Month: December 2014

Nothing sinister. Just everyday carnage.

So the authorities want us to be assured that no-one WANTS to kill us. Within 24 hours of the Glasgow slaughter, motor traffic was allowed again on the busy shopping streets, the blood washed away, and in a few weeks we will hear the conclusion of investigations pointing to something “tragic” having happened, i.e. something beyond our control. Nothing can interfere with motor traffic’s violent overtake of our lives.

Image by SWNS Media 

We welcome the following guest post by Dave Holladay, who has decades of experience in a more ethical transport sector, rail. His suggestions go beyond the immediate cause of the incident and start with the question: “What do we need to do to avoid a similar incident happening again?”

We of course would welcome the introduction of the changes suggested by Dave. We cannot fail to remark however that unless there are tragedies of this scale, the authorities are happy with the status quo, confident that people are not moved by the drip drip of daily killings of pedestrians (that’s right, the average weekly death toll of UK pedestrians is greater than the Glasgow disaster)

Today (Tuesday) we had some fine words from Gordon Matheson about investigation of the Queen Street crash being investigated and the results made public. I might perhaps point out that this investigation is actually a duty mandated on Glasgow Council as the Roads Authority under Section 39 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, but at present there is no requirement to make the results of their mandated investigations into Road Traffic Collisions public, and the fact that Monday’s crash involved a vehicle operated directly by Glasgow Council makes it difficult to consider any investigation carried out under s.39.3.a as completely objective and impartial, just as it is equally flawed to have the Roads Authority then mandated to take the results of the investigations it carries out to advise itself on measures to take which remove the hazards it has in current roads and avoid designing in those hazards on new projects.  The words of Juvenal still hold true Quis custodiet ipsos custodes – a report by the foxes on hen house security lacks significant degree of credibility. 

Just over 15 years ago Lord Cullen’s Inquiries into the carnage of the Ladbroke Grove turned around the way we looked at deaths and injuries on our rail system, providing the independent and objective investigation of rail crashes by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, which are published, with the clear objective of making the lessons learned available to the widest audience, and providing the regulator of the UK’s rail system (ORR) with recommendations which that regulator can mandate the train operators, infrastructure providers and others delivering the operation of railways to deliver and through this make the railway so safe that they can claim not to have killed a passenger on a train since 2007 – a massive change compared to having 40 or more deaths per year in the period leading up to the watershed of Potters Bar, Hatfield etc at the turn of the millennium.

With the outsourcing of the Highways Agency to a contracted operation in England, the Westminster government has recognised the need to have an independent roads regulator to oversee the infrastructure delivery and has the disconnected delivery of regulation of commercial use of the roads through the Traffic Commissioners, albeit appearing to lack the power and resources of the ORR to press the safety detail.  This is not really a surprise as whilst we have a Rail, Air and Marine Accident Investigation Branches, all producing objective and non judgemental reports which are fully accessible on-line, the investigation of road crashes is either through the flawed and unpublished Section 39, or we have the Police investigations, which ultimately focus of who to bring to court for trial, or the insurers investigations seeking a party to bear the civil liability, and if you want to see the Police investigation, inquests, or insurance reports they are all pay to view, and often difficult to obtain.

Can Glasgow’s tragedy be the event which brings the much needed changes? Scotland already needs to match the Westminster detail of a clear and independent regulator to review all aspects of the performance of companies managing the Trunk Roads Network for Transport Scotland, likewise the exclusion of tram systems in Scotland from the regulatory regime of the ORR (which covers all the tram systems in England) means that the 4 tram crashes with buses and coaches, the cyclist-tram crash on a level crossing, the many cyclists falls, and a few other incidents in the first 6 months of operation have not been the subject of any RAIB investigation, nor any equivalent which is then published.  We have a vacuum which needs to be filled, and I’d propose that Scotland looks to the US model of an over-arching Transportation Safety Board, which delivers the impartial and objective investigation of serious incidents across all modes of transport and puts this fully in the public domain, working to banish the acceptance that ‘it happens’ to the generally avoidable toll of death and serious injury on Scotland’s Roads, and hold to account those roads providers who fail to eliminate glaring hazards in road design or management or effectively mitigate the risks. 

