Economy, Business And Markets

Akhoundi, IRIB Argue Over Train Fatalities

Akhoundi, IRIB Argue Over Train FatalitiesAkhoundi, IRIB Argue Over Train Fatalities

Roads and Urban Development Minister Abbas Akhoundi questioned the fairness of Iran state TV coverage of Wednesday’s open session of the parliament in a letter to the director general of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, Abdolali Ali-Asgari.

According to Akhoundi, viewers were witness to 10 hours of unrelenting bombardment of fabricated news stories, omission of information and biased coverage against the ministry.  

He believes the following paragraph, which is the most important part of Majlis Development Commission’s report on the recent deadly train collision in Semnan Province, was deleted to portray the ministry as the main culprit of the accident.

“The minister of roads and urban development and the managing director of the Islamic Republic of Iran Railways are responsible for macro-management and navigating the system toward achieving the set goals and had no role to play in controlling the behavior of individuals in the system or the snap decisions they made. The after-effects of years-long structural faults [overlooked] by successive administrations led to the accident,” the report reads.

Forty-nine people died and 103 others were injured in what has become one of the worst rail accidents in Iran in recent memory. The disaster occurred when two trains collided at Haft-Khan Station near Shahroud, about 400 km from Tehran.

The accident has been blamed on “human error” by a probe committee led by President Hassan Rouhani’s chief adviser Akbar Torkan, explaining that the official at the rail traffic control center had told the train driver to manually disable an automated system that was preventing it from moving toward a broken-down train.

“Does injecting mistrust in 25 million people who annually travel by train, as the safest mode of transportation, serve the national interests? Are the victims of the accident made scapegoats for the political maneuvering of the government’s opponent?” IRNA quoted Akhoundi as saying.

In the aftermath of the accident, the then managing director of the Islamic republic of Iran Railways, Mohsen Pourseyyed-Aqaei, resigned after four of his deputies were arrested over the crash. Akhoundi accepted Pourseyyed-Aqaei’s resignation and appointed Saeed Mohammadzadeh as the new IRIR head.

“Since the incident occurred under my jurisdiction, I apologize to the bereaved families and the injured,” Akhoundi said in a statement after the accident.

Lawmakers in parliament also presented a motion for the impeachment of Akhoundi to Majlis Presiding Board.

The request was signed and forwarded by 84 parliamentarians who cited the minister’s “weak performance” that led to the accident.

“The minister will be questioned on 12 areas, but it seems most of the questions are politically motivated,” says MP Abdolkarim Hosseinzadeh. He believes such questions would neither be of any use to the people nor to parliamentarians in the final year of the government.

“What is the purpose of impeachment now? Do we want to raise transportation safety? Increase investment in transportation and urban development? Or are we pursuing political interests?” the Persian daily Shargh quoted Hosseinzadeh as saying.

“The minister’s apology and his deputy’s resignation would teach accountability to the executives, something unheard of in the event of other accidents,” he claimed.

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