Documents show TfL censored safety audit after tram crash

A rescue worker on the crash site at Sandilands in November 2016. Only now is evidence of a cover-up of the tram operators’ safety systems beginning to emerge

Long-standing suspicions that there has been a cover-up over safety reports relating to the tram network following the 2016 Sandilands crash appear to be confirmed today, with the publication of a file of documents which show that reports critical of the tram operator’s safety standard were watered down.

A Transport for London internal report about faults in the fatigue management of Tram Operations Ltd (TOL), the tram operator, had key criticisms removed, according to

Seven people were killed and 62 injured when a tram travelling from New Addington towards East Croydon left the tracks at Sandilands in November 2016.

Buzzfeed reports that TOL, a division of FirstGroup, the company which operates the London Tramlink service on behalf of TfL, had intervened and complained that a report on safety practices produced eight months after the crash was “too negative”. Yes, after seven people died…

Inside Croydon has reported before on the suspicious circumstances around the withholding and delay regarding the driver fatigue audit.

In April 2018, we reported how the TfL report had been withheld from independent crash investigators for more than six months. There were reasonable concerns aired then that Leon Daniels, TfL’s director of surface transport at that time, had delayed releasing the report out of concerns over possible private prosecutions for corporate manslaughter, where fines of £20million or more can be handed out by the Health and Safety Executive.

Buzzfeed has obtained documents, following dogged questioning at City Hall from Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon, that show that the fatigue audit report was not only delayed, but also subject to significant amendment.

One of the draf documents obtained by Buzzfeed. The ‘Requires improvement’ was omitted when the report was placed in the public domain

TfL undertook the fatigue audit in June 2017, soon after another Tram driver was filmed asleep at the controls during a Croydon rush hour.

The review found that TOL’s procedures did not meet industry standards and the draft report stated clearly: “requires improvement”.

Buzzfeed reports today: “This draft report, circulated to a restricted group of TfL executives on July 7, 2017, also clearly emphasised several ‘Priority 1’ and ‘Priority 2’ safety issues that TOL needed to address — including that it wasn’t training supervisors to recognise signs of extreme tiredness in drivers.

“The auditor’s headline conclusion, that TOL’s safety system ‘requires improvement’, was in the draft report, but had been removed when the final report was published in March 2018,” the website says, having obtained the documents for comparison.

“The auditor’s headline conclusion had been deleted and its executive summary rewritten in a less urgent and critical tone. Safety deficiencies that had been clearly marked as ‘priorities’ were now characterised as ‘Opportunities for Improvement’.”

The website has seen the correspondence between TfL officials and staff at TOL which led to the censoring of the criticism of the tram operators.

“How are the families of the victims expected to interpret that?” Michael Liebreich, a former TfL board member, told BuzzFeed.

Michael Liebreich: raised concerns about the fatigue audit report two years ago

It was Liebreich, when chairing the TfL board in September 2017, who ordered that the audit report should be sent immediately to the Department for Transport’s Rail Accident Investigation Branch, which was still investigating the Sandilands crash.

TfL managers agreed to do so, but when the RAIB’s report about Croydon came out at the end of 2017, it did not mention the fatigue audit at all. When Liebreich asked what had happened, TfL officials admitted the document had not been sent. They blamed “human error”.

The release of documents today, after months of questions to the London Mayor by Pidgeon, suggests that the withholding of the report and its censoring was anything but an “error”.

“To now discover that TfL’s report on fatigue faced by tram drivers went through a process of being toned down, seemingly at the request of Tram Operations Limited, provides further clear evidence of a culture towards safety issues that needs to be urgently addressed,” Pidgeon said today.

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
This entry was posted in Caroline Pidgeon, London Assembly, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, Sandilands derailment, TfL, Tramlink, Transport and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Documents show TfL censored safety audit after tram crash

  1. Lewis White says:

    Here is a way of reducing TfL’s financial defecit.

    Let go, sack – without redundancy packages or golden goodbyes, all those who have watered down, delayed or covered up etc , this safety report.

    Who are these people? Presumably fairly senior, otherwise they would not have been able to water down/ delay/cover up the truth.

    And all while on very good salaries.

    Sack ’em.

  2. Chris says:

    An interesting example of how fat cats operate here. If you look at your link you can see he intended to retire in 2015 and was asked to stay on, only to be made redundant a year or so afterwards. Because he hadn’t retired he was due redundancy and a one off severance payment of nearly 500,000 quid! Trebles all round!

  3. George Xenophontos says:

    They don’t want to mention temporary medical conditions on drivers and management bullying on drivers. As an ex tram driver i should be interviewed by the London Assembly

Leave a Reply