There remains the disconnect of having operators regulated by the Traffic Commissioner, and then a possible separate regulator for the infrastructure, and it might be a pragmatic move, for which Scotland’s Government has a strong reputation, to combine the regulation of infrastructure with the regulation of operation under a strengthened Traffic Area Office regime, after all the Scottish Commissioner Ms Aitkin already has a slightly wider remit than her English colleagues on roads issues.   

To look at what a report on the Queen Street crash might consider, it does highlight the power and performance of some of the large vehicles now moving around our city streets.  60 years ago the refuse collection vehicle would have been around a third of the weight and limited to a top speed of 20mph. Now we are at last returning to the 20mph speed limit for busy urban streets, and vehicle technology is giving us the means to deliver it effectively.  The systems which deliver the Euro-rated emissions performance also make it now possible to regulate a vehicle’s speed very precisely, without the loss of performance associated with the old mechanical governors.  One bus service, operated entirely within a zone limited to 30mph maximum, had the top speed limited to 30mph and a resulting reduction in minor crash damage, driver stress and fuel consumption. That speed limiting can be connected to geo-location, so Euro-rated large vehicles such as buses and trucks working around the city streets can be speed limited to 20mph and even slower when moving through pedestrian priority zones. By getting buses, Council trucks and other publicly operated vehicles all operating to the speed limit we gain a far more effective enforcement regime that road signs, speed humps and cameras for keeping all traffic moving along within the speed limit. Oh yes – it may cost money – but how much is a life worth in comparison to a few £’000 per truck or bus…?

One can only be thankful that this incident did not happen with the refuse truck moving along Buchanan, Argyle or Sauchiehall Streets as they sometimes are, but from this event it may be a clear message that all publicly operated vehicles (Refuse trucks, Fire Appliances etc) have some means of governing down their speeds in pedestrian zones which had to be ‘unlocked’ with a deliberate and distinct action before that low speed control is overridden. The further presence of a vanguard on foot should also be enforced for all vehicles moving around on pedestrian-filled streets – a detail of delivering the duty of care required by health & safety legislation which Glasgow Council should be enforcing in a far stronger way, having only recently been fined £20,000 for anther fatal incident with a refuse truck operated without a person on foot to manage pedestrian movements and alert the driver when pedestrians were present but not visible from the driving position.

Dave Holladay

When an angel smiles at you, … and when she doesn’t.

It is often a matter of centimetres or minutes and it generally involves an angel.

When Tom Kearney was hit by a bendy bus on Oxford Street exactly five years ago, a young man from Hackney saved his life, by applying first-aid techniques he had just learned. Tom was in a coma and choking on his blood; Hamza Benkhadda cleared blood from Tom’s nose and throat, placed him in the recovery position and waited by his side until the arrival of the emergency services, 29 minutes later.

Two weeks ago, Victoria Lebrec was crushed by a left turning skipper lorry on Clerkenwell Road. As her father recounts,

At around 9am, Victoria was about to arrive to work on her bike. At the corner of Clerkenwell and St Johns, she turned left, but was caught by a skip lorry, which dragged her under. From what we know, the wheels must have rolled over the lower part of her body, in the pelvic area. We have learned since that accidents involving the pelvic area are usually fatal, as it is very hard to stop the internal bleeding that usually results. The details from then on are very sketchy, but we’ve heard that an ambulance or a police car was close by. This enabled an air ambulance to be on the scene within 10 minutes.

Picture by Daniel Russell

And, as far as we can understand, they were able to perform a new procedure, called REBOA, which basically enables them to stop the bleeding by inserting a balloon in the artery using ultra-sound. It’s been very recently introduced in the UK (more common in the US apparently) and has generated much interest, including this BBC clip.

