The Croydon tram crash which resulted in seven dead and 51 injured, was the result of the tram entering a curve in the track almost four times the speed it should have been, the Rail Accident Investigation Team has disclosed.
An interim report, published today, said that the “sharp, left hand curve” near to Sandilands Junction had a speed limit of 12.5 mph (20kph). The tram, carrying 60 passengers, derailed travelling approximately 43.5 mph (80kph) and slid 25 metres on its side before grinding to a halt.
It was dark and heavily raining when the tram derailed at 6:07.
The speed limit for trams approaching from Lloyd Park is 50 mph, until “a reflective board denotes the commencement of the 12.5 mph speed limit; located approximately 30 metres before the tram derailed.”
A tram would have to brake at its full service rate of 1.3m/s 180 metres before the speed restriction board to slow down to the speed limit. Evidence shows the driver did apply the brakes, but only enough to slow the train down to 43.5 mph. There are no speed control systems fitted onto trams.
The report said: “Trams, including those in Croydon, generally operate on ‘line-of-sight’ principles, with drivers being required to check that the route ahead is clear. Indicators are provided at locations where conflict can occur, such as junctions and road crossings. There is no requirement for advance warning of speed restrictions”
The investigators noted that while the on-tram data recorder, which records the tram’s speed and driver’s operation of power and brake controls, was operating normally, the CCTV was not working.
All seven victims have been officially identified by the British Transport Police as Dane Chinnery, 19, Philip Seary, 57, Dorota Rynkiewicz, 35, Donald Collett, 62, Philip Logan, 52, Robert Huxley, 63 and newly engaged father Mark Smith.
The 42-year old driver from Beckenham was arrested for questioning but has been released on bail.
Chief Inspector of Rail Accidents, Simon French, added: “We have found no evidence of track defects or obstructions and our initial investigation does not indicate any malfunction of the tram’s braking system.”
“Our ongoing detailed investigation will now look at the wider context of the accident, including the sequence of events, the way the tram was driven, the infrastructure and how people received their injuries. We will also be looking into previous occurrences of over-speeding in this area and underlying management issues.”
British Transport Police are also investigating a similar incident a week before the crash where there are reports of a tram speeding at similar levels at the same bend, leaving passengers “shaking”.
The Rail Accident Investigation Team urged London Trams and Tram Operations Ltd to “jointly take measures to reduce the risk of trams approaching Sandilands Junction from the direction of New Addington at an excessive speed. Options for consideration should include the imposition of a further speed restriction before the start of the existing 20 km/h speed restriction around the curve and/ or additional operational signs.”