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Business Law

Is British tram safety going off the rails?

On the 9 November 2016, as many were waking up to the news that Donald J Trump would be the next US president, the UK witnessed its first tram incident in which passengers were killed for nearly 60 years.

Seven people sadly lost their lives and a further 51 people were seriously injured on the morning of 9 November, when a tram derailed and overturned on a sharp bend approaching the Sandilands Junction, near Croydon, South London.

Investigations into the tram crash continue, but findings released so far show that the tram was travelling at three and a half times the speed limit when it derailed.

The interim report from The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) into what happened found that the tram, operated by First Group on behalf of Transport for London (TfL), was actually travelling at 43.5mph in a 12mph zone.

It is not known why the tram was travelling at a speed so far over the limit and investigations are continuing to establish how and why the accident happened. The RAIB report also showed that there was no evidence of defects to the track or brakes and no obstructions were found on the track.

Changes have now been addressed in three areas across the tram lines in London, in addition to speed restrictions to improve safety and avoid such a tragic accident happening again in the future.

The tram driver was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and bailed until May 2017 as it is unknown whether the driver blacked out or fell asleep whilst in control of the tram.

Survivors of the Croydon tram crash are now claiming serious injury compensation from Transport for London and First Group for their injuries and trauma.

Several passengers that survived the crash have instructed specialist serious injury claims solicitors, such as CFG Law to help them investigate who was responsible and demand compensation to help them cope with their injuries.

According to CFG Law, “the absolute focus in these cases should be about early rehabilitation and support to help the clients make the best recovery possible for their injuries, whether these are physical or psychological.”

A spokesperson for Transport for London said: “Our thoughts remain with everyone affected by the tram derailment. We continue to do all we can to offer support, including providing counselling and advising those affected to seek independent legal advice.

Compensation claims are being handled quickly and interim payments have already been made to some of the injured.

“We completely understand the call for answers on what happened and what lessons should be learned and continue to assist with the investigations”, they added.

Shortly after news of the crash was reported, claims emerged on social media that an incident had occurred on the same stretch of line on 31 October. According to the reports, the tram driver took the corner at the Sandilands Junction at 40mph, though there were no reports that anyone was hurt.

Following the aftermath of the accident, other footage emerged less than ten days later showing another tram driver falling asleep whilst at the controls along the same line as where the accident occurred. The footage was taken on the mobile phone of a passenger and has raised further concerns for tram passenger safety.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, expressed his concern upon seeing the footage and commented, “I will make sure any necessary action is taken, and that all steps are taken to make sure these trams are as safe as possible.”

According to the Office of Rail and Road, in 2015-16, 11 passengers were fatally injured in accidents on our railways and 759 other accidents reported, of which 143 (19%) occurred on trams, metros and other non-Network Rail networks.

This shows a large increase over the last two years from 24 in 2013-14 and 110 in 2014-15. However, this may also be down to better reporting on the tram lines in recent years, as well as an expansion of the tram networks in both Manchester and Nottingham.