THE Rail Accident Investigation Branch has issued urgent advice to Transport for London following the fatal crash east of Croydon town centre on 9 November, in which seven people died in an overturned tram and 51 were hurt, eight seriously.
An interim report reveals that the tram was travelling approximately three and half times faster than the 20km/h speed limit through a curve at Sandilands Junction. The driver was arrested after the accident on suspicion of manslaughter, and he has since been bailed pending further police enquiries. A witness appeal has been launched.
Early investigations by the RAIB have ruled out a track fault and also the likelihood of brake failure, although this has yet to be confirmed by detailed tests. The RAIB said: "Initial investigation has not indicated any malfunction of the tram’s braking system."
Using 'black box' data, the report says the tram had approached the junction at the full permitted line speed of 80km/h and then started to slow down in response to a brake application. However, the speed had only been reduced by some 10km/h when the vehicle entered the curve. It overturned and then slid along the ground for 25m before coming to rest. Apart from the casualties the tram was badly damaged, and there was also some damage to the infrastructure.
Transport for London has been advised to install more speed restriction signs at Sandilands Junction before the line reopens. In addition, the RAIB also advised that TfL should consider moving the start of the local speed restriction further back from the junction.
London transport commissioner Mike Brown responded: "Our thoughts are with everyone affected by what happened last Wednesday, and we are working with the local community to ensure that they continue to receive all the support they need at this incredibly difficult time.
“I thank the RAIB for their thorough and swift interim investigation. Our engineers have now repaired all track and other equipment and have run trams over the repaired section.
“We will follow the RAIB’s advice and, before service is resumed, will implement additional temporary speed restrictions and associated signage near Sandilands to supplement existing safety arrangements.
“We are continuing to carry out a thorough safety assessment and are taking the advice of an independent panel of tram experts. We will only resume services for the local community once that rigorous assurance process has been completed.”
FirstGroup is employed by TfL to run Tramlink. FirstGroup CEO Tim O’Toole said: “I would like to reiterate how shocked and saddened we are by the tragic incident in Croydon last week. On behalf of everyone at FirstGroup I would like to express our condolences to the bereaved families and friends and to those who were injured.
“I would like to thank the RAIB for their interim report and we will continue to provide full support to their ongoing investigation.
“We are working with Transport for London to follow the RAIB’s advice and provide clear instruction on this to our drivers.
“We continue to work with TfL and the authorities to provide assistance in any way possible to those individuals and families affected.”