My thoughts remain with all those affected by the terrible events at Sandilands and I would remind the Assembly seven people lost their lives and 60 passengers were injured, some very seriously. TfL and I are committed to supporting all those affected by the tragedy in any way we can and our attention is focused on preventing anything like this from happening again.
I understand concerns around the British Transport Police investigation in Sandilands has not yet been completed but TfL has always co‑operated fully with all the investigating bodies. It has also apologised unreservedly and repeatedly for the human error that meant a single report that was commissioned following a separate incident on the tram network after Sandilands was not immediately shared with the regulators. Once this problem had become clear, it was rectified. It also notified the investigating bodies of this separate incident as soon as it happened.
TfL produced a report for its Board in July 2018 explaining why the internal audit report was not issued to the external organisations investigating Sandilands immediately on its completion. This report is available on the TfL website and it can be found through a quick internet search. The TfL Board report provides a full and adequate explanation. I am unclear what the point of a further investigation would be, particularly bearing in mind the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) carried out a thorough investigation into Sandilands, including forming an independent view on the issue of fatigue management and even including a summary of TfL’s audit in its final investigation report. TfL also commissioned an independent investigation into Sandilands as well as a separate fatigue report.
The focus of TfL is to make sure such a tragedy never happens again. Significant progress has been made on the recommendations set out by the RAIB, and TfL has completed some of the vital recommendations, including reduced speeds, enhanced signage and a system that detects fatigue and distraction. Most recently, TfL has thickened the glass in all tram doors and windows by 75%. By the end of this year a new automatic braking system will be in operation on the London network, which will a first for trams in the United Kingdom. The tram operator, First Group, has also made significant improvements to its management of fatigue, including new shift patterns and better work‑life balance, and has shared this with the wider tram industry. TfL has also taken an active leadership role in the UK Light Rail Safety Standards Board to ensure that the whole industry benefits from the significant and ground‑breaking safety improvements being made here in London.
For the benefit of those who cannot see the questions, it is a very simple question that purely requires a yes or no answer. It is will you appoint an independent investigator to review why TfL failed to supply critical tram safety evidence to the Croydon tram crash investigation? It is a very simple question and just requires a yes or no.
He has answered the question. Mr Mayor, you used a lot of time in answering the question. It is a very simple, closed question. Closed questions merely require a yes or no answer. It is very simple. All he is doing is filibustering, Chair.
If I can continue, I will take that to be a no because you have not said yes. I do not understand. You see, I was quite happy to ‑‑ I think someone on the proverbial ‑‑ 12 people on the omnibus going through whatever common it is, Clapham, I think. I was quite prepared to believe there was just human error in this but it seems lots of people are conspiring to stop there being an investigation and that is very strange. Why, for instance, when I put my motion ‑‑ which was proposed by the GMB, a union that I believe you are a member of and certainly very closely connected with, both personally and financially. It put a question in saying they wanted an independent investigation. I merely put their motion to this Assembly, asking for that investigation. There seemed to be general consensus that was a good idea and then all of a sudden there seemed to be a change of heart and there was a desperate rush at the very last minute to try to negate that motion, which of course was ruled out of order, quite rightly, by the Chair.
Then there was another desperate scramble to try to find some words that would make the motion almost meaningless. Thankfully, those members of other parties, other than those who obviously were instructed to do your bidding, Mr Mayor, voted against it and we put down the motion by the Assembly that there should be an independent investigation. I am asking you about that motion, the fact that this Assembly, cross‑party ‑‑ Labour was obviously instructed to abstain but the cross‑party motion was that there should be an independent investigation. I am asking you whether you would appoint a QC to have an independent investigation.
The more you say no, the more you filibuster, the more you try to dodge the question, the more I am thinking there is more to this than meets the eye, because at the very beginning, a few months ago, I thought somebody mucked up, but every time this issue comes up we get filibustered and we get blocked. It is very clear to me there is something to hide, because if there was nothing to hide you would follow the request of your own union to do an investigation. You would follow the request of this Assembly, cross‑party, to have an independent investigation. If you are saying no to that, Mr Mayor, what do you have to hide, mate? That is the question.
I have asked the same question three times, Chair, and I am still waiting to say yes or no. I am a salesperson. I know the difference between an open and a closed question. It is a closed question and it just needs a yes or no answer, but he is ducking it. He is afraid. You are frit, are you not? You are frit to answer the question, are you not?
Can I say as a lawyer that I like being advised by a salesman about open and closed questions? I tell him this: the answer to my question was quite straightforward. I am unclear what the point of a further investigation would be.
I point it out because a serious allegation has been made of conspiracy and it is very important I respond to the allegation made of conspiracy. At the 22 January 2018 meeting of TfL’s Safety, Sustainability and Human Resources (SSHR) Panel the Chair asked if the audit report had been sent to the external bodies investigating the Sandilands incident. He had previously proposed this should be done. TfL’s Director of Health and Safety said she believed it had been sent but would confirm.
Following the meeting it was discovered that the audit report had not in fact been sent to the external bodies. TfL’s Health and Safety Department was responsible for sharing this audit report with the external bodies but, in error, it was not sent as originally thought. This was clearly an oversight that was rectified as soon as TfL realised this had occurred. TfL’s Director of Health and Safety also contacted the Chair of the SSHR Panel to inform him of the error, to apologise and to confirm that the audit report had been sent. It is really important, when allegations of conspiracy are said that they are backed up with evidence.
I want to make this point, Chair. I am very proud to be a member of the GMB and very proud of the difference our trade unions make to our society.