An investigation into a fatal tram crash has found that the driver may have ‘lost awareness’ before the collision.
Seven people were killed when a tram derailed in Croydon, south London, on November 9 last year after travelling at three-and-a-half times the 20kmh (13mph) speed limit.
The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) said the only speed limit sign for that section of track was located at the start of the Sandilands curve where the accident happened.
That means the point at which the curve can be sighted and the sign becomes readable in clear conditions is up to 120 metres beyond the point where a regular full brake must start in order to reduce speed from 50mph (the maximum permitted for trams approaching the area) to 13mph, the interim report stated.
The ‘readability’ of the sign is likely to have been reduced by heavy rain at the time of the crash, the RAIB noted.
The report added: ‘There was no sign to indicate to drivers where they should begin to apply the brake for the Sandilands curve; they were expected to know this from their knowledge of the route.’
London’s Transport Commissioner Mike Brown said additional speed restrictions and associated signage were introduced near Sandilands and at three other locations on the tram network before services were resumed on November 18.
In January chevron signs were installed at four sites with ‘significant bends’ including Sandilands to provide ‘an additional visual cue’ for drivers.
Mr Brown added: ‘Our thoughts remain with all those affected by the tragic tram derailment and we continue to do all we can to offer our support.
‘We continue to work with the Rail Accident Investigation Branch and will take on board all recommendations from this and other investigations, including our own, that are under way.’
Six men and one woman were killed in the accident, which occurred in darkness at 6.07am.
A further 51 people were taken to hospital, 16 with serious injuries.
The RAIB said that of the seven passengers who died, one was found inside the tram, two were found partially inside the tram, three were found underneath the tram, and another was found on the track close to the tram.
Around 60 passengers were on the two-carriage tram when it came off the tracks, overturned and slid for 25 metres.
A previous RAIB report revealed that the tram’s brakes were applied in the 180 metres before the speed limit sign, but this was only enough to slow it to around 46mph as it entered the curve.
The tram’s driver, Alfred Dorris, 42, from Beckenham, south-east London, was arrested at the scene and questioned on suspicion of manslaughter before being bailed until May.