London's light rail network will be the first in the UK to have an automatic braking system.  Photo: Transport for London

London's light rail network will be the first in the UK to have an automatic braking system.  Photo: Transport for London

London's light rail (tram) network will be the first in the UK to have an automatic braking system after Transport for London (TfL) awarded Engineering Support Group Ltd. (ESG) the contract to build and install the new safety system by the end of this year.

It will automatically apply the brakes and bring a moving tram to a controlled stop if exceeding the speed limit at designated locations. Work began on the feasibility of introducing this new safety measure, which has not been introduced on any UK trams before, shortly after the tragic overturning at Sandilands, Croydon, in November 2016, which killed seven passengers and injured 62 others. It is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2019, including a period of training and familiarization with tram drivers, and will operate alongside the driver protection device that has been in operation since September 2017, alerting to any signs of driver distraction and fatigue.

Automatic braking is one of the recommendations set out by the Rail Accidents Investigation Branch (RAIB) following the tragic tram overturning. It will initially be configured to priority high-risk locations as suggested by the RAIB but will have the flexibility to be introduced elsewhere on the tram network.

The RAIB listed 15 recommendations aimed at the UK tram industry following the overturning. Work has progressed on all of the recommendations specific to TfL with some of the most vital already complete. These include a permanent speed reduction across the tram network, speed monitoring and signage at significant bends, an enhanced customer complaints process and the installation of a driver protection device that alerts to driver distraction or fatigue.

A new emergency lighting system, which will operate independently of the tram's battery in the event of an emergency, has also been procured and will be installed over the summer. Extensive testing with safety experts has also progressed and a new higher specification film that is 75% thicker (from 100microns to 175microns) will be fitted to all doors and windows to improve containment by spring.


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