Tramlink criticised over Croydon accident that left woman seriously hurt
TRAMLINK'S repeated failure to heed safety warnings at a crossing contributed to a woman being dragged under a tram and seriously injured, an investigation has found.
The 28-year-old suffered horrific injuries after being hit at Sandilands in May last year.
A report by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) discovered two separate reports had raised concerns about the risks posed to pedestrians at the tram stop, which was found to be the most dangerous crossing outside the town centre.
Despite the findings, Tramlink made no safety improvements to reduce the likelihood of an accident.
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The woman, who was dragged underneath the tram for 17 metres, spent two weeks in hospital and is still recovering from her injuries.
The tram driver's failure to apply the emergency brake after hitting her "affected the severity" of those injuries, the report said. RAIB inspectors have made five recommendations to Tramlink, including regular risk assessments of pedestrian crossings.
Transport for London (TfL), which owns Tramlink, said it would introduce the safety measures "as quickly as possible".
The woman, who has no memory of the incident, got off a bus at Sandilands shortly before 9.44am on May 16 and walked towards the tram stop.
Seeing a westbound tram on the opposite side of the stop, she hurried towards the walkway to cross, but did not notice the tram approaching the stop on the tracks nearest to her.
She stepped out and was struck, the impact causing her to fall into the space between the platform and the vehicle. After being freed she was taken by air ambulance to the Royal London Hospital, in Whitechapel.
Though CCTV footage revealed the victim had not looked before she crossed, the investigation found her view may have been obstructed by an equipment cabinet.
The layout of the crossing also meant she had approached it with her back to the oncoming tram and, despite previous safety recommendations, there were no signs warning of approaching trams.
The RAIB investigation found Tramlink largely ignored several warning signs in the years before the crash, including two risk assessments elsewhere, which exposed possible dangers caused by the crossing layout.
Barriers were installed at one stop, which had the effect of encouraging people to approach at right angles, making it easier for them to see trams approaching from either direction.
Tramlink, however, did not carry out a review of other stops where the same danger existed, such as Sandilands.
RAIB inspectors said another assessment "underestimated" the risk at Sandilands because it failed to take into account the number of trams over each crossing.
In 2011, a consultant tasked with exploring the benefits of paving between rails undertook another risk assessment and found Sandilands was the most dangerous tram stop of the 52 outside the town centre.
The consultant recommended the footpath should be redesigned and called for a thorough review of the layout of Sandilands, as well as Waddon Marsh and Fieldway stops.
As with the previous reports, Tramlink did not act on the conclusions, and the RAIB concluded that Tramlink's failure to act contributed to the Sandilands collision.
Since last May, steps have been taken to improve the approach to the foot crossing and signs have been put up.
The tram driver failed to use his emergency brake at any point after hitting the woman.
The RAIB report said: "When the driver became aware that his tram had struck a pedestrian, he continued braking normally to the tram stop. At no point did he use the hazard brake.
"It cannot be established with certainty how far the pedestrian would have been dragged but it would have been significantly less than the 17 metres she was dragged during the incident."
The report said the driver had not applied the emergency brake because he was 'shocked' by the impact and had not realised the woman was underneath his tram.
"While some of the injuries [...] sustained by the pedestrian would have occurred in the initial impact," the report added, "others arose from her being dragged into a confined space.
"Therefore the driver’s non-use of the hazard brake probably affected the severity of the consequences suffered by the pedestrian."
TfL would not say whether disciplinary action had been taken against the driver, though the report notes that it is usual procedure.
The Advertiser submitted an extensive list of questions about the report to TfL and received a short statement in reply.
Martin Brown, head of safety, health and environment, said: "This was a terrible accident and our thoughts are with the victim, her family and her recovery.
"We and the tram operator, Tram Operations Ltd, adhere to all the Office of Rail Regulations (ORR) safety rules on tram operation and we will always accept any suggestions to improve safety on the Tramlink network.
"We are seeking further clarification from RAIB and the ORR about what safety measures they both wish to see put in place in the future and will work with them to implement those measures as quickly as possible."