The Rail Accident Investigation Branch have released a second interim into the tragic derailment at Sandilands on 9th November 2016. Although containing a lot of the same information has released in the initial report it does also include some new information as well as updating the investigation activities which have taken place so far.
As is well reported by now CR4000 2551 left the tracks at Sandilands junction when heading towards Croydon at approximately 0607 on Wednesday 9th November 2016. The tram travelled for a short distance on its side before stopping in the vicinity and tragically seven people lost their lives. A further 51 were taken to hospital with 16 suffering serious physical injuries. It has now been confirmed that there were approximately 70 passengers on board the tram at the time of the derailment.
This latest report confirms that the body structure of the tram and interior fittings remained largely intact, apart from the right hand side windows and doors (the tram landed on its right side upon leaving the tracks). The report states that “the injuries to passengers were not therefore caused by loss of survival space as a result of deformation of the tram body, although impact with interior fittings is a possible cause of some injuries”. The majority of those who lost their life or suffered serious injuries were either ejected or partially ejected from the tram through these broken windows.
2551 was travelling at a speed of approximately 73kmh (46 mph) as it entered the curve; the maximum permitted speed was 20kmh (13 mph). Continued investigations of the tram – which has been removed to a secure site to allow for a detailed investigation to take place – have not shown any defects with the braking system. Analysis of the trams on board systems indicates that the service brakes was not applied until around 2.5 seconds before the tram reached the 20kmh restriction sign and that the hazard brake was not used. The report says that “the late application of the brakes, and the absence of emergency braking, suggests that the driver had lost awareness that he was approaching the right, left hand curve”. The factors which may have led this to occur are continuing to be investigated by the RAIB. Investigations of the infrastructure have suggested that there is no evidence of any track defects or obstructions on the track.
In the immediate aftermath of the derailment the RAIB made a number of recommendations to Tramlink which, along with some further amendments made as a result of their own investigations, TfL introduced. The Office of Rail Regulation also asked other UK tram operators to introduce intermediate stepped speed restrictions in situations on the approach to curves where the required reduction in speed was greater than 30kmh. This has led to additional restrictions applied in Blackpool, Edinburgh, Midland Metro and Nottingham. ORR have also asked all tram operators to provide them with evidence of management processes to monitor over speeding.
The RAIB are continuing with their investigation which will look at the sequence of events before and during the accident. This will include the way in which the tram was driven and any influencing factors – including the signage and other information presented to the driver – as well as looking at the infrastructure design in the area and the tram’s behaviour during the derailment and how people sustained their injuries. They will also look at any previous over speeding incidents (it has been confirmed they are reviewing the stories which emerged in the days following the derailment about previous incidents in the same location which were apparently reported to Tramlink).