Tram crash victims’ families criticise delays over inquest

On the eve of the second anniversary of the Croydon tram crash in which seven people died, the families of crash victims and survivors have criticised the lengthy wait for a decision on whether to bring charges against the driver.

Seven people died when the speeding tram overturned at Sandilands on Nov 9, 2016

More than 60 people were injured and seven – Dane Chinnery, Donald Collett, Robert Huxley, Philip Logan, Dorota Rynkiewicz, Philip Seary and Mark Smith – died after an early-morning tram from New Addington derailed near Sandilands tram halt on November 9, 2016.

There has yet to be a formal, public inquest into the crash.

The victims’ families want to be able to question transport chiefs, but an inquest cannot take place until prosecutors decide whether to charge the driver, Alfred Dorris, who remains under police investigation.

Transport for London and the trams’ operator, Tram Operations Ltd, a subsidiary of FirstGroup, have admitted civil liability. TfL has paid more than £5million in compensation. The possibility of a prosecution for corporate manslaughter remains a possibility.

A report in yesterday’s Evening Standard quoted Ben Posford, a lawyer who represents New Addington resident Andrzej Rynkiewicz and his two young daughters. Dorota Rynkiewicz was among those killed in the crash.

Dorota Rynkiewicz: one of the seven killed in the tram crash

“We are two years on,” Posford told the paper. “What on earth is going on? The Crown Prosecution Service needs to make a decision. If they don’t charge him, let the inquest proceed.

“What the families want to do is look these people in the eye and ask, ‘Why didn’t you have an automatic braking system?’ Two weeks before the crash, somebody took that bend at 45mph, almost overturning the tram. It was known there were problems with that bend. There were no systems for reporting problems.

“These are really important questions for the families to ask face-to-face. Irrespective of whether there is a prosecution, the families deserve answers.”

Last month it was reported that despite a Rail Accident Investigation Branch report on the crash being published last year, with 15 recommendations to improve safety on the tram network, only half of those recommendations have been implemented. TfL say that a contract to fit trams with an automatic braking system would be awarded next month, with the work to be done by the end of next year.

The police investigation into the conduct of the driver remains on-going. A CPS spokeswoman told the Standard that it was unable to make a charging decision until all requested information was received, and “we are still awaiting a full file of evidence from the BTP”.

The RAIB accident report said the crash was probably caused by Dorris losing concentration during a “microsleep”. It said the tram was travelling too fast — 46mph — to negotiate a sharp bend, causing it to overturn. The speed limit for the bend is 12mph. The report also criticised the management culture and the signalling system.

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