Government silent for two years on tram safety – MP Jones

A tram safety board may not be established unless Government releases the required funding before the end of the year, a Commons debate called by the Croydon Central MP was told yesterday

Sarah Jones, Croydon Central’s Labour MP, last night pressed the Government to end its silence on tram safety, as most of the recommendations of an official report following the 2016 Croydon tram crash remain unimplemented.

Sarah Jones: the Government has been silent on tram safety for two years

Seven people – Dane Chinnery, Donald Collett, Robert Huxley, Phil Logan, Dorota Rynkiewicz, Phil Seary and Mark Smith – died and 62 suffered serious injury when a tram travelling from New Addington derailed on a bend before the Sandilands tram stop on November 9, 2016. It was the worst tram accident in a century. It was the worst rail tragedy for 17 years

Jones claimed that as many as 11 of the 15 safety recommendations made by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch a year ago have yet to be fully implemented across the country. Jones criticised the Government for not making a single statement to MPs on tram safety in more than two years.

Families of crash victims were in Parliament to watch the debate, and Jones hosted a meeting prior to the debate with senior executives from Transport for London to update families on the work being done to improve safety on Croydon’s trams.

Improvements to be delivered in 2019 include an automatic braking system and strengthened glass on tram windows.

The tram crash in Sandilands prompted wide-ranging recommendation which the Government has ignored

However, Jones criticised the slow pace of safety improvements, with automatic braking not expected to be fully implemented by TfL until December 2019. “Three years feels too long for those of us worried about safety now,” she said.

Jones warned that trams “across the country are still without a consistent level of safety to avoid a repeat of the tram crash”.

In her speech, Jones said that a year ago, “I asked a question to the Leader of the House about when the Department for Transport would come to the House to make a full statement on how the Government would ensure that the RAIB recommendations were implemented as swiftly as possible.

“In the year since, no Minister has come to the House to update us on tram safety. Not a single written ministerial statement has been made. In fact, not a single Minister has made a statement in this place on the Croydon tram crash since 14 November 2016, two years ago.

“This is not just an issue for Croydon: it is a national issue. There were 267million tram and light rail journeys made last year. Clearly, the industry, the regulator and local transport bodies have a responsibility to deliver the improvements that we need.

“There is also a responsibility on central Government; the ultimate responsibility for people’s safety stops with them,” Jones said.

“The Department for Transport has a duty to ensure that work is being done and to keep Parliament updated on progress. The silence in this place over the last year suggests that the Government have not been as active as they should have been. In fact, a month ago, I learned that they were actively delaying RAIB’s core recommendation—the creation of a new UK tram safety body because they were failing to release the required funding.

“If this new body, currently operating in a basic ‘shadow’ form, does not receive the required funding by the end of the year, it will cease to function at all.”

Tory transport minister Jesse Norman: might get round to doing something some time

Jones also confirmed that the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling had still not replied to a letter sent more than a month ago about the creation of that Safety Board.

During the debate, the Tories’ Minister for Transport, Jesse Norman, confirmed that the funding had still yet to be released. “I expect to make an announcement shortly,” Norman said.

In her speech, Jones said, “The Government can drive this process forward; we just need the political will. We want something good to come from that dreadful day on 9 November 2016.

“The victims, their families and all tram passengers across the UK deserve nothing less.”

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