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Tram crash

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The crash was between Lloyd Park and Sandilands. The schematic map above is confusing. The map below is clearer for orientation but less detailed. The shape of the track from Sandilands to Lloyd Park is like a Z:

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The Google aerial map is:

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Lloyd Park tramstop is the tiny blue and white symbol in the centre bottom. The track goes West a short way and then North-North-East up the dark gap between the two green lines. Near the top right it turns sharply left. The blue and white symbol a little further on is Sandilands Station. At the sharp left another track comes from Sandilands and takes a sharp left to Addiscombe tramstop way out of the picture to the NNE. A larger scale of the crash area is:

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The speed limit on the long straight run up from Lloyd Park, much of which is in a tunnel, is 50mph. The speed limit on the sharp bend is 12mph. Apparently, the tram was going far too fast around the bend, derailed and killed 7 people, injuring many more. The driver was arrested.

We now have the classic media protest. Heart-rending sob stories from the injured and relatives of the deceased and demands that something be done. That translates, of course, into someone must be found to take the blame for the tragedy. The unfortunate driver looks like the fall guy.

When will people learn?

Blame enquiries are not the way to improve things. We know that. The paradigm is the air accident investigation. Because aircrashes tend to kill many people at once, they attract totally disproportionate attention. But at least we focus that in a constructive way. The investigations are usually extremely thorough. They are not about blame. You find that the pilot pressed the wrong button, say. Instead of demanding that he suffer for his terrible crime, the investigators ask what can be done to stop pilots doing that in future. Maybe the button is in the wrong place, or easily confused with another button, or needs some kind of interlock, so you have to twist it first. So you get carefully nested systems where several things have to go wrong before a tragedy can happen, instead of just one.

Medicine and the police tend to be different. There it is usually about blame. So what happens? Progress in eliminating bad behaviour is extremely slow. Those involved close ranks. Evidence mysteriously goes missing, and so on. But there are the occasional notable exceptions. When I was young it was common for patients to die in operating theatres as a result of errors in anaesthesia. The anaesthetists got together and started no-blame inquiries. Instead of blaming the harassed anaesthetist for pressing the wrong button, they redesigned the buttons. Today almost no one dies from anaesthesia.

I remember a few years ago falling into conversation with someone in Dillons (now Waterstones) near University College London and saying that. He turned out to be an anaesthetist/researcher. Yes, he said sadly, unfortunately we seem to have solved the problems! [Meaning that research was now less exciting.]

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