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Sheffield Supertram passenger ‘could have been flung from speeding vehicle when doors opened’

The tram which was involved in the incident at Middlewood (pic: RAIB)
The tram which was involved in the incident at Middlewood (pic: RAIB)

Supertram bosses in Sheffield are making safety improvements after a passenger was sent flying through a speeding vehicle, causing the doors to open.

The tram was travelling at 23mph when it entered a tight curve at Middlewood – more than twice the 10mph limit at that location.

The curve in the tracks at Middlewood, where the incident happened (pic: Google)

The curve in the tracks at Middlewood, where the incident happened (pic: Google)

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The driver braked sharply, injuring one passenger, who was thrown from her feet and collided with a door, causing it to partially open.

At least one other passenger sustained a minor injury in the incident on July 19, according to a report published today by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB).

The watchdog’s investigation found that although the woman remained within the tram, she could have been ejected through the open door in ‘slightly different circumstances’.

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It said the incident highlights the need for tram drivers to take special care when approaching ‘high-risk’ locations and for owners and operators to ensure adequate safety measures are in place at sharp bends and tram doors prevent passengers being ejected when they are thrown against them.

The report states that Stagecoach Supertram has already implemented some safety improvements since the event and is working on others.

Drivers are now required to slow down to 20mph around 100 metres ahead of the curve in question and at another dangerous bend on the network.

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The operator has also begun a programme to check the condition of all the ball joints fitted to the doors, and work is under way to develop an alternative design.

The report says the incident has echoes of the Croydon tram crash at Sandilands in November 2016, when seven passengers died and 61 were injured.

Four of the recommendations made in the wake of that tragedy were deemed to be pertinent in this case, including the development of measures to automatically reduce speeds approaching danger points and ways to better prevent passengers being ejected through windows and doors in the event of a crash.

The report states: “At Sandilands, all seven fatalities and many of the serious injuries which occurred were due to passengers being ejected from the tram after it had overturned.

“The forces imparted to the door by the falling passenger during the Middlewood incident were likely to have been much lower than those caused by the overturning tram at Sandilands. However, a door leaf still came open.”

The RAIB’s investigation found the door had opened after a connection was fractured when the passenger was thrown against it.

The driver was not fatigued or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the report states, but had lost awareness of where the tram was in relation to the curve.

Although there was a sign at the beginning of the curve reminding drivers to reduce speed, there were no advance warnings in place.

Supertram managing director Tim Bilby said: “We welcome the report from the RAIB and that it makes clear that there was no evidence that the driver had fallen asleep or was fatigued. It also established that he was familiar with the location and route.

"We have been working with the wider UK tram industry to look into previous safety recommendations made by the RAIB so that safety enhancements can be made where appropriate.

"With respect to this incident, we carried out a full investigation and have since implemented a number of speed restrictions, including one 100m before the start of the curve at Middlewood. We are also currently trialling an alternative design to the door joints." 

"The safety of our passengers is paramount and we will continue to look at ways of increasing the safety and improving our trams."