The Rail Accident Investigation Branch’s (RAIB) investigation into the fatal tram derailment near Croydon last year has indicated that the driver “lost awareness” that he was nearing a tight bend with a slow speed restriction.
The accident happened at about 6.07am on November 9, 2016, when a tram running between New Addington and Wimbledon derailed and overturned on a curve as it approached Sandilands Junction in Croydon. The tram then travelled for a short distance on its side before stopping, says the report.
Seven people died and 51 were taken to hospital.
According to the RAIB’s second interim report, the tram was travelling at approximately 73km/h as it entered the curve, which had a maximum permitted speed of 20km/h.
There was no evidence of track defects or obstructions, says the report. There was a speed restriction sign at the start of the curve, but the report says heavy rain at the time of the crash made it hard to read a distance. There was no sign to tell drivers when to brake.
”The point at which the curve can be sighted and the sign becomes readable in clear conditions is therefore about 90m to 120m beyond the point at which a full service brake application must start in order to reduce speed from 80km/h to 20km/h (full service brake deceleration is around half emergency brake deceleration),” says the report. “At the time of the accident the readability of the speed restriction sign is likely to have been adversely affected by heavy rain.”
Data from the tram shows that the brake was not used until around 2.5 seconds before the tram reached the speed limit sign, and the tram’s speed fell from 78km/h to 73km/h. The hazard brake was not used.
“The late application of the brakes, and the absence of emergency braking, suggests that the driver had lost awareness that he was approaching the tight, left-hand curve. The RAIB is continuing to investigate the factors that may have caused this to occur,” said the report.
In response, London Transport Commissioner Mike Brown said: “Our thoughts remain with all those affected by the tragic tram derailment and we continue to do all we can to offer our support. We continue to work with the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) and will take on board all recommendations from this and other investigations, including our own, that are underway. Before resuming services on 18 November 2016, and in accordance with advice in the RAIB’s first interim report, additional speed restrictions and associated signage were introduced near Sandilands and at three other locations on the tram network.
”In January this year we installed chevron signs at four sites with significant bends including Sandilands to provide an additional visual cue for drivers. We have recently held a summit with other tram operators from around the country and continue to consider further safety measures that could be introduced.”