Are Europe’s Railways Safe?

Emily Richards looks into the history of Europe’s railway catastrophes as Greece experiences its worst crash in the country’s history.

Reynolds Sandbox
The Reynolds Sandbox
3 min readMar 9


The Hellenic Red Cross and other first responders in Greece spent days digging through the twisted metal and smoldering wreckage of a passenger train that collided with a freight train on February 28, resulting in the deaths of 57 people.

The disaster occured in the eastern town of Tempi as the train was traveling from Athens to Thessaloniki.

Many passengers were returning to work and university after spending the weekend at one of the country’s first carnivals since the COVID-19 shutdown. Officials have arrested a station manager who has claimed responsibility, but the public blames the country’s lack of safety and precautions on the Hellenic Train railway company.

Public anger intensified when information was released that the station master arrested was illegally hired and exceeded the age limit for the position.

Europe’s History of Railway Catastrophes

This recent crash in Tempi is not Europe’s first high-casualty railway disaster and will likely not be the last.

In 2021, there were 1,389 significant railway accidents in Europe causing 683 fatalities and 513 serious injuries. While many incidents are single-death suicides, a vast portion of multi-causality catastrophes are linked to poor railway management and upkeep.

Above is a brief history of railway accidents in Europe. Although this only skims the surface of these incidents, it is clear that patterns of miscommunications, various mechanical issues, and neglectful management leads to most crashes.

The European Union Agency for Railways (ERA) was established in 2006 and works to ensure safe travel by railway across Europe. They have safety trainings that are specific to different levels and positions within railway operations to show how to respond to certain crises.

Each European country also has safety measures and procedures to regulate railways within its borders. Each country uses different outside providers to install incident prevention methods, making it hard to find consistent precautions across the continent. Debt crises and economic disasters can lead to underfunding and poor maintenance of the tracks.

“Text Me When You Arrive”

In Greece, following the recent crash, protests erupted in the capital Athens as many believe the incident was avoidable.

The words “Text me when you arrive,” has become the face of these protests. It was a message sent from a parent to a student traveling on the train who never arrived at their destination.

Railway workers have come forward to say that safety measures within the Hellenic Train system have been out of date with newer products delayed.

Documents were published showing that railway workers tried to report flaws in the safety system to Hellenic Railways but were brushed off because the evidence they presented was “groundless.”

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has pointed to the country’s debt crisis that began in 2010 for the delay of newer safety systems. With an election coming up in July, the unsafe railway conditions could lead to political change.

Reporting by Emily Richards for the Reynolds Sandbox



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