As a solicitor acting on behalf of victims and families of the Croydon tram crash which saw seven people killed and more than 50 injured, I certainly welcome news from Transport for London (TFL) that speed monitoring devices are to be introduced.
TFL says it wants to install new devices to its entire fleet which will alert drivers when they are going too fast and to apply the brake, and generate alerts and apply brakes if “no driver activity is detected” for a period of time – something which is crucial given the mounting claims around the number of drivers falling asleep when in control.
Sadly, as is the case with many similar events, it takes a serious accident or disaster where lives are lost or serious injury caused for investigations to be launched, systems and policies be reviewed, and potentially life-saving changes be made.
Investigations by the Rails Accident Investigation Bureau into the Croydon crash have so far revealed that the tram was travelling at 46mph in a 13 mph zone when it crashed in November – a possibility and clear risk which surely could and should have been identified and prevented before.
Croydon tram diver ‘lost awareness’ in moments before crash
The Rails Accident Investigation Bureau have also concluded that driver Alfred Dorris ‘lost awareness’ in the moments before the crash.
Drivers falling asleep or losing consciousness is again an issue which must have been raised as a concern in the months and years before the crash, and given that four past drivers came forward earlier this year to admit falling asleep at the controls, it certainly appears far from a recent issue.
As well as preventing drivers from intentionally speeding, the new proposed system will intervene to reduce speed if a driver becomes incapacitated or falls asleep.
Whilst we welcome the introduction of a speed management and monitoring system on the tram network in London at Hudgell Solicitors, we also feel it is long overdue and could have saved lives had it been in place last year.
Serious questions still to be asked over knowledge Transport for London had of risks
Serious questions therefore still need to be asked as to why such measures were not already in place.
How much information and awareness did TFL have on the dangers of trams speeding around corners well over the speed limit, and the number of occasions drivers fell asleep, or lost control for other reasons?
Going forward, we feel there is also a clear need for TFL to review drivers’ workloads and fatigue levels.
Both before and since the crash, further incidents of other tram drivers allegedly falling asleep at the wheel have come to light and been reported.
It has presented a picture unfortunately of an accident which was waiting to happen, and although that can’t be prevented now, serious lessons can be learned, vital changes can be made, and the likelihood of any similar accident in the future can be lessened significantly.
That has to be the focus.