Speed ​​limit on a section of the Luas line lowered after a pedestrian was hit by a tram

The speed limit on a section of the Luas Red Line near Tallaght has been lowered from 70km/h to 40km/h following a fatal incident in which an elderly pedestrian was hit by a tram, according to investigation.

A Dublin District Coroner’s Court hearing into the death of Patricia Quinn (71) heard conflicting evidence from witnesses representing Transport Infrastructure Ireland and Transdev, the Luas operator, over who had decided to lower the speed limit.

Ms Quinn, a married mother of five from The Meadows East, Belgard Heights, Tallaght, Co Dublin suffered life-threatening injuries after being hit by a tram on a pedestrian crossing between Cookstown and Tallaght Hospital stops on 14 February 2019.

Reports have been heard that Ms Quinn climbed out from behind a city-bound tram that was passing into the path of a tram going in the opposite direction at the Cookstown Way level crossing.

Lawyers for the victim’s family suggested that the 70 km/h speed limit that was in effect at the time on this stretch of track was “high and excessive”.

A Garda witness said a public road that ran alongside the tram lines had a speed limit of 50km/h.

Transdev health and safety manager Eoin Kennedy told the inquest that no recommendations were made following an internal company investigation into the fatal incident.

In response to questions from Quinn family solicitor Aedan McGovern BL, Mr Kennedy said Transport Infrastructure Ireland was responsible for setting speed limits on the Luas system.

Pedestrian crossings

He said no instructions were given to tram drivers to reduce their speed when approaching pedestrian crossings after Ms Quinn died.

Mr Kennedy stressed that the drivers and the tram operated as they should have during the incident.

Questioned by TII’s lawyer, Mark O’Connell SC, Mr Kennedy accepted that TII’s setting of speed limits involved contributions from Transdev.

Mr O’Connell recalled that Transdev had previously lowered speed limits where it saw fit.

Mr Kennedy replied that it had been done “in consultation with TII”.

In evidence, however, TII’s head of public transport investment programs, Paolo Carbone, said Transdev had a “knack” for changing speed limits.

Mr Carbone said Transdev exceeding the original speed limits on the Luas system was “a fairly common occurrence”.

He understood that Transdev had taken the decision to lower the speed limit on the section of track near the Cookstown stop following the death of Ms Quinn.

Mr Carbone added: “And TII did not object.”

Emergency handbrake

The tram driver who hit Ms Quinn, Robert O’Neill, who was a trainee, told the inquest he immediately deployed an emergency handbrake in accordance with standard operating procedures when he saw Mrs. Quinn about to cross in front of him.

Mr O’Neill said using the emergency handbrake automatically activated the tram’s chime – or ‘ding-ding’ sound – but not its horn.

A Transdev instructor, Wayne Clifford, who was accompanying Mr O’Neill in the tram cabin, also activated a safety brake.

Mr Clifford, who was visibly upset in the witness box, said the pedestrian continued walking before he heard a scream and saw the glasses being ripped from Ms Quinn’s face by the impact.

“We didn’t have time to press the horn. It all happened so fast,” he added.

Witnesses from Transdev testified that the application of the second braking mechanism had the effect of reducing the braking capacity of the vehicle and lengthening its stopping distance.

Mr McGovern pointed out that Transdev’s user manual only allows one driver in the cabin.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Authority recommended that no prosecution should arise from the incident.

Forensic investigator Garda Patrick McEvoy said Ms Quinn’s body had traveled 15.5 meters from the point of impact before coming to rest. The tram traveled just over 50 meters from the collision before coming to a stop.

Garda McEvoy said the tram was calculated to be traveling at 66 km/h as it approached the pedestrian crossing which had slowed to 56 km/h at the point of impact.

He estimated that the emergency brake had been applied about 20 meters before the crossing.

Garda McEvoy said the speed at the point of impact would have been reduced to 53 km/h if the second braking mechanism had not been applied.

Collision

However, he said the collision was “imminent and unavoidable”, whether one or both braking systems were used.

At the same time, he replied to Mr. McGovern that the potential stopping distance would have been shorter if the speed limit had been 50 km/h on the track.

Garda McEvoy said CCTV footage appeared to show Ms Quinn looking towards the oncoming tram, but her view may have been obscured by various poles.

Although there are no European regulations governing the sound levels of warning alarms used by tram drivers, the investigation revealed that the sound of the horn had been reduced to 85.3 decibels from the recommended level of 93 decibels used with heavy rail motors due to “wear and tear”.

The victim’s husband, Laurence Quinn, criticized signage warning the public at the crosswalk to “look both ways”.

“It’s not enough and this accident is proof of that,” he said.

Mr Quinn told the inquest he dropped his wife in his car that morning near Tallaght Square to have a document photocopied.

He said his wife would have been familiar with the area around the crosswalk as she regularly walked near the Luas line.

He told the coroner, Dr Clare Keane, that his wife was mildly nearsighted but did not need a hearing aid.

Asked about his mobility, Mr Quinn said his wife was ‘exceptionally fit’ as she walked regularly.

The inquest heard that Mr Quinn returned home shortly after and saw the roadblocks around the scene of the accident not realizing it involved his wife.

An autopsy showed Ms Quinn died of multiple traumatic injuries after being hit by the tram.

A jury of six women returned a verdict of accidental death.

The jury recommended that speed limits be reduced at all pedestrian crossings in the Luas network, while including clear markings informing pedestrians that trams have priority.

They also recommended that chimes be sounded when approaching all pedestrian crossings, while tram drivers passing near these crossings should stop if necessary if they do not have a clear view. on the area.

Expressing her condolences to the Quinn family, the coroner said she endorsed the jury’s recommendations.

Relatives of the victim declined to comment on the results of the investigation.