The tragic train accident in the valley of Tempi has strongly shocked Greek society. The reports and the accompanying images have overturned individual laissez-faire attitudes, family complacency and ambitious political plans for success. The emotions created have thoroughly permeated all layers of our society horizontally and vertically. It seems that as long as this shock lasts, radical changes will be initiated in the long-established perceptions of easy wealth and indifference to the societal consequences, which are held by a large part of the country’s population.
Until now, the mismanagement of public transport projects has been limited mainly to material losses, with a significant part of the financing being used for purposes other than those that it was intended to promote. Dealing with this type of mismanagement was aimed mainly at silencing rather than eliminating these wrongdoings. An extended parasitic middle class benefited financially and in return supported the political leaders that tolerated and covered these wrongdoings. Until now, these administrations have mainly led to the quiet deterioration of public finances. This deficiency was compensated for mainly by means of indirect taxation, which mostly affects the lower strata of society, and in this way everything was taken care of for the protagonists of the fraud and their supporters. Car accidents were excessive in comparison with other European countries, but because they were scattered over time, they appeared for a short time in the public sphere and then they were quickly forgotten. The same thing happened with maritime and air accidents. The statements by the government officials promising to address the causes of these accidents were also quickly forgotten. Now, however, the shock is too strong due to the large number and the young age of the victims, as well as due to the biblical images that we all saw, vividly depicting the disaster. Society now looks forward to an in-depth and retrospective investigation in order to find the causes which, while creating economic benefits for a few, ultimately led to the loss of life of innocent young people. The election period in which the country finds itself pushes for “cleansing” processes, and citizens expect to see them consolidated before the impact of the shock wears off.
As it appears from the data so far, the fatal railway accident at Tempi resulted from the combination of two main causes: a) the deficient supply of services in key sectors and b) the failure to implement necessary modernisation investments. The first is the combined result of entrenched attitudes and a lack of basic education. The second is an extension of common practices in the execution of public works. It should be noted at this point that the aforementioned are phenomena which, in most cases, are passed over without much social reaction. It is from this lethargy that the deaths of our unfortunate young people have come to bring society out. Let us be optimistic that they will succeed in doing so by uprooting deeply entrenched attitudes.
The first of the above-mentioned causes is rooted in the inefficiency of the country’s educational system in its obligation to provide students with a broad base of general education. This inadequacy prevents the effective retraining of the workforce which, due to the rapid change in the demand for specific skills in the labour market, is deemed necessary to combat unemployment. Unfortunately, the origins of the problem are not understood by a large part of society, which wants to believe that retraining can be carried out through formal seminars, which the trainees do not even bother to attend regularly and in their entirety.
The second of the causes mentioned above, the generalised underperformance of public works, and especially of transport projects that have a more direct impact on the safety of citizens, is a permanent situation in our country. (We analysed this problem in its entirety in the editorial of the March 2023 (No. 288) issue of MANIOT SOLIDARITY, which was entitled: European Community Programs: EU Funds Inefficiently Used). Theentire development – grid – study – tender – implementation – delivery – commissioning – is carried out within a small circle of persons far from societal control. Unfortunately, the relevant legislation also supports this approach. The following few observations confirm our views:
a) the techno financial studies, which are the starting point for the implementation of projects, are often revised during the course of construction, resulting in significant financial impacts on public finances, without the authors being held responsible;
b) the original studies are often revised in terms of the allocation of amounts to the individual works foreseen for each project, often even by providing for new works with new prices that had not emerged through the tendering process;
c) the above often lead to additional costs that significantly increase the cost of their implementation;
d) the acceptance of the projects is usually carried out using random approaches since the supervisory controls during their execution are limited; and
e) the deadline for automatic approval and amortisation of responsibilities for any bad work is very short.
Unfortunately, most of the above are also true for the long-running project to allow remote control of the Greek railways, the lack of which contributed to the recent tragic accident at Tempi.
Most of the aforementioned observations also apply to the few public road works that have been or are being carried out in the Mani region, fortunately with limited impact on the safety of citizens so far.
ΤΗΕ ΕDITORIAL BOARD