TfL announces automatic braking system for tram network

Slowly, more than two years on from the Croydon tram crash, Transport for London is carrying out the recommendations of the safety review which followed the tragic events at Sandilands.

This morning, TfL confirmed that it had awarded a contract to build and install an automatic braking system on Croydon’s trams by the end of 2019. It will make the Tramlink network the first in Britain to have automatic braking. It is also introducing a new emergency lighting system, and applying a film to all tram windows and doors to make them safer in the event of a crash.

The new automatic braking will bring a moving tram to a controlled stop if it exceeds the speed limit. This will operate alongside what they call a “driver protection system” that alerts to distraction and fatigue and has been in use since September 2017.

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.

Questions have been asked in the House of Commons over the Government and TfL’s failure yet to implement the majority of recommendations from a Rail Accident Investigation Branch – RAIB – tram safety review which was published more than a year ago, in 2017. The batch of works announced by TfL goes a long way to it fulfilling its obligations under the review; the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, has yet to make a murmur about providing the funding for a national tram safety body.

One key RAIB recommendation was the need for an automatic braking system on the trams, something similar to what has existed on trains and Tubes for decades.

The Sandilands crash happened when a tram travelled too fast around a tight bend

The London transport authority, in a statement issued this morning, says that the automatic braking system “means all of the recommendations specific to TfL following the Sandilands overturning tragedy are now in progress or complete”.

TfL awarded the contract to Engineering Support Group Limited last month.

“It is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2019, including a period of training and familiarisation with tram drivers,” TfL said.

Automatic braking “will initially be configured to priority high-risk locations” as suggested by the RAIB, “but will have the flexibility to be introduced elsewhere on the tram network”.

The new emergency lighting system, which will operate independently of the tram’s battery in the event of an emergency, has also been sourced and will be installed over the summer, addressing another RAIB recommendation.

TfL is to apply “new higher specification film that is 75 per cent thicker (from 100microns to 175microns) will be fitted to all doors and windows to improve containment” by the spring.

“We will never forget the tragedy at Sandilands and from day one have focused our attention on preventing this type of incident from ever happening again,” said Mark Davis, TfL’s general manager of London Trams.

“Awarding the contract for a new automatic braking system is a first for trams in the UK, and not only will it improve safety for customers in London, but we hope it will lead the way for other tram operators across the country.”

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