This post was first published by My London on 22/02/2019.
Croydon tram crash: £1.5million to be spent improving tram safety so tragedy ‘never happens again’
The new tram safety body will drive forward much-needed safety improvements across the UK tram industry.
It’s been more than two years since Croydon experienced one of its darkest ever days.
The tram crash in November 2016 left seven people dead and more than 60 others injured.
The lives of many haven’t been the same since, and there has been constant calls to improve tram safety so a similar tragedy doesn’t happen again.
It’s vitally important and it seems steps are being taken in the right direction.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced that £1.5million is being spent to set up the Light Rail Safety Standards Board (LRSSB) – a new body to drive forward much-needed safety improvements on trams across the UK.
Sarah Jones, Croydon Central MP, has been campaigning for the Government to release the funding for the new group, and in November last year wrote a letter to Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling, calling the lack of progress “unacceptable”.
And in December Mrs Jones held a debate on tram safety in the House of Commons, where she pushed for the funding to be released before the end of the year.
It has taken until now, but it has finally happened.
“Families and loved ones of the victims of the Croydon tram crash deserved to see urgent work from Government to prevent another tragedy,” Mrs Jones said.
“But for far too long, our calls for change fell on deaf ears. I’m glad we have finally seen some action from Government and I hope this new body will mean tram safety improvements finally pick up pace.”
The first of 15 recommendations made by the Rail Accident Investigation Board (RAIB) in December 2017 was to set up a dedicated tram safety body.
Mrs Jones has questioned why it took so long for the Government to act. Until the debate in Parliament in December, no minister had raised the issue or updated MPs on tram safety since the 2016 crash – more than two years before.
The Croydon MP believes that progress in delivering the recommendations across the country is still too slow.
“There are a host of reforms still needed across the UK’s tram networks,” Mrs Jones said. “These need to happen as a priority. And a one-off cash injection is unlikely to be enough to maintain high safety standards for tram passengers in the long-term.
“I want to see sustained investment and oversight of our trams so that a tragedy never happens again – not just in Croydon but anywhere in the UK.”
Office of Rail and Road (ORR), the independent safety and economic regulator for Britain’s railways, is tasked with overseeing a number of the RAIB reccomendations.
The body has said the cash injection will help them continue to improve the safety of the tram industry.
A spokesman for ORR said: “Since the tragic events at Sandilands Junction on November 9, 2016, in which seven people lost their lives and many more were injured, the Office of Rail and Road has worked with the industry to improve safety on Britain’s trams.
“There have already been a number of significant advances across GB’s tram systems, such as improving the management of tram driver fatigue, making changes in signage at high-risk locations, and evaluating risk control technologies intended to improve tram safety.
“We remain anxious to ensure future funding is placed on a sustainable footing, and will work with the industry and DfT to understand how they will achieve that.”
What more needs to be done?
Transport for London (TfL) admitted last month that seven of the 11 recommendations it is responsible for addressing are yet to be fully implemented, although the transport body said “significant” safety improvements have already been made.
The remaining four recommendations were directed at the wider tram industry, including bodies such as UK Tram and the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).These recommendations are yet to be completed and, as they affect the wider tram industry and not just the network in London, are expected to take significantly longer.
Improvements to be delivered on Croydon trams in 2019 include an automatic braking system and strengthened glass on tram windows, TfL has said.
The changes which TfL have so far made include the installation of a new device which monitors for driver fatigue, as well as a permanent speed reduction across the whole network, meaning the maximum speed trams could travel was reduced from 80kph to 70kph.
New signs have also been put up near Sandilands and at three other locations with significant bends.