Sometimes, however, cruel fate dictates a sadder ending.

My father was hit by a TfL bus 200m from Tom’s incident and experienced a similar trauma, but he never regained consciousness.

Earlier this year, 300m to the North (see a pattern here?) Michael Mason was hit by a “blind” motorist and did not survive.

According to TfL, these are just numbers, statistics to be massaged and spun to show somehow that things are improving.

To the Metropolitan Police these are “tragic accidents” to be buried as quickly as possible. In all these incidents (except Victoria’s, which is still live), the Police blamed the victim and refused to prosecute the killer.

So you can see the wheel spinning:

  • people are getting killed in the same streets, (here is Oxford St/Regent’s Street; here is Clerkenwell Road – e.g. Harriet Tory, same age as Victoria, was killed on the same spot and in the same way). 
  • killers are not prosecuted 
  • no lessons are learned 
  • nothing changes 
  • more people get killed 

 “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

Transport for London, the Metropolitan Police and the Local Authorities are happy with this state of affairs. They have no moral qualms that their action kills people. When human beings start to work in these inhuman organisations, they lose their humanity, their compassion, their morals and trade human lives for political favours. These organisations are masters in making monsters out of normal human beings. Just like the Army reprogrammes teenagers’ brains to become killing machines, TfL, the Police and Local Authorities rewires employee’s brains to detach themselves from the tragedies they cause.

There is only one way to stop this infernal killing machine .

It is for the survivors and the families of the innocent victims to rise and say “Enough!” Tom Kearney is a shining example of what we can do; he has started to open TfL stinking can with a forceful opener and out has come the data they were embarrassed to reveal, and he has given a voice to those employees who refuse to be forged into cogs of this devilish octopus.

Vision Zero London will help anyone who has been the victim of traffic violence and channel all our efforts towards the change that we all want and deserve.

Is it reasonable to expect pedestrians to take 4 minutes 15 seconds to cross a street?

On Tuesday Assia Nikoforova was killed by a lorry while she was crossing Edith Grove, SW10.

I met her children; you could see from their eyes that dealing with the loss of one’s mother from traffic violence is a tragedy that brings out many emotions.

Flowers left by a witness, Lady Nadia Essex (her picture)

The son explained that his mother probably started crossing with the green light. The lorry must have stopped over the ASL and started off without looking; the poor woman was dragged by the low front fender and then crushed to death.

Large lorries do not respect ASL and cannot see children in front of them

Examining the site at 15:30, one could not help noticing the number of young children holding hands to their parents. And yet the conditions for pedestrians are woeful.

  • There is no all-green pedestrian phase
  • One arm has staggered crossing, with up to 60 second wait in the middle
  • One arm has the crossing pushed back 20 metres
  • One arm has NO pedestrian lights.

Father and child risking their lives with 50kph traffic and no green man. The alternative is a four minutes and fifteen seconds ordeal

If a pedestrian, say a 69 year old woman like Assia, doesn’t want to risk crossing at the arm with no lights, she would have to cross the three other arms. This takes four minutes and fifteen seconds.

Alternatively, imagine you are the parent of an 11-year old walking to school. What advice are you going to give him?

How can TfL be so contemptuous of ordinary citizens, especially the young, the old and the less mobile?

Let’s also see whether the Metropolitan Police yet again are going to accept the lie of “I didn’t see her” as an excuse for not prosecuting the killer.

