The Croydon Tram Crash – Still Nothing From The Crown Prosecution Service

12 Feb 2018

Who could forget the horrific Croydon tram crash? On 9th November 2016, seven people lost their lives when the light rail tram serving Croydon overturned, with 69 passengers on board. A total of 62 people suffered injury, with 19 of those enduring serious injuries including limb loss. The six men and one woman who died were aged between 19 and 63 years of age. This death toll made the Croydon crash the deadliest rail accident in the UK since the Great Heck crash in 2001 in which 10 people were killed.

On the first anniversary of the tragedy, two memorials were unveiled to the memory of the victims: a stone plinth near the crash site at Sandilands Junction and a new communal area in New Addington. The civic memorial service was attended by families of the victims as well as survivors of the crash.

So what happened to cause the derailment and how can something like this be avoided in the future? The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) conducted an investigation into the incident.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch

Using data from the tram’s recorder the RAIB reported in December 2017 that the tram was speeding and the track brakes had not been activated as it took the sharp left curve, causing it to derail. The speed limit at that part of the track was 20 kilometres per hour, but the tram was travelling at 70 kilometres per hour at the time of the crash. As the tram derailed, windows and doors smashed causing passengers to fall out and become crushed as the tram slid to a stop. The RAIB found that driver error was the cause of the accident, most likely due to him briefly falling asleep.

The RAIB investigation noted that in general, British tram operators across the UK’s eight urban tramways failed to fully understand the risks inherent in tram systems and therefore failed to install sufficient safety measures. A total of 15 safety recommendations arose as a consequence. These included the installation of more speed limits on other dangerous areas of the tramline. In addition it was recommended that new measures should include systems to monitor the alertness of drivers as well as to automatically reduce speeds when approaching dangerous curves and junctions. Furthermore, given that all the passengers who lost their lives had been ejected from the tram, it was concluded that if the tram windows had been made of laminated glass instead of toughened glass, more may have survived.

The roles of the British Transport Police Investigation and the Crown Prosecution Service.

The British Transport Police (BTP) arrested the driver of the tram on suspicion of manslaughter and he continues to remain on police bail while the BTP investigation continues. The BTP will release their findings to the Crown Prosecution Service(CPS), which will then decide whether or not the driver should face criminal charges. The CPS will also decide whether corporate charges will be levied against Transport for London(TfL) and TOL, the company that operates the trams on behalf of TfL. So until that process grinds to a close, the families of the dead and those that were injured, frustratingly, do not know whether or not they will have their day in court at a criminal trial or inquest.

 As we await for the BTP and CPS decisions…

In January this year, in response to the RAIB’s report, the regulatory body called the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) held a meeting on safety. During the summit, the ORR committed to establishing a steering group which will agree a timetable for implementing the recommendations arising from the RAIB. The ORR was quoted in as saying that they ‘remain united in their determination to take action to ensure that the Croydon tragedy is never repeated’.

Separately, TfL opened their own investigation into the accident and its report is expected to be published sometime in 2018. It is also reported the TfL will consider investigating all fatal incidents on the TfL network, in a style similar to the RAIB. In addition, TfL has committed to implementing all the recommendations from the RAIB final report.

Compensation and Justice

In March 2017, Tramtrack Crodyon Ltd and Tfl admitted liability for the accident, which meant that victims and survivors would not have to sue in order to obtain judgment entitling them to pursue a claim for compensation.  The BBC reported that by the end of January this year, TfL has received 87 claims and has paid out more than £2.2 million in compensation and for counselling to support those affected. While financial recompense may go a very little way to supporting the victims and their families, it is also important that the case is brought to court: that way, the families affected can be assured that justice is served.

Osbornes is instructed to act for the family of one of the fatally injured victims of the Croydon tram crash.

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