Transport for London was conducting a safety audit of the Croydon tram network at the time of the 2016 Sandilands disaster which claimed seven lives.
The existence of the safety audit report has only come to light under the disclosure process ahead of the inquest into the deaths, which was supposed to have started this week but was postponed because of the change in covid-19 precautions.
Dane Chinnery, 19, Philip Logan, 52, Philip Seary, 57, Dorota Rynkiewicz, 35, Robert Huxley, 63, Mark Smith, 35, and Donald Collett, 62, were all killed in the crash which took place on the morning of November 9, 2016, when a speeding tram left the tracks on a curve approaching the Sandilands tram stop. Another 61 people were injured in the crash.
According to a report in the latest issue of Private Eye magazine, the TfL audit made no mention of the tragedy and its findings were kept secret from crash investigators.
“The audit was in the final stages of preparation and was actually completed on 15 November 2016 – six days after the fatal crash,” the Eye reports.
There were reasonable concerns aired then that Leon Daniels, TfL’s director of surface transport at that time of the crash, 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.
Now Private Eye reports that it has obtained a preliminary draft of the TfL safety audit, which found that tram management, operations and health and safety were all “adequately controlled”.
The report also found that the matter of driver fitness for duty, fatigue and drug and alcohol control were “well controlled”, the highest rating possible.
This might reflect very poorly on TfL and Tram Operations Ltd (TOL), the division of First Group which runs the network, since the crash investigators found it very likely that the Sandilands crash occurred after the driver had what they called “a micro sleep” when driving the tram. After the crash, other incidences of drivers falling asleep and criticism of TOL’s shift patterns, which were seen as contributing to driver fatigue, also emerged.
British Transport Police and the Crown Prosecution Service both decided not to press charges against the driver of the tram nor pursue any case for corporate manslaughter against TfL or TOL.
The emergence of this safety audit report, when it is subject to cross-examination at the inquest, could explore the issues of driver fatigue further, since it is also known to be an issue with London’s bus drivers.
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