With the train collision in Larissa killing over 30 people today, the first question asked is whether this tragedy could have been avoided.
Just as a modern highway should be properly maintained and meet all safety standards, a modern railway should have all the systems available.
It was only a matter of time before some great harm was done, says those who know the dilapidated state of the Greek railway network. Several other accidents previously highlighted the deficiencies in train safety systems.
One of the most serious deficiencies is the integrated train control system ETCS, as provided for by European legislation.
The most general set is called ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System) and is a system for the correct and safe management and operation of the railways in the EU countries.
There are two main elements that make up the ERTMS system. One is GSM-R terrestrial communication and the other is ETCS (European Train Control System).
In particular, the latter is necessary on high-speed lines and there are reports that for the Greek network, and especially in the area where the tragic accident took place, there are serious deficiencies and delays in the implementation of ETCS.
There are also delays for upgrading the light signals and remote control. Imagine something similar to the V2V communication of cars.
What does ETCS do? The aim is to enable both passenger and commercial trains to travel faster and safer. The main thing is how it protects and prevents human error. However, it is not enough that it is simply installed on the trains but also works.
Thanks to the ETCS system, the train driver has the possibility to be informed about the state of the line at a great distance in front of him.
The system can automatically receive data from ground relays (eg traffic lights, fixed points on and off tracks, etc.) and determine the maximum allowed speed or even slow down the train when necessary.
Obviously, modern GPS systems and related technologies are absent or under-functioning in Greek railways.
To a large extent, control and management is done manually and empirically, with the result that the possibility of human error increases to a great extent. Something that happened in Tempi today and cost the lives of 38 of our fellow people.
If you have more questions about how ETCS systems work, the following videos can solve many of them.
Nikos Marinopoulos is a columnist for News Auto.