Two recent incidents of passengers and objects become stuck in tram doors have led the RAIB to release two separate reports over the past few days – one in Nottingham a full blown report whilst the other, in Manchester, leading to just a Safety Digest. In both cases the RAIB have reminded drivers that they should not solely rely on door detection systems to ensure nothing is trapped in the doors but that visual checks should always take place ahead of departure.
The first incident was on Nottingham Express Transit on 15th December 2017 and had previously led the RAIB to release urgent safety advice relating to the checking of tram doors before departure. The full report reiterates this warning whilst also recommending that Nottingham Trams improve their risk assessment processes and that there should be improved arrangements to prevent trap and drag events.
This incident saw an empty pushchair trapped on the outside of a tram at Radford Road tramstop by its plastic rain cover. It remained trapped in the door until it became crushed against the kerb at the next stop. The owner of the pushchair had pushed it off the tram just as the doors were closing as a travel officer had removed some other passengers from the tram. The rain cover was too thin to trigger the detectors on the door and although there were other NET staff at the tramstop they were unable to alert the tram driver to the presence of the pushchair and the tram continued with its journey.
Not only did the automatic door detection not pick up the pushchair the driver did not realise it was trapped as when he checked the in tram CCTV it just showed a small object without they able to ascertain what it was. No larger image was available because of a modification to the tram’s CCTV system.
The underlying cause of this was said to be the inadequate risk assessment by Nottingham Trams which caused staff to put an inappropriate reliance on the doors closer indicator and being unaware of the importance of the final door visual check and also of the amendment to the CCTV system. The RAIB also found that training of travel officers was inadequate.
The second similar incident occurred on Manchester Metrolink on 30th May 2018 and saw a passenger become trapped by his hand in the door of a tram leaving Bury. The tram travelled at up to 6mph for approximately 15 metres with the passenger being dragged alongside the tram, but he remained upright at all times. The driver of the tram had relied on the door detection system which had not shown any object in the door and had conducted a visual check but believed the passenger was with a group on the platform who had not appeared to be planning to board the service. Because of this group the driver continued to monitor the CCTV as the tram moved away and because the trapped passenger was seen alongside the tram he decided to stop the tram as he was concerned by the developing situation.
Following this incident the driver stated that he didn’t realise objects thinner than 30mm are not necessarily detected by the automatic system but was aware of the need to undertake a visual check before departure but to monitor passenger behaviour and not to check for any trapping incidents.
Speaking about these similar incidents – which are not the first such incidents to this which have taken place on UK tramways – Simon French, Chief Inspector of Railway Accidents, said: “our investigators encountered a driver who thought that door safety systems would always prevent him taking power if any object was trapped in the closed doors; he was unaware that small objects may not be detected by the door safety system. Worryingly, this misconception was shared by other, more senior members of staff at Nottingham Trams. An incident at Bury on the Manchester Metrolink system…demonstrates that the same belief exists on other tram systems. This incident reinforces that absolute importance of the final safety check after the doors are detected as closed and before a tram or train continues with its journey. I must stress that this important safety message applies equally to trams and trains.”