UPDATE 15.1.15

Here is the response by TfL to my concerns that there is no pedestrian traffic signal on one arm of this very busy junction (my emphasis):

Dear Andrea Casalotti 

Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding pedestrian crossing provision at the junction of Edith Grove with Kings Road. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you.
We were very sad to hear of the fatality which recently occurred at the junction and our thoughts are with the family and friends of the injured party. We are working closely with the Metropolitan Police to understand the circumstances in which this occurred and are awaiting their feedback which will inform our further investigation of this junction.
Whilst we understand the benefits for pedestrians to be provided with all round pedestrian facilities at the junction, we need to balance the needs a of all road users. Where there is not enough time in the signal cycle to create dedicated pedestrian crossing facilities this will result in a detrimental impact to the traffic flow.
In the current signal method of control the junction, due to the high volumes of traffic at this junction the amount of time which can be given to pedestrians in each cycle of operation is limited. Pedestrians cross the western arm of the junction in a ‘walk with traffic arrangement’ and do not have a dedicated pedestrian stage with a green person aspect in the signal head as is seen on the eastern and northern arms of the junction. To this end, we would need to alter the signal arrangement of the junction in order to provide a new formal pedestrian crossing facility on the western arm of the junction so that traffic does not conflict with the movement of pedestrians.  
We are presently working on early stage concepts for improvements at this junction and as part of this, consideration will be given to what pedestrian crossing improvements can be achieved within the constraints of the network and its current operational performance, amongst other improvements for the wider users of the junction. We hope to be in a position to share these proposals in the coming year.
Again, please accept my apologies for the delayed response. I do hope this adequately responds to your comments. If there is anything else we can help you with, please reply to this email. Alternatively, you can speak to one of our Customer Service Advisers on 0343 222 1234.


Kind regards
Anthea Elias
Customer Service Adviser
Transport for London Customer Services 

Fourteen Points: Towards a Less Dangerous London Bus Service

Guest blog by Tom Kearney.

When is Year of the Safer Bus? At a meeting with Transport for London’s MD for Surface Transport Leon Daniels organised by Statutory Deputy Mayor Victoria Borwick on 18 September 2013, I asked Mr. Daniels why couldn’t TfL do what Manchester has already done: impose a 20 mph speed limit for all buses on its network and a 10 mph speed limit on streets with a high-density of pedestrians (like, erm, Oxford Street). Mr. Daniels’s ‘knee-jerk‘ response to my question seared itself onto my brain:

“We could run our buses more slowly [e.g: more safely] but that would cause them to run slower. We’re not going to do that because that would make them more expensive: Time is Money.” 

Time is Money. As the former director of a London-listed Mining Company and a mining operation in South Africa, I was shocked by Mr. Daniels response: if I had ever stated “we could operate more safely, but it would affect our bottom line” to the Health & Safety officials of either country where I’d been accountable as a Director and Board Member, my operation would have been shut down and I’d be on trial for Corporate Manslaughter. 

But not only is TfL allowed to get away with that complacent approach to the safety of its subcontracted bus operations, TfL’s “White Man’s Club” Bosses and their supporters (an unlikely coalition that includes The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson and the Labour Party) frequently hold up “London-style” Bus Operations as a model for the rest of the country to slavishly emulate.

Since I assume that most of the British Public would refuse to allow a bus operation to run reliably at the cost of killing and injuring more people, here are some actions TfL could implement immediately that would begin to deliver a less dangerous bus service. And, because less NHS and Police funds would be expended as result of these actions, it might actually cost less too.

Toward a Less Dangerous London Bus Service: 

1) TfL immediately adopts a Vision Zero Policy for its Bus Subcontractors.
In its excellent Feet First: Improving Pedestrian Safety in London Report, the London Assembly recommended that the Mayor adopt a Vision Zero approach to reduce KSIs on London’s roads. Simply put, a Vision Zero approach is a zero tolerance of any road danger and a complete rejection of the notion that road deaths and serious injuries are acceptable or inevitable. At present, the Mayor of London’s and TfL’s ‘ambitious’ KSI reduction goal is a 40% reduction on the 2005-2009 Average Annual KSIs by 2020. The 2005-09 Baseline average is 3626.6 Annual KSIs (about 10 KSIs per day). A 40% reduction of 1450.4 Annual KSIs (about 4 KSIs per day) would reduce KSIs in London to 2176.2 Annual KSIs (or 6 KSIs per day) by 2020. A stated goal of killing or injuring 6 people a day isn’t ‘ambitious’ at all: it’s pathetic. Based on TfL’s own published data, during the period 1 January – 30 September (calendar day 273) of this year, collisions involving TfL buses produced 275 KSIs (an average of over 1 KSI per day). If TfL enforced a Vision Zero Policy for its bus operations alone, it could achieve 25% of its murderous 2020 Daily KSI Reduction Target (4 KSIs per day) right now.

