Tram operators ordered to pay nearly £500,000 in costs over Croydon disaster

Floral tributes and Crystal Palace football colours left near the scene where a tram crashed, killing seven people, in Croydon, south London (PA)
Floral tributes and Crystal Palace football colours left near the scene where a tram crashed, killing seven people, in Croydon, south London (PA)

Tram operators have been told to pay costs totalling nearly £500,000 ahead of their sentencing over the fatal Croydon crash.

Seven passengers were killed and many more were injured when a tram carrying 69 people derailed near the Sandilands stop on the morning of November 9, 2016.

Transport for London (TfL) and Tram Operations Limited (TOL) have accepted failing in their health and safety duties.

On Wednesday, Mr Justice Fraser ordered the companies to each pay £234,404 in costs to the prosecuting authority, the Office of Rail and Road.

He also said a statutory victim surcharge of £170 applied, while acknowledging the sum was “borderline offensive” in cases where there has been a fatality.

The court has heard tram 2551 was going three times the 20kph speed limit when it derailed on a sharp corner at Sandilands.

Tram accident scene
The scene of the crash in November 2016 (PA)

Driver Alfred Dorris, 49, from Beckenham, south-east London, was cleared after claiming he had become disorientated and thought he was going in the other direction.

He blamed the crash on external factors including poor lighting and signage on the approach through the Sandilands tunnel complex.

Prosecutor Jonathan Ashley-Norman had asserted the derailment was an “accident waiting to happen”.

He told the court the main failing of the companies was to make a suitable risk assessment of such a high speed derailment happening.

He 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.

In mitigation, the operators accepted the level of harm in the case was high but argued their culpability was on a “medium” level.

They disputed the derailment was inevitable, arguing nothing like it had occurred on the network over 16 years before.

The people 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.

Earlier this week, the families of the victims described the devastating impact of their loss.

Mr Smith’s family, who had sat in court throughout the hearings, described the crash as “wholly avoidable”.

His 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.”

Mr Justice Fraser adjourned the sentencing until Thursday morning, when he is expected to hand the operators substantial fines at the Old Bailey.