Transport for London and FirstGroup-owned Tram Operations Limited have indicated they will plead guilty to health and safety failings over the 2016 Croydon tram crash.
Seven passengers died and 51 were injured when a tram derailed in south London on November 9 2016.
Friday’s hearing at Croydon Magistrates’ Court was the first to take place in relation to a criminal prosecution regarding the crash.
Driver Alfred Dorris, who is accused of an alleged failure as an employee to take reasonable care of passengers, indicated a not guilty plea.
The victims of the crash 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.
The charge against TOL and TfL says that they failed to ensure passengers “were not exposed to risks to their health or safety, namely the risk of injury or death attendant upon a high speed derailment on the Croydon Tram Network including on the approach to the Sandilands junction”, contrary to the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
The prosecution is being brought by regulator the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).
The maximum punishment for convictions over health and safety offences is an unlimited fine and up to two years imprisonment for individuals.
An inquest last year heard the tram toppled over and spun off the tracks in darkness and heavy rain near the Sandilands stop after approaching a curve at 73kph (45mph).
The speed limit for that stretch of track was 20kph (12mph).
Services on Croydon Tramlink are managed by TfL and operated by TOL.
Both organisations are alleged to have “failed to ensure the health and safety of passengers on the Croydon Tramlink network, so far as reasonably practicable”, the ORR said.
District Judge Nigel Dean told Dorris, 48, of Beckhenham, he was being released on unconditional bail to appear next at Croydon Crown Court on July 8.
Both Transport for London and FirstGroup-owned TOL will be sentenced at the same court on a date to be fixed.
Chief inspector of railways Ian Prosser said their thoughts remain with the bereaved and injured.
He said: “We conducted an extensive, detailed and thorough investigation and took the decision to prosecute all three parties for what we believe to be serious health and safety failings relating to the Croydon tram derailment on November 9 2016, which killed seven passengers with many more seriously injured. All our thoughts are with those people.”
TfL said its indicated guilty plea will enable court proceedings to “come to a conclusion as promptly as possible”.
Andy Lord, TfL’s chief operating officer, said: “We have worked closely with the RAIB and the ORR since November 2016 to introduce a new safety regime and implement all the recommendations from the organisations across the tram network.
“This has made the network safer for everyone and we continue to work tirelessly to ensure that such a tragedy could never occur again.
“We agreed to all of the RAIB’s safety recommendations and accepted liability to ensure civil claims could proceed as soon as possible."
A number of bereaved relatives were present in court for the brief hearing.
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