A transport safety campaigner has accused Transport for London of suppressing vital information related to the causes of the Sandilands tram crash by keeping secret an audit report into the events of November 9, 2016, even to the point of not releasing the information to its own investigation into the fatal derailment.
Seven people were killed and all 62 other passengers on board sustained injuries when a tram travelling from New Addington to Wimbledon left the tracks on a sharp bend approaching the Sandilands stop 18 months ago.
Now, transport campaigner Tom Kearney, has accused TfL of withholding a key report, from June last year, from the official Rail Accident Investigation Board and its own internal investigators.
The report was a safety audit of the fatigue risk management system operated by FirstGroup, the company which operates the tram system on behalf of TfL. Driver fatigue was a key area of investigation into the causes of the Sandilands crash.
According to Kearney, “The description of the problems which prompted the nine management actions detailed in TfL’s excellent internal audit conducted in June 2017 and published on September 15 last year reads like ‘Nine Billboards in Front of Croydon Town Hall’.
“If TfL management were truly interested in understanding the origins of the Croydon tram crash, I cannot think of any reason why they insisted that this document be issued as ‘restricted and confidential’ to only a handful of managers.
“And why they did not make this important piece of evidence available to the RAIB and their own independent investigator in time for their own investigations completed last December and January.
“I am especially concerned that Leon Daniels, until recently TfL’s managing director for surface transport, told a TfL safety panel that the audit, ‘did not give rise to any concerns’.
“If that’s indeed the case, then why was the audit not released, at least to the investigators?”
A question submitted last month to Mayor’s Question Time by London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon revealed that Internal Audit IA 17 1780 – to give it its full titles – was released to the RAIB, SNC Lavalin (the independent investigator brought in by TfL), the Office of Rail and Road and British Transport Police only on February 12 this year.
Pidgeon has followed up with another MQT asking why the audit wasn’t released sooner. This is due to get a response by the end of this month.
Next week, Sean Fitzsimons, the Addiscombe councillor who chairs the council’s scrutiny committee, is holding a session at the Town Hall on the tram network, including the Sandilands crash. Kearney has suggested that Fitzsimons should invite Daniels to answer questions about the withheld audit report and the reasons for its delayed release.
Kearney asked: “Improving the safety culture of TfL surface transport will depend on such public scrutiny from our elected representatives. Just think about it: how many more “Internal Audit IA 17-1780s” are gathering dust in TfL filing cabinets?”
- Tom Kearney is an award-winning public transport safety campaigner, himself a survivor of a TfL bus crash, who can be found on Twitter @comadad
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