A tram that derailed in Croydon last week was travelling at more than three times the speed limit, according to investigators.
The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has today (16 November) released its interim report into the fatal accident, which occurred on 9 November. The tram derailed and overturned on a curve as it approached Sandilands Junction, killing seven people and injuring 51 others.
A 42-year-old man from Beckenham was arrested in connection with the derailment on suspicion of manslaughter. He has been released on bail until May 2017.
According to the RAIB report, initial findings from the on-tram data recorder suggest that the tram was travelling at a speed of approximately 70km/h as it entered the curve. The maximum permitted speed for trams approaching the curve is 20km/h.
As the tram encountered the curve, it derailed and turned over onto its right side, travelling for approximately 25m before it stopped. The RAIB said that it has, so far, found no evidence of any track defects or obstructions on the route that could have contributed to the derailment.
The RAIB is yet to carry out a detailed examination of the tram, but it said that initial findings show no indication of any malfunction of the vehicle’s braking system.
In light of the initial findings, the RAIB has issued urgent safety advice to Tram Operations Ltd and London Trams.
“The factors that led to the over-speeding are still under investigation. Until these factors are better understood, and before the junction re-opens to passenger operation, the RAIB advises London Trams and Tram Operations Ltd to jointly take measures to reduce the risk of trams approaching Sandilands Junction from the direction of New Addington at an excessive speed,” said the RAIB.
“Options for consideration should include the imposition of a further speed restriction before the start of the existing 20 km/h speed restriction around the curve and/or additional operational signs.”
London’s transport commissioner Mike Brown welcomed the RAIB’s interim report.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
The RAIB’s ongoing investigation will look at a range of issues, including the design, configuration and condition of the infrastructure on this section of the route; the tram’s behaviour during the incident and how people sustained their injuries; and the way the tram was being driven and any influencing factors.
The tram involved in the accident was running between Lloyd Park and Sandilands tram stops on the route from New Addington. The approach to the Sandilands tram stop runs in the open for approximately 900m, and then passes through Sandilands tunnels (comprised of three closely spaced tunnels with a total length of 512m), before emerging into a cutting approximately 100m before the left-hand curve on which the accident occurred. The curve itself has a radius of approximately 30m.
The tramway runs in its own dedicated corridor in this location – it does not change to street running until after Sandilands tram stop. The alignment through the tunnels on the approach to the curve is straight, and the track is on a gently falling gradient from the tunnel portal to the curve, before rising again through the junction.
The maximum permitted speed for trams approaching the area from Lloyd Park is 80km/h until the curve near to Sandilands Junction, at which point it drops to 20km/h. A reflective board denotes the commencement of the 20km/h speed restriction; it is located approximately 30m before the point where the derailment occurred.