Posted 23rd July 2021 | 3 Comments

Croydon tram inquest was 'justice suffocated'

THE families of seven people who were killed when a tram overturned at speed on a tight curve near Croydon on 9 November 2016 say they are 'deeply disappointed' with the result of an inquest into the deaths.

Another 51 passengers were injured, eight of them seriously. 

A jury found that the deaths had been caused accidentally, but the families are protesting that south London senior coroner Sarah Ormond-Walshe refused to call a number of potential witnesses, although the victims' families had wanted them to be questioned about alleged safety failings. The 'silent witnesses' included people from Tram Operations Ltd and Transport for London, as well as other possible witnesses, such as drivers from the Croydon tram depot at Therapia Lane.

After nine days of consideration, the jury reached verdicts of accidental death on Dane Chinnery, 19, Philip Logan, 52, Philip Seary, 57, Dorota Rynkiewicz, 35, and Robert Huxley, 63, all from New Addington, and Mark Smith, 35, and Donald Collett, 62, from Croydon.

The jury foreman said: 'The tram driver became disorientated, which caused loss of awareness in his surroundings, probably due to a lack of sleep, as a result of which the driver failed to brake in time and drove his tram towards a tight curve at excessive speed.'

After the verdict, the disappointed families told reporters outside the court that 'justice had been suffocated'.

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch had said the tram was travelling at a 'significantly higher speed than is permitted' on the 20km/h curve, and Transport for London announced in June 2017 that its trams were to be equipped with a safety system which would monitor their speed and intervene if necessary.

The hearing had been postponed from last year because of the pandemic.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Chris Jones-Bridger, Buckley Flintshire

    It is evident from the absence of key parties from the Inquest that further legal proceedings are pending. RAIB have already published their report into the accident making appropriate recommendations to prevent a reoccurance. Separately ORR & the police have been conducting their investigation & I'm sure if the evidence they have collected passes the appropriate threshold for charges to be raised against those parties this will result in forthcoming court appearances where guilt or otherwise will be determined.

  • Steve Alston, Crewe

    Alongside the driver, the directors of operating company Tram Operations Limited t/a FirstGroup Plc should be facing corporate manslaughter charges given their failure to:

    1) Fit any form of protective device to detect and arrest overspeeds at the end of the straight 50km/h 'railway line' section of tramway where trams turn onto the dog-leg 90-degree bend where it becomes a street tramway.

    2) Roster drivers in a manner that does not cause staff to be falling asleep - there was evidence the drivers shifts were not only long with minimal breaks, but all over the place and likely to result in extreme tiredness.

    Their executives at the time of the incident deserve jail time.

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    When I was very much younger I used to work as a Conductor and often noticed the human errors my Drivers made, like taking the wrong routes. Once a Police Constable waived our Bus away from a Sink Hole in the road but straight into a large over-hanging branch of an Oak Tree which took the roof off. Whatever anyone does, you will never eliminate human error.