Croydon tram drivers admit falling asleep at controls amid claims that safety device does not work

Harry Yorke
Drivers say safeguards are not effective less than a year after the fatal crash in Croydon - PA

Tram drivers operating on the Croydon line where seven people were killed last year have admitted falling asleep at the controls amid claims that safeguards meant to prevent accidents do not work.

Four employees of Tram Operations Ltd, the franchise responsible for the line, have admitted falling asleep while on duty -  less than six months after the fatal tram derailment.

Following the incident on November 9, which left seven people dead and 51 injured, driver Alfred Dorris, 42, was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and bailed until May.

It was later revealed that the tram had been turning a sharp bend at 46mph - four times the speed limit - leading a number of survivors and families to prepare legal action against the company.

While an interim report into November’s crash suggested  Mr Dorris may have “lost awareness”, TOL has insisted that driver fatigue is monitored and the tram’s controls were “fully functional” at the time.

But now a BBC investigation has revealed that at least three more trams have been caught speeding since the derailment, with drivers claiming that the safety device meant to prevent human-error has failed to activate.

Meanwhile, three others cases of drivers being incapacitated have also been uncovered, with one nearly resulting in a head-on collision.

View Croydon tram crash map

The device, known as a “dead man’s handle”, has failed on at least four drivers, the Victoria Derbyshire programme disclosed yesterday - with one tram found speeding a short distance from the crash site.

Konrad Turner, a retired Croydon driver of 16 years, said he had once passed through a stop whilst sleeping, adding that passersby had been “very fortunate” not to be “run over”.

Mr Turner said the safety device, which is supposed to activate when pressure is relieved from the accelerator, did not activate.

Key information | Croydon tram crash

Others said that they felt unable to express concerns over the mechanism’s reliability, because it would have forced them to admit falling asleep while driving - a sackable offence.

Six drivers have so far come forward to criticise the device, which they claim is not “fit for purpose”.

Commenting, Tram Operations Limited said that passengers were not at risk and that speed checks across the network had been increased since the crash.

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