- By Noreen Sulaymani
New investigations have been launched into the Croydon tram service, following footage of a different driver appearing to fall asleep at the controls, at the same location as the recent fatal derailment.
The tragic derailment of a tram in Croydon on Wednesday the 9th November 2016 that saw 7 deaths, 3 emergency surgeries and 51 people injured (Some with life changing injuries) is far from a closed case.
An interim report from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch has suggested that the two carriage tram carrying 60 passengers at the time of the incident was travelling at 43.5 mph (70 kph) as it rounded the tight corner at approximately 06:10 am close to the Sandilands junction. The maximum permitted speed limit for this bend is set at 12.5 mph (20 kph).
The RAIB report also highlighted that there was “no malfunctioning of the braking system.” and no track failure on the tram or tram line.
“From the initial inspection it does not appear that there were any track defects or obstructions on the track that could have contributed to the derailment.”
It has been widely reported that the inquiry into the tragedy is considering the possibility that the 42 year old driver from Beckenham, was asleep or had lost consciousness. The content of the tram’s black box data recorder have now been downloaded and are currently being analysed by experts.
The driver has been arrested and released on bail until May 2017 on suspicion of manslaughter.
There has been much criticism of the media for releasing photographs and the name of the driver.
One surviving passenger was recorded telling journalists that the driver had told passengers he had “Blacked out”.
Parent company First Group told the press that the driver was experienced having worked for the same company for the past 8 years.
The initial report showed however that the driver did indeed brake prior to entering the bend, but this was only successful in reducing the speed from 50 mph to 43.5 mph. The trams are fitted with a dead man’s handle, which means that the breaks are applied automatically should pressure not be applied to the control.
“Around 60” passengers were said to be travelling on the tram at the time of the incident.
Although the black box was functional at the time of the derailment the on board CCTV was not functioning. The tram skidded on it’s side for some 25 meters after leaving the track.
Chief Inspector of Rail Accidents, Simon French, commented:
“On behalf of the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, I would like to send my condolences to those who have been injured and the families of those who died in this tragic accident. They will want to know the cause of the accident, and we will be in contact with them to keep them updated throughout our investigation, which will take some months to complete.”
The final report will include recommendations for safety improvements on how to prevent similar incidents in the future. Some have suggested development of automatic speed limitation for instalment on to all trams.
Transport for London has offered to pay all funeral costs for those who deceased in the incident.
Croydon council set up a fund raising page with the aim of raising £50’000 for the families of those affected by the accident, which to date has seen more than 600 donations totalling more than £16’000. Croydon council has also said it will erect two permanent memorials, one near the crash site and another at New Addington.
A new investigation has been opened and a different tram driver suspended from duty for a second incident on the same part of track as the fatal derailment.
A passenger has seemingly used their cell phone to record a tram driver falling asleep at the controls of a tram on the same stretch of track where the recent derailment killed seven people.
The video originally published by The Sun, appears to show the tram driver falling asleep just two stops from the now infamous Sandilands junction in Croydon.
The video, filmed at around 18:00 on the 21st April 2016 according to the tabloid is now being urgently investigated by tram operators Frist Group as well as TFL,
During the time the man appears to be sleeping the tram was travelling at around 40 mph the paper claims.
The passenger who released the video said: ” I was incredulous when I saw him, I did a few double takes. It was the most surreal thing because the tram is zooming along and the driver seems to be falling asleep. It’s a downhill stretch and it felt to me like the train was going too fast.”
The video emerged as the line which saw 7 fatalities reopened just 9 days after the tragic derailment.
First Group commented to the press:
“We have not seen this video before and it will be subject to a full investigation. If the situation is as it appears then this is completely unacceptable and appropriate action will be taken.”
A TFL spokesman added:
“We are urgently investigating this film and have asked First Group, who operate the tram network, to take all necessary action and report back to us.”
It is understood that the driver identified in the video has been suspended pending a full investigation.
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