Tram operators fined 14 million over Croydon disaster that claimed seven lives
Tram operators have been fined a total of £14 million over the Croydon derailment which claimed the lives of seven passengers.
Many more people were injured when a tram carrying 69 people derailed near the Sandilands stop on the morning of November 9 2016.
Transport for London (TfL) and Tram Operations Limited (TOL) have accepted failing in their health and safety duties.
In a filmed sentencing at the Old Bailey on Thursday, Mr Justice Fraser fined TfL £10 million and TOL £4 million.
He had already ordered they each pay £234,404 in costs to the prosecuting authority, the Office of Rail and Road, and a victim surcharge of £170.
Mr Justice Fraser told the court: “This was undoubtedly an accident waiting to happen, quite literally.”
There was a failure to heed warnings about the risk of drivers becoming disorientated in the Sandilands tunnel network on the approach to the curve, and a report of a “near miss” just days before the crash was “ignored”, he said.
The “complacency” around the inadequate lighting and lack of visual cues in the tunnel was “disturbing”, the judge said.
The court had heard that tram 2551 was going three times the 20kph speed limit when it derailed on a sharp corner at Sandilands.
Driver Alfred Dorris, 49, from Beckenham, south-east London, was cleared of failing in his duty after claiming he had become disorientated and thought he was going in the other direction.
He blamed the crash on external factors including the poor lighting and signage on the approach through the Sandilands tunnel complex.
Prosecutor Jonathan Ashley-Norman had asserted the derailment was an “accident waiting to happen”.
He told the court the main failing of the operators was to make a suitable risk assessment of such a high-speed derailment happening.
He said there were “missed opportunities” over the years to take a closer look at the Sandilands curve but action was not taken.
There was “over-reliance on fallible humans” and tram drivers were “let down” by their employer TOL, and by TfL, the court was told.
In mitigation, the operators accepted the level of harm in the case was high but argued their culpability was on a “medium” level.
They disputed the derailment was inevitable, arguing that nothing like it had occurred on the network over 16 years before.
The people who died were Dane Chinnery, 19, Philip Seary, 57, Dorota Rynkiewicz, 35, Robert Huxley, 63, and Philip Logan, 52, all from New Addington, and Donald Collett, 62, and Mark Smith, 35, both from Croydon.
Mr Smith’s family, who had sat in court throughout the hearings, described the crash as “wholly avoidable”.
His mother, Jean Smith, said no amount of money or justice would bring her son back but getting accountability may “bring some sense of peace”.
She said: “We have to live with the consequences of other people’s actions for the rest of our lives. I’m living a life sentence. It should never have happened.”
Mr Collett’s daughter, Tracy Angelo, said: “We all remain completely devastated and individually we will never be the same again.”
Mr Huxley’s son, Adam, said he had “lost all trust” in the tram operators and felt “insecurity, anxiety, vulnerability and heartbreak” whenever he went past the tram network.
He said: “Killed whilst travelling to work and due to retire soon – Robert and anybody else did not deserve this.”
Mr Seary’s widow, Vivian, said: “We need some justice for the seven lives lost and the many people injured. If I had driven my car in a reckless manner there would be consequences.”
Chief Inspector of Railways Ian Prosser said: “When faced with the evidence of their failure over a number of years, both TfL and TOL accepted that they had not done everything that was reasonably practicable to ensure the safety of their passengers, with terrible consequences on the early morning of 9 November 2016.
“We must never forget the tragedy of that day, and must strive to learn all of its lessons so there can be no repetition. Our thoughts remain with those whose lives were so affected.
“The judge’s remarks and the sentences imposed underline to the corporate defendants and the whole industry that their first responsibility is to ensure the safety of their passengers and staff.
“We welcome the improvements made to the network since the incident. We will continue to scrutinise this vital industry and hold operators to account if they fall short.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub