A senior London Assembly member has demanded answers over allegations that shift patterns led to driver fatigue – and a greater possibility of crashes – on the Croydon tram network where seven people were killed in a derailment.
Caroline Pidgeon has asked Transport of London (TfL) and its tram operator how they responded to the fatigue concerns, which had been raised before the Croydon tram crash that occurred last November in the early morning.
Tram Operations Limited, part of First Group and the operators of the Croydon tram network, were formally warned two and a half years before the fatal crash at Sandilands last November that its shift system could be causing dangerous levels of driver fatigue.
Investigations into the crash have suggested that the driver temporarily ‘lost awareness’, causing the tram to approach a corner at four times the maximum speed limit despite braking. Seven people lost their lives and 51 others were taken to hospital.
Caroline Pidgeon, deputy chair of the London Assembly’s transport committee has tabled a written question for mayor Sadiq Khan, asking for evidence that concerns raised through the CIRAS (confidential incident reporting and analysis service) system in 2014 were 'properly investigated and acted upon'.
She said: ‘No one should second-guess the investigation into the horrific Croydon tram crash, which is due out over the next few weeks and will hopefully provide some answers.
‘However, at some point TfL and Trams Operation Limited will have to be provide robust answers as to whether they have fully addressed the long-standing complaints about shift patterns allegedly causing fatigue.’
The CIRAS website contains both the concerns raised and the operator’s response. It says: ‘Tram Drivers are concerned about the effects of fatigue arising as a result of the fixed roster. The most fatigue inducing shifts are reported to be those where there is a rotation from early to late shifts and the night shift.’
It adds: ‘It is felt that that the shifts described above and the activities involved increase fatigue amongst staff and the likelihood of micro sleeping, which could lead to an operational incident.’
Drivers reported never feeling 'fully awake' and having vending machines at depots that were filled with energy drinks to keep them going.
According to the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) website, its final report into the incident ‘is nearing completion’.
Although the RAIB has not established exactly how the driver ‘lost awareness’ as the tram approached the bend, it has published what its recommendations are likely to be.
Transport Network has approached TfL and First Group for comment.