2) Subscription to CIRAS by Bus Sub Contractors is made an immediate and non-negotiable requirement by TfL.
The Confidential Incident Reporting and Analysis System has been available to TfL Train Drivers since 1999 and provides a confidential channel for them to report safety concerns which are then investigated by independent professionals. Bus Companies were invited to subscribe for their drivers in 2012 but, so far, and as the Head of CIRAS has already informed us, no bus company is a member. Why are the Mayor and TfL delaying on this?

3) A Chief Safety Officer for Surface Transport accountable to the Mayor of London and the London Assembly is immediately appointed to enforce danger reduction throughout Transport for London’s Bus Operations.
Coupled with its manifest failure to make danger reduction a priority for its bus operations, TfL’s dilatory stance on CIRAS just further evidences that the Commissioner of Transport for London and the MD for Surface Transport are examples of “regulatory capture” by the bus industry they are supposed to be regulating. Accordingly, the safety function for buses should be immediately removed from the Commissioner of Transport and his Surface Transport Subordinates. While the reason for this “regulatory capture” has multiple causes (in my opinion, the revolving door between TfL and its bus contractors is just one), an independent Chief Safety Officer (CSO) for Surface Transport needs to be appointed. The CSO would have the power to compel the Transport Commissioner and MD for Surface Transport to change contracts and operational practices that compromise safe bus operations. Why wouldn’t this CSO position need to cover TfL’s rail operations? Because, unlike TfL’s bus operations, the UK rail industry already has an independent regulator with no links to the companies it regulates, codified safety procedures and practices, and danger reduction policies like CIRAS membership already in place. In fact, it’s the law.

4) Make the TfL MD Surface Transport Job contingent on reducing Bus Collisions and KSIs involving TfL Buses
TfL’s MD for Surface Transport has, inter alia, responsibility for overseeing the performance of London’s bus fleet. London’s Olympic Year 2012, was one of the worst in recent memory for KSI injuries on London’s roads. Fatalities involving TfL buses increased by 83% at a time when London hosted the world. According to TfL’s own data, since Boris Johnson became Mayor, TfL Bus Collisions have increased every single year. The Chief Safety Officer for Surface Transport would review the MD for Surface Transport’s performance in reducing collisions every quarter and this review would be a factor in determining, inter alia, whether or not the MD for Surface Transport was retained or replaced.

5) Current Bus Contracts to be immediately amended to include Collision and KSI Reduction Targets that would increase every year.
Just as TfL has set an “acceptable level” of deaths and serious injuries on London’s roads at 6 per day by 2020, TfL should immediately amend bus contracts to set KSI reduction targets that would be increased every year and monitored by the MD Surface Transport and the Chief Safety Officer for Surface Transport.

6) Immediately Deduct the Costs of KSIs and Bus Collisions from TfL payments to Bus Subcontractors.
Under TfL’s “London-style” Quality Incentive Contracts, Busco Subcontractors can have up to 10 percent of their bus contract value deducted for failing to achieve contracted Excess Waiting Time (EWT) Targets. As already described by Bus Driver X, EWT Targets incentivise much unsafe bus driving behaviour. Quality Incentive Contracts contain no safety targets however. Making Bus Subcontractors immediately liable for all costs associated with collisions and KSIs taking place on their contracted bus routes would immediately concentrate the minds of Busco Managers on casualty and collision reduction.

