ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A general strike in Greece called in response to last month’s train disaster has grounded flights and severely disrupted communications, with protests in cities across the country planned for Thursday.
The strike also shut down ferries to the Greek islands, left public hospitals short on emergency staff, halted public transport and forced the cancellation of public schools.
Unions rallied behind railway associations, which staged mass demonstrations after a head-on train collision in northern Greece on February 28 that killed 57 people and injured dozens.
The government, which faces a parliamentary election before the summer, says rail services will resume on March 22 and gradually resume by April 11, with extra staff to monitor safety and mandatory speed reductions on sections of the line.
The centre-right government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has seen a significant lead in opinion polls over its main rival, the left-wing Syriza party, in recent weeks, with the two sides also engaged in an ideological debate over how to reform Greece’s aging railway network.
Mitsotakis has promised clearer lines between privatized services and the authorities that oversee them, calling on EU experts to help draft the changes. His political opponents argue that the poorly managed dismantling of state-controlled agencies ultimately jeopardized rail safety.