London mayor Sadiq Khan has been heavily criticised for ‘evasive answers’ over concerns about driver fatigue raised before the fatal Croydon tram crash.
Liberal Democrat Caroline Pidgeon, deputy chair of the London Assembly's Transport Committee, demanded evidence that TfL or FirstGroup Tram Operations Ltd had taken action over driver fatigue after concerns were raised by tram drivers in 2014.
Driver fatigue has been cited as a potential factor in last year's tram crash, which killed seven people. However the late response from Mr Khan's office largely copied the reaction from FirstGroup to the original concerns raised on the confidential incident reporting and analysis service (CIRAS) system.
Ms Pidgeon slammed Mr Khan and warned 'there is only so long the mayor and TfL (Transport for London) can play for time on these important safety issues’.
Mr Khan stated: ‘FirstGroup Tram Operations Limited looked into the concerns about fatigue highlighted by CIRAS in May 2014 and responded to the suggestions made about shift patterns and flexible rosters. Rosters are consulted on and agreed with the trades unions. The Health and Safety Executive fatigue risk index is used to highlight any areas that may require attention; none were identified in the roster current at the time.
‘There are rare occasions when drivers ‘fail to show’ for early duties and the night standby has been required to start the duty. Such a driver would be relieved as soon as another became available. There were no recorded operational incidents in which this shift pattern proved to be an underlying cause.’
Ms Pidgeon told Transport Network: ‘Time and time again the mayor and TfL provide evasive replies about key safety issues relating to the Croydon Tram. They might think they cannot say anything of substance until the investigation report is finally published, but the reality is that at some point real answers will have to be provided to the public.'
The response followed the anniversary of the crash in November 2016 in which seven people died and a further 51 taken to hospital.
TfL said it was working with the Rail Accident Investigation Board as it completes its investigation and pledged to ‘take on board’ all its recommendations.
It added that it has introduced a number of safety improvements to the tram network since the incident, including:
- additional speed restrictions and associated signage have been installed near Sandilands and at three other locations on the tram network.
- implementing a permanent speed reduction across the tram network, meaning the maximum speed trams can travel is now 70kph (previously 80kph).
- enhanced chevron signs have been installed at the four sites with significant bends to provide an additional visual cue for drivers. The number of speed signs has been increased and additional lineside digital signage will provide added speed warnings to drivers.
- an in-cab driver protection device that detects and prevents fatigue and distraction has been trialled and is now fitted to all of our trams.
- TfL is working with safety experts to test options to strengthen the glass fitted to trams.
- work on developing an in-cab driver alert system for monitoring and managing tram speed is underway.
- the CCTV recording system has been replaced and upgraded