Agenda item


a)    Annual report on progress made against implementation of RAIB safety improvement recommendations following the tragic Sandilands incident

Jackie Townsend (First Group) & Mark Davis (TfL)


b)    Synchronisation of on-board announcements

Jackie Townsend (First Group) & Mark Davis (TfL)



a)    Annual report on progress made against implementation of RAIB safety improvement recommendations following the tragic Sandilands incident


The First Group representative began the item with a presentation, informing the Panel that 19% of all London public transport journeys involved a tram, over the 28 kilometres of existing track; trams were unique in that they were driven using line of sight and had rolling stock. The First Group representative explained that trams were particularly accessible, as they were step free and had buddy spaces; there were some issues around accommodating cyclists, as bikes were not allowed on board trams, but there was a possibility of this changing in the future. The Panel heard that customer satisfaction with the service was around 90%, and that the BAME representation in the organisation was 37.71%. The Panel heard that trams were overseen by the Office of Rail and Road.


Performance on the network had been 99%, with a dip occurring in the week of the 31 December 2018, due to a fire on Ampere Way; other common causes of disruption were cars and lorries blocking access. The Panel learned that performance on the network was a high priority for the operator, and featured in daily discussions.


First Group had been working closely with London Trams on addressing outstanding safety issues, and some of this work had involved supporting drivers with additional training, and regular assessments to review key competencies. The total number of consecutive days that drivers could work had been reduced to eight, with this reducing to five from May 2019 based on data gathered since the installation of the Guardian devices. Drivers had gone on strike over the implementation of the devices, but after consultation with Public Health England (who had determined them to be safe), the strike had ended. A fatigue management procedure had been implemented, which accommodated for issues faced by drivers outside of work, and helped to offer support.


Clockwork Research Ltd had supported improvements to the Fatigue Risk Management System; this had, in part, involved customer service training to help accommodate for disabled passengers and those suffering with dementia, and a fatigue training programme to be rolled out to all staff in 2019. Engagement had been increased with the introduction of a newsletter, staff one to one’s and more. This had involved trade unions, who were now in favour of the Guardian devices, and had been feeding back suggestions to First Group.


Guardian devices had now been fitted to all trams, and these alerted drivers to drowsiness, fatigue or distraction. If the device was set off, it would emit a noise and vibrate the driver’s seat; simultaneously it would send an alert to the operator. As a result of this, drivers were more aware of fatigue and there was better real time risk control; an unexpected advantage was that it had also improved the posture of drivers, with less reported back pain. This had led to a more open culture around fatigue among staff, and greater access to resources to reduce this. Speed limit adherence had improved, and Transport for London (TfL) were looking at the possibility of implementing the devices in trains and on buses.


In response to queries from the East Surrey Transport Committee representative about the number of drivers self-reporting fatigue since the implementation of the Guardian system, the First Group representative replied that there had been five or six reports, but that there had also been increased reporting around issues that may cause fatigue. There had been 16 Guardian activations over a 12 month period.


In response to queries from the Access Officer about the occurrences of speeding since the implementation of the Guardian system, the First Group representative informed the Panel that speeding had not been a big problem before, but that it had been measured daily with radar guns, covert surveillance and by GPS, and that no incidences of speeding over the tolerance had been found for a long time. The Panel also learned that the speed limit across Europe had dropped from 80 kilometres an hour to 70 kilometres an hour.


The Head of Transport stated that they were pleased about the high rate of customer satisfaction, and hoped that this continued to build. The First Group representative welcomed the Panel to visit and view the progress made on the implementation of the new safety measures.


The Chair queried when there would be KPIs to share once the new procedures and equipment were in place, and there had been a shift in culture, and learned that this would likely be in six months, after the new rosters had been implemented and there was sufficient data from the Guardian devices. The First Group representative shared that since October 2017, alerts had decreased 47% and collisions 27%.


In response to queries from the East Surrey Transport Committee representative about other tram operators adopting the Guardian system, the First Group representative responded that another operator had plans to, in response to a serious response on their network, and after having visited to view the implementation in Croydon. The Panel heard that as other operators were funded by local authorities, they may not have the necessary funds, but that operators in both Hong Kong and Melbourne had plans to adopt the system. There were very few suppliers making similar products. The Chair praised the work done and planned.


The London Trams representative informed the Panel that there were regular updates on the RAIB safety improvements on the TfL website. There would be an over-speeding system to prevent speeding, and it was hoped this would be implemented on all trams before the end of 2019. Glazing films on the windows had been replaced on 14 trams, with one which was 75% thicker, with the rest being re-glazed by the end of February 2019. There would be uninterruptable emergency lighting installed on all trams by the end of summer.


The Panel learned that the Light Rail Safety Body championed by Sarah Jones MP had been funded and held its first meeting in early February. The Body would review safety regulations for tram operators nationally, using the work already done on the London network. The Chair enquired if the Department for Transport funding would be sufficient, and the London Trams representative informed the Panel that additional funding would be used from TfL and the other tram operators, meaning funding should be in place for three years.



b)    Synchronisation of on-board announcements


The East Surrey Transport Committee representative introduced this item by informing the Panel that this issue had been raised by a visually impaired colleague, who had repeated issues with trams announcing the wrong station upon arrival.


The London Trams representative thanked the East Surrey Transport Committee representative for bringing the issue to the Panel, and stated that this had been an issue that was worse on older trams. The supplier would be recording new voice data which should address the issue. There were plans to implement driver announcements where there were known issues, but that it should be fully resolved before June 2019. The Panel were asked to report any issues by recording the number of the tram; the Access Officer asked how this would be possible for the visually impaired, and was told that the report lines on platforms could be used.


The Mobility Forum representative asked if it would be possible for the screens inside trams to report issues on other connecting transport links. The London Trams representative replied that this was not currently viable, but that it might be possible to implement something similar at tram stops.

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