The inquest into the deaths of the seven people who died in the Croydon tram crash in November 2016 will hear astonishing new evidence that a safety audit was being carried out by Transport for London at the time of the disaster.
The audit was in its final stages of preparation and was actually completed on November 15 – six days after the fatal crash. Yet not only did it make no reference to the tragedy, it was also quietly shelved. Its existence was subsequently kept secret from investigators and has only just now emerged as part of the documents disclosed for the inquest which began this week.
A draft of the report, seen by the Eye, and produced just before the accident, concluded that trams management, operations and health and safety risk ‘is adequately controlled’ – suggesting only very minor or technical safety breaches that had been found. On the issue of driver fatigue, which is widely thought to have been a cause of the crash, it said: ‘The audit reviewed arrangements for the management of operator fitness for duty, fatigue, drug and alcohol testing and monitoring, and was concluded to be well controlled’ – the highest rating for safety issues.
News of the report comes on top of long standing complaints by safety campaigners (Eyes passim) that TfL bosses have desperately tried to hide issues of driver fatigue, caused by over-demanding shift patterns. After the accident, a safety audit into the operation of the tram system found numerous faults including rosters drawn up without considering fatigue implications and a failure to encourage drivers to report incidents where tiredness might have affected performance.
Drivers and campaigners are hoping that the inquest, which is expected to take up to 12 weeks, will explore these issues – not least because they are also factors which also affect bus drivers.