Transport for London (TfL) has been fined £10 million and Tram Operations Limited (TOL) fined £4 million at the Old Bailey for health and safety failings leading up to the Croydon tram disaster in which seven passengers died.
Seven passengers were killed and 21 more suffered serious injuries when the tram carrying 69 people derailed near the Sandilands stop on the morning of November 9, 2016.
TfL and TOL have accepted failing in their health and safety duties and were sentenced at the Old Bailey on Thursday.
Both companies had already been ordered to 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.
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 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.
The passengers 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.
Some of their families were in court and responded to the sentencing.
Mr Smith’s 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.”
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.”
Andy Lord, London’s Transport Commissioner, said: “I apologise on behalf of everyone at Transport for London, both past and present, for this tragedy and for the pain, distress and suffering that all those affected have endured and continue to endure.
“Every passenger on the tram that morning entrusted their safety to us but we failed them and for that I am truly sorry. We remain committed to providing support to anyone who needs it.
“We accepted responsibility promptly and we did everything possible to ensure the right support was quickly in place to help all those affected. Since 2016, we have also delivered an extensive programme of major industry-leading safety improvements to the tram network.
“We continually review our network and work with the wider tram industry to ensure we are running the safest possible service for our customers and to ensure that such a tragedy can never happen again.”
The last survivor to be rescued from the crash site, Stephen Kennedy, 31, spoke this week of the day that changed his life.
Mr Kennedy said he woke up at St George’s Hospital in Tooting to be told that doctors had been unable to save his arm and it had to be amputated.
He added: “I fear my life will forever be defined by what happened on 9 November 2016.”
Source: Evening Standard