Tram operators fined £14 million over Croydon disaster that claimed seven lives

Transport for London (TfL) and Tram Operations Limited (TOL) have accepted failing in their health and safety duties.

Tram operators have been fined a total of £14 million over the Croydon derailment which claimed the lives of seven passengers.

Many more people were injured when a tram carrying 69 people derailed near the Sandilands stop on the morning of November 9 2016.

Transport for London (TfL) and Tram Operations Limited (TOL) have accepted failing in their health and safety duties.

In a filmed sentencing at the Old Bailey on Thursday, Mr Justice Fraser fined TfL £10 million and TOL £4 million.

He had already ordered they each pay £234,404 in costs to the prosecuting authority, the Office of Rail and Road, and a victim surcharge of £170.

Mr Justice Fraser told the court: “This was undoubtedly an accident waiting to happen, quite literally.”

There was a failure to heed warnings about the risk of drivers becoming disorientated in the Sandiland tunnel network on the approach to the curve and a report of a “near miss” just days before the crash was “ignored”, he said.

Tram accident scene
The scene of the crash in November 2016 (Steve Parsons/PA)

The “complacency” around the inadequate lighting and lack of visual cues in the tunnel was “disturbing”, the judge said.

The court had heard tram 2551 was going three times the 20kph speed limit when it derailed on a sharp corner at Sandilands.

Driver Alfred Dorris, 49, from Beckenham, south-east London, was cleared of failing in his duty after claiming he had become disorientated and thought he was going in the other direction.

He blamed the crash on external factors including the poor lighting and signage on the approach through the Sandilands tunnel complex.

Prosecutor Jonathan Ashley-Norman had asserted the derailment was an “accident waiting to happen”.

He told the court the main failing of the operators was to make a suitable risk assessment of such a high-speed derailment happening.

He said there were “missed opportunities” over the years to take a closer look at the Sandilands curve but action was not taken.

There was “over-reliance on fallible humans” and tram drivers were “let down” by their employer TOL, and by TfL, the court was told.

In mitigation, the operators accepted the level of harm in the case was high but argued their culpability was on a “medium” level.

They disputed the derailment was inevitable, arguing nothing like it had occurred on the network over 16 years before.

Croydon tram crash court case
Mark Smith, 35, from Croydon, who was one of seven people who died (BTP/PA)

The people who died were Dane Chinnery, 19, Philip Seary, 57, Dorota Rynkiewicz, 35, Robert Huxley, 63, and Philip Logan, 52, all from New Addington, and Donald Collett, 62, and Mark Smith, 35, both from Croydon.

Mr Smith’s family, who had sat in court throughout the hearings, described the crash as “wholly avoidable”.

His mother Jean Smith said no amount of money or justice would bring her son back but getting accountability may “bring some sense of peace”.

She said: “We have to live with the consequences of other people’s actions for the rest of our lives. I’m living a life sentence. It should never have happened.”

Tram accident
Crystal Palace fan Philip Seary, 57, died in the derailment (Family handout/PA)

Mr Collett’s daughter Tracy Angelo said: “We all remain completely devastated and individually we will never be the same again.”

Mr Huxley’s son Adam said he had “lost all trust” in the tram operators and felt “insecurity, anxiety, vulnerability and heartbreak” whenever he went past the tram network.

He said: “Killed whilst travelling to work and due to retire soon – Robert and anybody else did not deserve this.”

Mr Seary’s widow Vivian said: “We need some justice for the seven lives lost and the many people injured. If I had driven my car in a reckless manner there would be consequences.”

More from Perspective

Get a free copy of our print edition


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

Your email address will not be published. The views expressed in the comments below are not those of Perspective. We encourage healthy debate, but racist, misogynistic, homophobic and other types of hateful comments will not be published.