Former transport minister Kostas Karamanlis appeared before a Parliamentary committee of inquiry on Thursday to provide testimony on the February 2023 Tempi rail disaster, underlining that the deadly accident would have been avoided if the rules were followed.
According to reports by the state-run AMNA news agency, the former minister started his testimony by expressing his sympathies to the families of the 57, mostly young adults, who died in the train collision last year.
In deflecting damning accusations against himself, especially charges of a political cover-up to shield him from accountability, Karamanlis said, “I am here and have been since the first moments. I didn’t hide…And I don’t intend to do so now.”
He also spoke out against what he called “petty partisan” politics, and using the pain and suffering of those impacted by the crash to gain political support.
Karamanlis resigned as minister shortly after the disaster and explained “I never thought even for a moment to hide from my responsibilities as minister.” He said he quit as opposed to requesting the resignation of his subordinates.
Regarding the events contributing to the disaster, Karamanlis echoed the statements made in the days before his testimony, saying “there was not even one expert, even one person with deep knowledge of the matter who denied that if the General Traffic Regulation was followed then the accident would have been avoided.”
Referring to a question posed to him, along the lines “if humans are responsible for everything then why do the railways use technology” he responded: “the more technology advances the more we upgrade security.”
And for that reason, he said, he offered an extension to a contract, identified as the infamous 717, which had the purpose of providing additional safety through technology, but wasn’t completed at the time of the crash.
He said all systems are overseen by humans and in the event of a violation of operating regulations, even systems like the 717 would not be sufficient to avoid accidents.