Croydon tram drivers ‘fatigued by number of shifts’, warn unions

Photo: Phil Beard

Pic: Phil Beard

The ASLEF train drivers union has raised concerns over shift patterns on Croydon’s trams, becoming the second union to question safety arrangements on the Croydon tram network in the wake of the recent tram crash which left seven dead.

Speaking to the Croydon Advertiser, Finn Brennan, the district organiser for the union Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF) questioned whether drivers on the tram route were working a dangerous amount of shifts in comparison to their rest days.

He said the union’s representatives had raised concerns over whether shift patterns adhered to guidelines set out by the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB).

Brennan confirmed to Eastlondonlines that ASLEF “have concerns about the number of consecutive shifts and the level of overtime being worked.”

However, the union was reluctant to discuss details about the number of workers affected or the exact nature of any possible breaches of RSSB’s guidelines.

Tramlink is run on behalf of Transport for London (TfL) by Tram Operations Limited Transport, which is owned by FirstGroup. TfL declined to comment of the matter.

FirstGroup strongly denied allegations of driver overwork. A spokesperson for the company said that they “have procedures in place for driver support and welfare including monitoring for possible fatigue. There is a mix of shift patterns available in Tramlink rosters, as is standard in the transport industry.”

“Rosters and shift patterns are discussed in consultation with drivers and implemented with the full agreement of local union representatives, and in the past these discussions have led directly to roster changes.”

He went on to claim that Tramlink follow “the relevant best practice RSSB have established”.

“The Croydon tram disaster has to be a wakeup call to challenge any complacency about the scale of the serious safety risks involved in public transport networks.” – Paul Maloney, GMB Southern regional secretary

On Tuesday, the general trade union GMB also questioned the safety of the transport network. Paul Maloney, GMB regional secretary for Southern Region, said: “Unions have called for a range of changes to how trams are operated.”

He said the government should “heed union warnings on public transport safety” following the disaster, which killed seven passengers.

Maloney said: “The Croydon tram disaster has to be a wakeup call to challenge any complacency about the scale of the serious safety risks involved in public transport networks.”

The comments follow the release of a video shot in April, apparently showing a driver on the tramline asleep at the wheel. There has been speculation over the cause of the crash and a report from the Rail Accident Investigations Branch, but there are no clear explanations as yet.

An earlier speeding incident at the same corner as where the crash took place is also being investigated by the British Transport Police.

Brennan, of the locomotive union, had previously spoken out on tram safety. In a statement released on November 16, he said: “While individuals will be held accountable for their actions, it is clear that the lack of adequate safety systems were at the root of this dreadful accident.”

He claimed that if automated train protection systems designed to halt speeding trains had been in place, “then this awful event could have been avoided.”

An interim report published by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) said “some braking was applied” before the speed restriction board.

However, this was only enough to reduce the speed from 50 mph to approximately 43.5 mph by the time the tram entered the curve on the track, which had a 12.5 mph speed limit.

An inquest has been opened into the deaths of the seven victims of the tram crash: Dane Chinnery, 19; Donald Collett, 62; Robert Huxley, 63; Philip Logan, 52; Dorota Rynkiewicz, 35; Philip Seary, 57 and Mark Smith, 35, all died in the crash on November 9.

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