Transport for London considered cancelling its operating contract with Tram Operations Limited to run the Croydon tram network in the aftermath of 2016’s fatal crash, City AM has reported.
City AM says it has obtained TfL documents showing that they received legal advice on whether it could cancel the 30-year deal while carrying out an audit of the network.
The derailment took place on the morning of November 9, 2016, on a curve in the track close to the Sandilands tram stop. 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. The crash left 61 people injured, after the worst tram disaster in Britain for a century.
Internal documents have revealed a TfL safety audit that looked at faults in the fatigue management of TOL had key criticisms removed. TOL, a division of FirstGroup, complained that a report on safety practices produced eight months after the crash was “too negative”.
Now City AM has obtained further documents which state that TfL officials complained that TOL had failed to cooperate with their investigations into the crash.
City AM reports, “But, the note went on, it would be ‘difficult to enforce’ the right to end the contract ‘in practice’.
“An attempt to break the contract on the condition ‘material and serious default’, it said, could be triggered by ‘evidence of systemic failure’ – although TOL would first have the opportunity to ‘remedy the breach or agree a remediation plan’.”
The report fails to say why a crash that killed seven passengers was not considered to be “evidence of systemic failure”. Nor did the legal advice acknowledge that TOL had been investigated 10 times for collisions and derailments in the decade before the Sandilands crash.
The legal advice, City AM reports, considered a negotiated exit of the contract with TOL, which it estimated might cost TfL between £5million and £15million in compensation for early termination.
The legal note said, “It should be expected that their appetite to engage will be affected by their view of the reputational damage that an early exit might generate.”
The inquest into the deaths of the passengers in the 2016 tram crash was due to have begun at Croydon Town Hall late last year, but has been twice postponed because of coronavirus considerations.
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