Edinburgh trams to fit alarm systems to prevent Croydon-style disaster

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TRAM bosses are to install a warning system to detect if a driver dozes off at the wheel and prevent a future 
tragedy.

Any tiny changes in drivers’ ability to safely operate the vehicle will sound an alarm in the cab and back at the control room.

The Croydon tram disaster claimed the lives of 7 people in 2016. Picture: PA

The Croydon tram disaster claimed the lives of 7 people in 2016. Picture: PA

The Driver Innovation Safety Challenge will see bidders come up with a £168,000 high-tech system designed to prevent a Glasgow bin truck or Croydon tram type disaster.

Colin Kerr, engineering manager at Edinburgh Trams said: “Edinburgh Trams already have systems in place that will bring a tram to a controlled halt if the driver becomes incapacitated.

“Following a thorough review of our operational and fatigue management procedures, including the careful planning of duties and face-to-face sign-on, we started looking at how technology could enhance or assist us in these areas.

“DISC was set up to explore new technology that could monitor driver alertness, wellbeing and health.”

The system aims to prevent accidents such as the Glasgow bin lorry tragedy from occurring. Picture: PA

The system aims to prevent accidents such as the Glasgow bin lorry tragedy from occurring. Picture: PA

Edinburgh’s trams are currently fitted with alarms in the cab which are triggered if they detect no driver activity for 400 metres. The driver must activate the pedal or lever to cancel the alarm or the emergency brake is activated within a further 40 metres.

But the new system will preempt any potential 
problems by picking up on early signs of tiredness and poor health – potentially using fitness tracker-type technology.

In November 2016, seven passengers died and more than 50 were injured when a tram derailed on a bend in Croydon, Surrey, after the driver is thought to have nodded off.

And in December 2014, a bin lorry ploughed into pedestrians in Glasgow, killing six and injuring 15 after the driver passed out.

The new system is expected to report in real-time any loss of focus or consciousness on the part of the driver – as well as any paralysis.

A green, amber and red warning system will then relay the risk both to the driver and to the tram control centre by triggering an alarm.

Other tram networks around the UK are understood to be keen on installing the system – while Lothian buses may also implement it.

A contract is expected to be awarded by the end of next month with developers given 18 months to come up with the system – to be fully operational by December 2020.

Green councillor Gavin Corbett said fatigue can affect all road users and urged drivers of any vehicle to maintain their focus behind the wheel.

He added: “There are obviously already measures in place to ensure that drivers in public transport vehicles – trains, trams and buses – are not affected by tiredness.

“So, as I understand this project is looking at additional measures, over and above that, in light of the tragedy at Croydon.

“I know that other tram operators are working closely with Edinburgh on the potential of technology to enhance safety. That can only be a good thing.”

andy.shipley@edinburghnews.com