Croydon tram disaster trial hears of alleged ‘near miss’ 10 days earlier

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A Croydon tram passenger allegedly feared for their safety in a “near miss” 10 days before a derailment killed seven people and injured many more, a court has heard.

Tram driver Alfred Dorris, 49, is on trial at the Old Bailey for failing to take reasonable care of himself and his 69 passengers when the derailment happened early on November 9 2016.

It is alleged he was travelling more than three times the speed he should have been going when his tram toppled over at a sharp corner near the Sandilands stop in south London.

On Wednesday, Sarah Claypole, who was a senior manager at the time, told jurors she was unaware of an alleged “near miss” on October 31 2016 or of drivers failing to report errors.

Mrs Claypole replied: “No, I was not aware of that.”

Mr Bennett asked what she would have done if she had been alerted “that a driver had gone round the corner at Sandilands at such a speed that the wheels on the left-hand side of the tram actually lifted off the track”.

Mrs Claypole said she would have collected evidence to verify the report, followed up with an investigation and looked into any “mitigating” features.

Mr Bennett asserted: “If that really did happen and someone went round that bend at such speed the wheels came up and nearly overturned that would be a major issue.”

The witness agreed with the barrister’s suggestion it would have been of “huge concern”.

Mrs Claypole said she would have wanted to verify it but added that she did not recall any discussion or report around the “alleged incident”.

Mr Bennett asserted: “On 31 October 2016, some nine to 10 days before, a passenger indicated such was their concerns that they genuinely feared for their safety.”

After the derailment, Mrs Claypole told jurors that safety measures were put in place while being careful to avoid a “knee-jerk reaction” that was not sustainable.

She went on to describe how she had met Dorris on a routine “cab ride” with him before the disaster.

She told jurors she was “surprised” to learn he was the driver involved in the derailment because she had been “very impressed with him that particular day”.

She added: “My impression was he was proud to be a driver.”

Dorris, from Beckenham, south east London, denies a single charge of failing to take reasonable care at work under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

The seven passengers who were killed were Dane Chinnery, Donald Collett, Robert Huxley, Philip Logan, Dorota Rynkiewicz, Philip Seary and Mark Smith.

The Old Bailey trail continues.

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