A public transport safety campaigner has called for a former Transport for London director to be called in for questioning over his handling of a safety audit on the tram network following the 2016 crash at Sandilands. The report was withheld from investigators for more than six months.
TfL’s director of surface transport, Leon Daniels (who has since stepped down from that job), and other senior figures in the transport authority failed to pass the findings of a tram driver fatigue audit report to the crash investigators until February this year.
Campaigner Tom Kearney has suggested that the delay in releasing the report may have been out of concern that TfL might be subject to private prosecution for corporate manslaughter, where under new laws fines of £20million or more can be handed out by the Health and Safety Executive.
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 in the early morning of November 9, 2016.
The withheld report was a safety audit of the fatigue risk management system operated by FirstGroup, the company which manages the tram system through Tram Operations Limited, or TOL, on behalf of TfL.
Driver fatigue was a key area of investigation into the causes of the Sandilands crash.
Kearney – who himself survived a dangerous bus crash – has today called on the transport committee at the Greater London Authority to call in Daniels and seven key officials for a formal cross-examination over the “administrative error” which saw Internal Audit IA 17 1780 – to give it its full titles – withheld from the Rail Accident Investigation Board, SNC Lavalin (the independent investigator brought in by TfL), the Office of Rail and Road and British Transport Police until February this year.
Among the members of the GLA transport committee is Steve O’Connell, the Conservative councillor for Kenley ward and Assembly Member for Croydon and Sutton.
“A Croydon tram driver has been arrested and is being investigated for suspicion of manslaughter by the British Transport Police,” Kearney said.
“While I don’t doubt that an arrest and a manslaughter investigation are warranted, based on the well-evidenced poor state of Croydon tram safety six months after the November 2016 crash, I’m honestly not convinced the BTP is aiming high enough on the decision-making chain.
“Maybe the Transport Committee will consider cross-examining these decision-makers?”
Legislation introduced in February 2016 toughened penalties for health and safety and corporate manslaughter offences. Under the new measures, the scale of fines varies according to the turnover of the company but can exceed £20million for the very worst cases involving corporate manslaughter.
Kearney suggests eight TfL past or present executives who he would like to see questioned by the committee, including Jonathan Fox, the director of London Rail, lawyer Howard Carter, Jill Collis, the director health safety and environment, and Gareth Powell, who has replaced Daniels as MD for surface transport.
In a lengthy letter sent to Keith Prince, the chair of the transport committee, Kearney highlights sections of the audit report, which was first published last month shortly after Inside Croydon had highlighted the unexplained delay in its release.
In his letter, Kearney notes how the report showed that TOL’s Fatigue Risk Management System guidance had a range of failings, including:
- “Does not clearly detail the roles and responsibilities for those employees involved in managing fatigue or include a statement to undertake a review of FMRS when the effectiveness of the arrangements is in doubt”.
- “ORR’s Good Practice Guidelines — Fatigue Factors, and industry good practice, are not considered in addition to applying the HSE Fatigue Risk Index Tool to the roster design.”
- “TOL’s fatigue awareness training does not include: Personal assessment of fatigue risk; Training for management and supervision on the factors that increase fatigue; Training in Control Room staff in recognising fatigue in drivers when booking on; Training in minimising fatigue in the roster design”.
- “The number of occasions where breaks are moved or not taken is not monitored”.
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