New safety measures introduced for trams which kicks in at sharp turns

Local Democracy Correspondent

Brakes which kick in automatically at sharp turns are set to be
introduced to trams around the third anniversary of a crash which killed seven people.

Up to 15 safety measures have been recommended by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) after the crash on November 9, 2016.

Four yellow lines on tracks will measure the speed of the tram, and if it is exceeding the speed limit, gradual braking will automatically be applied.

The system is expected to be fully installed by the end of this year. A new simulator will be used for drivers to test out the new system.

It will be installed in the Lloyd Park area and the Sandilands curve – where seven passengers were killed in the three years ago and 61 were injured.

There will also be scope to introduce it to more locations once technology has been installed on each tram.

Driver assessor Andy Benham said: “Yellow beacons are placed on the track at specific locations where there is potential for derailment or overturn.

“We have our whole network built into this and we can drive our whole system on both types of trams.

“Hopefully drivers will be using it for training. And it was used for human factors testing, so we can test them out before we put them into the trams.”

The simulator was designed by Tram-Pro, the UK’s only developer of tram simulators.

Thousands of photos of Croydon were taken before development so the simulator is an accurate reflection of the town.

It will also be added to, as the town develops and more buildings are built.

Tram-Pro consultant Ian Rowe said: “It is important for the driver training that they feel like they are really there. We also put in hazard scenarios.”

The drivers’ performance on the simulator is also monitored by a computer. Recommendations from the RAIB included changes for the wider UK tram industry as well as localised safety improvements.

And managing director of Trams Operations Limited (TOL), Jackie Townsend, said all the recommendations to improve safety locally would be completed by next April.

She said: “When the tram went over it was very dark so emergency lighting will be put into the trams which will happen at the beginning of next year.”

Other measures already completed include:

  •  Strengthened glass on tram windows
  •  Chevrons at some sharp bends
  •  Cats’ eyes in Sandilands Tunnel which are different colours to make it easier to see which way trams are going.

The 2017 RAIB report said it was “probable” that the driver had “temporarily lost awareness”.

As a result, ‘The Guardian Device’ was installed on all trams which detects when drivers are drowsy or distracted.

Fatigue was also raised as a problem and, Ms Townsend said TOL was working hard to reduce this.

She said: “Our new five-day rosters work really well. We have reduced fatigue by 85 per cent. It is not just the new rosters but working with drivers about their lifestyles.

“It is measured by how much the Guardian Device is set off, though they also self report and just say “I am tired now”. There is a lot more openness.

“We won at the global light rail awards for fatigue management and safety on October 2. We are sharing our techniques with railways and trams from across the world.”

There are up to 160 drivers and 35 trams on the network, 31 of which are out on the tracks every day.

General manager of London Trams at Transport for London (TfL), Mark Davis, described the new automatic braking system as a “safety net” for drivers.

“It will only activate if the tram speeds – the driver won’t notice anything different in their day-to-day work,” said Mr Davis.

“Installing a system this big and complex takes time.”

The RAIB report concluded that the tram overturned at Sandilands because it had been travelling too fast on the curve and also that it was possible the driver had a ‘microsleep’ before failing to ‘apply sufficient braking’.

On the day of the crash driver Alfred Dorris, from Beckenham, was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter.

He was released under police investigation but no charges have been made.

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