This post was first published by Croydon Advertiser on 25/04/2017.
TfL ordered by Mayor of London to investigate tram drivers’ claims amid questions over operator
The drivers also claimed the “dead man’s handle” had failed to correctly activate and stop their trams when they had fallen asleep and let go of the controls.
An interim report by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch into last year’s tram crash found the tram was speeding and that the driver “lost awareness”.
In response, Tram Operations Limited (TOL), which operates the trams and employs the drivers, said controls in the cabs are built to “industry safety standards” and both it and Transport for London (TfL) were “satisfied” they are fully functional.
It added that procedures were in place for driver support and welfare including monitoring for potential fatigue.
A spokesman added: “We emphasise to employees that no-one should drive if they are unfit to do so.”
One driver told the BBC how drivers were afraid tell management about safety device failures because they feared being sacked over falling asleep.
Caroline Pidgeon, a London Assembly member and chair of the transport committee at City Hall, has questioned whether TOL should operate the 30-year contract for the trams.
She said: “These are incredibly serious revelations, especially if any breaches of speeding have occurred since the horrific tram crash last November.
“Already the RAIB reports have confirmed that the Croydon tram crash involved a tram far exceeding the speed limit for that part of the track.
“It is now time to consider whether the current company [TOL] are fit to run this important contract given these serious safety issues.”
She also questioned earlier this month whether new window safety standards would have to be rolled out across TfL’s 9,000 buses, following concerns being raised over tram window safety.
Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, has “ordered” TfL to investigate all the claims in the BBC report.
A spokesman for the mayor said: “TfL respond to any complaint that is raised and actively encourage customers and staff to report any concerns they may have directly to them.
“Any allegations of safety breaches must be taken extremely seriously and the mayor has ordered TfL to urgently investigate all the claims made in [yesterday’s] report.”
TfL said it is in “constant contact” with FirstGroup, of which TOL is a subsidiary company, and has asked it to give “further assurance” it is doing “everything possible” to manage fatigue.
A spokeswoman added: “Following the tragic derailment at Sandilands in November, we have acted to strengthen safety and will take all further steps necessary in the light of the investigations currently under way.”
A spokesman for TOL said it investigates and takes disciplinary action where appropriate when incidents, for speeding for anything else, are reported.
He added: “If there are any reports of issues with the performance of the trams these are investigated as a priority.”
The Advertiser revealed earlier this year how TOL was not signed up to a UK-based confidential reporting hotline which had been rolled out across other parts of the TfL network last year.
TOL said it has a different confidential reporting hotline, which has its head office in America.
It said employees can call the hotline if they have any concerns.
TfL said customers can also raise any concerns they have at any time by calling TfL 24 hours a day on 0343 222 1234.