Radical changes to tram safety are set to implemented in the wake of an investigation into the fatal Croydon crash, which has recommended more 'active' intervention to prevent human error.
The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has suggested automatic braking systems could be used to prevent speeding and recommended research into how to monitor drowsiness in drivers and intervene if they start falling asleep.
The news follows revelations that Croydon tram drivers have admitted to falling asleep at the controls.
Seven people died and a further 51 were taken to hospital in the accident near Sandilands Junction in the early morning of 9 November 2016.
An earlier interim report from RAIB gave a basic explanation of events, which suggested that the driver had lost awareness as he was approaching a bend and braked too late. It also cited poorly placed signage for drivers as an issue.
In a statement, Mike Brown MVO, London's Transport Commissioner, said: `Since the incident we have introduced a number of additional safety measures to the tram network, including additional speed restrictions, enhanced speed monitoring, new signage for drivers and an upgrade of the CCTV recording system.
`An in-cab vigilance system is being trialed and should be fitted to all trams by the autumn. Any sign of driver distraction or fatigue will result in the driver being alerted immediately. Work on an alert system for monitoring and managing tram speed is underway.
`We continue to work with the wider tram industry on these improvements and will consider any further measures that could be introduced to improve safety. We also continue to work with the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) and will take on board all recommendations from this and the other investigations that are underway.’
RAIB's recommendations to UK tram operators are set to include:
- provision of active tram protection to prevent serious accidents due to excessive speed at high risk locations
- research into active means of detecting the attention state of drivers and intervening in the event of inattention
- improved containment of passengers by tram windows and doors
- setting up of an industry body to facilitate more effective cooperation between UK tramway owners and operators on matters related to safety performance and the development of common standards
The RAIB said that in addition, its investigation into how operator Tram Operations Ltd manages fatigue risk may result in a recommendation.
RAIB said it had written to Transport for London which owns the tramway, Tram Operations Limited and UKTram, the trade organisation covering all UK tram operators, to formally confirm the areas that a number of its key recommendations are expected to cover.
It said: ‘We did this so they can start to consider what action to take in response, prior to the publication of our final report. The letter has been copied to other UK tram operators and the safety authority.’