7) Chief Safety Officer for Surface Transport to receive, approve and publish every KSI Incident Investigation carried out by TfL Bus Subcontractors.
From various FOIA Requests and Mayor’s Question Time Responses, TfL has admitted that:

  • It does not investigate bus collisions itself nor does it receive copies of its own subcontractors’ collision investigations; and, 
  • It does not keep records of how many bus company drivers have been prosecuted or convicted for KSIs. 

These reports would be submitted to, reviewed, approved and published by the Chief Safety Officer for Surface Transport on TfL’s website every quarter.

8) Chief Safety Officer for Surface Transport to inspect, analyse and approve the driver shift rotation practices of TfL Subcontractors
Bus Drivers have reported that fatigue brought on by shift changes is a problem. Since fatigue is a well-established cause of road casualties, TfL should be held responsible for the shift rotation practices of its subcontractors and these should be both inspected and approved by TfL on a regular basis. If shift rotation practices are found to contribute to KSI incidents (i.e., collisions resulting from driver fatigue), the Chief Safety Officer for Surface Transport will enforce changes.

9) Chief Safety Officer for Surface Transport TfL will collect and publish specific safety performance data about its Subcontractors.
Inter alia, we already know that TfL does not keep the key safety performance data about its Bus Subcontractors, e.g.:

The Chief Safety Officer for Surface Transport will collect and publish Bus Subcontractor Safety Performance Data and Actions Taken on a quarterly basis.

10) TfL to enforce a 20mph speed limit for buses on all roads in Central London 
Just like Manchester does. 

11) 10 mph for all buses in London’s West End, home to many of the highest pedestrian collision spots in London.

10 MPH for Buses within London’s “Red Square” – Oxford Street & Regent Street 

12) Bonuses of TfL Bosses will be directly related to reduction of KSIs. No bonuses paid for any period where KSIs increase.
Just like the UK Railway Industry.

13) TfL is to publish meaningful analysis of KSIs involving its buses every quarter.
The Casualty Data I successfully campaigned for TfL to publish every quarter is just a start. We deserve to see what TfL is actually learning from these incidents.

14) TfL to collect, analyse and publish the costs associated with all collisions involving its buses on a Quarterly basis
Collisions and KSIs cost the public money too…and it deserves to know how big this number is in real time.


VZL comment:

We will be presenting this list to Ben Johnson, Senior Delivery Planning Manager at Transport for London, who we met last month. At the meeting he was adamant that TfL has a Vision Zero strategy. Well Ben, ALL the above are NECESSARY to ensure that the biggest killer on London Roads is managed in a way that lives are not sacrificed for the sake of efficiency, and of the pay packets of Hendy, Daniels and their pals.

Is the media silence about TfL criminal management practices ending soon?

Transport for London is the biggest institutional killer in the capital, and yet, despite the devastating exposés by Tom Kearney of management practices that cause several of these killings, traditional media has been looking the other way.

Maybe they are waking up.

In this report, the BBC interviews Bus Driver X, one of the several drivers who are prevented by TfL to use CIRAS, the confidential incident reporting system used in the railways, and is forced to report his anxieties that safety is compromised in order to achieve performance targets, through Tom’s blog. He admits compromising people’s safety in order not to lose his job.

At 2:00 you will hear Leon Daniels, Managing Director Surface Transport, repeating the blatant lie, “Nothing is more important than safety. Safety is our top priority.”

Any journalist worth her salt would “follow the money”. And here it is, in the Commissioner and Chief Officer Performance Awards, we can see how much TfL values safety. Clearly not top priority. Customer satisfaction on the road network is 13.8%. Time reliability is 19.2%. Reduction in KSIs is only 8.2%. No wonder management is willing to sacrifice people’s lives in order to achieve reliability targets.

The biggest scandal is that the Health & Safety Executive refuses to investigate these management practices which cause so many tragedies.

UPDATE: Here is a little parody by Tom Kearney, giving some context to the fantasies blurted out by Leon Daniels: