The Croydon tram crash inquest was “a missed opportunity” as a result of the coroner’s decision not to hear more evidence, a lawyer representing the families of those killed has claimed.
Ben Posford, head of catastrophic injury at Osbornes Law, told the PA news agency his clients are “frustrated and disappointed” as allegations of safety failings did not feature.
South London senior coroner Sarah Ormond-Walshe ruled that potential witnesses such as senior figures at Croydon tram operator Tram Operations Ltd (TOL) would not give evidence.
Her decision was based on what happened at an inquest into the deaths of four men killed in a helicopter crash in Norfolk in 2014.
Miss Ormond-Walshe ruled that the case meant she was “not permitted to call further evidence” in relation to the tram crash because there was “no credible evidence that the investigation of the RAIB ( Rail Accident Investigation Branch) is incomplete, flawed or deficient”.
Jurors at the inquest heard from inspectors at the RAIB, which published a detailed report into the crash in December 2017.
Other witnesses included representatives from British Transport Police and Jim Snowden, the former chief engineer at operator Tramtrack Croydon Ltd.
Mr Posford said the interpretation of the Norfolk decision was “too broad” and could arguably mean a jury sitting on any inquest into a train, tram, air or bus disaster would be unable to hear from key figures involved.
He added: “They will never get to hear from any of the managers who took decisions that led to that disaster, or indeed any of the regulators or auditors who should have been doing their jobs in the background.
“The families were hoping to hear direct evidence from the management in particular at TOL, to explain why certain decisions have been made.
“For example, why was there no signage in the tunnel to warn drivers to start slowing down at the right point?
“Why take the decision not to include any drivers in the risk assessment, which meant that the risk of fatalities from an overturned tram was effectively missed.
“And why was there no automatic braking system in place at that time?”
Mr Posford went on: “This was a missed opportunity.
“The families are frustrated and disappointed that they never got to hear vital evidence from the managers and the auditors from TOL and TfL (Transport for London), never got to hear those witnesses questioned.”
Danielle Wynne, whose grandfather Philip Logan, 52, died in the crash, told PA: “The evidence should have been heard.
“If you want a true and accurate story you need to go straight to the horse’s mouth.
“To not hear that evidence is justice denied.
“If you’re going to deal with this case you need to know every fact about it. It’s not just straight down the middle.”
Ms Wynne, 30, of Rochester, Kent, added that the “blame is being put on the driver” and the “focus has been taken away” from the “failings” of TOL and TfL.