a railway telemanagement and signalling system.
Contract 717 originally due to be completed by September 2016, says Chrisochoidis
Addressing parliament’s Special Permanent Committee on Institutions and Transparency on Monday, former transport minister Michalis Chrisochoidis said that contract 717 for refurbishing and repairing the telemanagement and signalling system for the Greek railways was originally due to be completed by September 2016. Chrisochoidis served as minister for transport for 18 months, from the second half of 2013 until 2015, when the SYRIZA-ANEL government was elected to power.
He said the project for revamping the line from Athens to Thessaloniki and Promachonas had been assigned to the lowest bidder in a tender conducted in 2014, with the contract finally signed between Hellenic Railways Organisation and the contractor in September 2014. It was originally scheduled to be completed in two years, with the contractor’s first job being to carry out a detailed record of the existing network and equipment in order to plan the repairs and upgrades needed.
According to Chrisochoidis, the work was “absolutely essential” as the railway network’s systems had been extensively looted and damaged, and the work needed to be completed as soon as possible.
The SYRIZA-ANEL government took over in January 2015, he said, with the obligation to complete the implementation of the contract within the allotted time.
Spirtzis: Contract 717 was ‘exceedingly defective and bad’
Briefing the Committee on the state of the rail network during his time as transport minister, main opposition SYRIZA MP Christos Spirtzis on Monday spoke of “personalised responsibilities that led to the decline of the rail network”.
Regarding the implementation of contract 717 for the refurbishment and overhaul of the networks telemanagement and signalling system, he described this as an extremely flawed contract that, among others, was incompatible with the new technology, leading to the necessity for an additional contract to be signed. He also claimed that SYRIZA had handed over a fully installed gsmr system, which only needed certification in order to operate.
Without the implementation of an additional contract, he claimed, the result would have been a system that did not function at all and would simply be a waste of money.
“I submitted all the documents on what, precisely, we did for contract 717 of 2014, which was unfortunately an exceedingly defective and bad contract, and I think the country is paying for the sins prior to 2014,” Spirtzis said, saying the committee should summon the managements of ERGOSE to look at all aspects “and speak truths with real facts” about the Tempi accident.
Karamanlis to MPs: Inaccuracies and lies that obscured the facts
Former Infrastructure and Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis referred to five safeguards that existed and would have prevented the train accident in Tempi, while addressing parliament’s Special Permanent Committee on Institutions and Transparency on Monday.
He referred to “inaccuracies and lies” that obscured the facts, and said that it was “absolutely false” to claim that there was no telemanagement system at the Larissa station.
He submitted documents according to which the crucial contract for the telemanagement and signalling system (717) had been stuck when he assumed office and was delivered to him by his predecessor just 18 percent completed, whereas during his term in office its implementation had progressed to 70 percent complete but, “unfortunately not at 100 percent yet”.
Larissa station does have a train telemanagement system, says Gerapetritis
Minister of State responsible for infrastructures and transport Giorgos Gerapetritis on Monday said that 420 employees were hired in the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE) so far during this government’s tenure, as opposed to 24 during SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance’s 4,5 years in government.
Referring to accusations by the main opposition party about the train telemanagement system in Larisssa being practically non-existent, and party leader Alexis Tsipras’ Monday visit to Larissa train station, Gerapetritis noted that Tsipras “does his political posturing and doesn’t care about reality.”
“We do have local remote control management system in Larissa for a track length of 8.5 kilometers (…), five kilometers north of the station and three kilometers south of the station. I’m not trying to fool anyone. The lights came on the control board and the stationmaster could see the train’s course,” he pointed out.
About Tsipras in Larissa, he said that “instead of going to the local remote control station, the central station, he visited the building that will be completed in September 2023 and which will house the broader local remote control system.”