Railway safety and crime

15.02.19

Urgent safety advice calls for louder horns on Edinburgh trams after pedestrian’s death

The RAIB has issued urgent safety advice calling for louder warning horns to be fitted on Edinburgh’s trams following the death of a pedestrian.

Carlos Correa Palacio was struck and fatally injured by a tram travelling from Edinburgh city centre to the city’s airport, colliding with the pedestrian at 50km/h.

An RAIB investigation said the pedestrian did not respond to repeated warnings from the tram’s bell as he crossed over two tram tracks between Stenhouse Drive and Saughton Mains Street, and tram was unable to stop in time despite the emergency break being activated.

Palacio suffered serious injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident on 11 September – the first fatal incident involving a Scottish tram since 1959.

Since the incident, the RAIB conducted acoustic tests on the warning horns on Edinburgh’s trams and said the horns were eight decibels short of meeting guidelines and were not loud enough to alert the public.

Investigators determined that the horn did not generate more noise than the tram’s bell and issued the ‘urgent safety advice’ to Edinburgh Trams Limited advising it “to increase the sound pressure level of the warning horn fitted to its trams.”

In the incident, the tram driver noticed Palacio approaching the crossing and sounded repeated warnings using the tram’s bell as well as applying the service brake.

When Palacio continued onto the crossing, the driver operated the warning horn which also automatically operated the emergency break – but the tram was concluded to be too close to make a full stop.

The RAIB wants the trams to be fitted with increased sound pressure, but said in the meantime Edinburgh Trams Limited should “consider measures to mitigate risks at locations where audible warnings may be required.”

“In particular, consideration should be given to the appropriateness of the current warning horn or bell as a method of warning to pedestrians using footpath crossings over off-street track sections with high line speeds,” the report noted.

Edinburgh Trams said it was now modifying the trams’ warning horns, and testing was now underway across the fleet.

The company said that when the passenger services commenced in 2014 it was satisfied that sufficient testing of the audible warning horn had been undertaken, but that it was committed to work with the RAIB and to provide a safe tramway.

Earlier this week, a business case for extending Edinburgh’s tram network to Newhaven and Leith was put forward to councillors ahead of a decision next month.

The £207m project has been criticised by some as wasteful and “likely to bankrupt the city” but the city council say it will help unlock a large area of the city.

Image credit - MarioGuti

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