Croydon tram drivers vote to strike over new safety device

Croydon tram being fitted with new safety device. Pic: Phil Beard

Croydon Tram drivers have voted for strike action over plans to introduce safety devices following last year’s deadly derailment that killed seven people.

In total, 95 per cent of ASLEF members working on the tram network who voted said they were prepared to strike over what the union calls a “failure to consult” on a new safety device.

The device, which is currently being put in tram cabs, would help detect when drivers are fatigued or distracted.

The reforms to tram operating systems come after the fatal crash in Croydon in November 2016 that killed seven people and left 50 injured.

An interim report by the the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) found the tram was travelling at three times the speed limit on the sharp bend approaching Sandilands Tram stop.

There have been concerns about a number cases where drivers appear to have fallen asleep or lost consciousness.

The seven crash victims. Pic: Family handouts/Met Police

Finn Brennan, ASLEF’s organiser for the tram network, told the Croydon Advertiser there are “no current plans” for drivers to actually go on strike, with the ballot simply showing their readiness to to do so if required.

“ASLEF were forced to go into dispute with Tram Operations Limited, the network operator, because of their failure to consult with elected staff representatives about the introduction of technology,” he said.

He said the union, whose “key priority” was safety, was working to find an “acceptable way forward on dealing with the problem of fatigue”.

The dispute is over the introduction of a “driver protection device” that immediately alerts the driver at any sign of driver distraction or fatigue.

Transport for London (TfL), which owns the tram network, said the device will monitor the face and eyes of the driver, but will not be constantly recording.

The new device follows draft safety recommendations posted in August by the RAIB, which is investigating the fatal derailment.

Crucially, these included introducing means of detecting the state of drivers’ attention and intervening when necessary.

TfL say they have also introduced a number of additional safety measures, including speed restrictions, enhanced speed monitoring, new signage for drivers and an upgrade to CCTV.

The news of possible strike action comes as the driver of involved in last year’s derailment was interviewed once again by investigators while in police custody.

Alfred Dorris, a 43-year-old from Beckenham, was initially arrested on suspicion of manslaughter last November and released on bail.

Senior Investigating Officer Detective Superintendent Gary Richardson, said there had been “good progress” in what was a “complex enquiry”.

“We have released the driver under investigation as we now finalise the report for the Crown Prosecution Service,” he said.

Enquiries are ongoing and the RAIB will publish its final report by the end of the year.

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