Croydon tram crash driver could have ‘lost awareness’ inquest hears

By Tara O’Connor, local democracy reporter

The driver of the tram that came off the rails at Sandilands junction, could have become disorientated or temporarily lost awareness an inquest heard today.

Describing the ‘causal factors’ of the incident in 2016, Simon French chief inspector for the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) laid out three reasons on the third day of the inquest into the lives of seven passengers.

He said that braking applied by the driver was insufficient to stop it speeding and said that if the curve of the Sandilands junction had been “more gentle” the tram wouldn’t have overturned.

Mr French said another causal factor was a temporary loss of awareness or the driver became disorientated.

He said: “Why was there a temporary loss of awareness? We think it is possible that there was a micro-sleep which all of us can experience from time to time. A trigger for a possible micro-sleep is a low workload.

“If there was a micro-sleep, we think it is quite possible that the driver was fatigued. If indeed the driver was fatigued we believe this could be a collective sleep deprivation and insufficient sleep on that night before.”

Mr French also outlined some possible causes for disorientation.

“There is evidence that the driver may have thought he was going in the opposite direction,” he said.

“If indeed this was disorientation we think then there were insufficient distinctive factors to alert drivers to their direction of travel. One way of providing a visual clue is a sign but there are other ways of doing that.”

The jury will continue to hear evidence from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch this afternoon (Wednesday, May 19).

The inquest is expected to last for 13 weeks.

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Croydon – South London News