A London Assembly Member and General Election candidate for a Labour safe seat has been accused of protecting the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, and Transport for London from “serious, legitimate questions” over the safety of the tram network.
Michael Liebreich spent four years as deputy chair of TfL’s safety, sustainability panel under Boris Johnson when he was Mayor, and two years as chair of the safety, sustainability and HR panel under Khan.
There, he called for a full and independent investigation into how TfL managed to cover-up and censor an internal review into fatigue among tram drivers which it conducted after the November 2016 tram crash at Sandilands, when seven people were killed and more than 60 badly injured.
Liebreich has described the TfL cover-up of the fatigue review as the most “vital challenge” of Khan’s Mayoralty, and at the City Hall session with Assembly Members two months ago he made clear the need for the Mayor to appoint an independent investigator “to answer all the open questions around TfL’s handling of Fatigue Audit IA 17 780”.
The British Transport Police and Crown Prosecution Service have since abandoned their criminal investigation into the crash, although Sarah Jones, who is campaigning to be re-elected as MP for Croydon Central, wants to change the law to make tram drivers carry the same responsibilities as bus drivers at all times.
Some, though, believe that focusing on the tram driver’s part in the Sandilands crash diverts from the broader responsibilities of senior executives and directors at Transport for London and their service operators, Tram Operations Ltd, in terms of their management of staff and working patterns, which the official report said was a factor in the fatal derailment.
Among those of that view is Liebreich.
Despite giving evidence at City Hall for more than an hour in September, in which he frequently referred to points made in his letter, that letter has never been included in the minutes of the meeting – something which the businessman clearly suspects has been done deliberately to skirt around many of the issues he raised.
Yesterday, Liebreich wrote to Florence Eshalomi, the chair of the London Assembly transport committee, following up on a further letter he had written on October 3.
Eshalomi, a Lambeth Council and Progress colleague of Steve Reed OBE, is now the Labour candidate for Vauxhall in the General Election.
In his letter to Esholomi yesterday, Liebreich notes, quite pointedly, “I am writing to follow up my letter of 3 October 2019… as I have not heard back from you.
“In that letter… I requested ‘Given how many times it came up during the session, I would like to formally request that a copy of my letter to the Mayor of 9 September 2019 – explaining why I believe he needs to appoint an independent investigator into the handling of TfL Fatigue Audit IA 17 780 – be read into the record of the meeting’.
“You can do it by uploading the redacted version of my letter to the London Assembly Transport Committee web page, alongside the minutes and transcript of the session. Or you can append it to the minutes themselves.
“But please, in the interest of transparency, can you ensure that this is now done without further delay?
“The job of the London Assembly is to scrutinise the Mayor and TfL, not to protect them from serious, legitimate questions.”
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