A LORRY driver crashed into a £4.2 million tram train the day the new Rotherham link launched — after going through a red light — blurted out moments later: “If you are going to do it, you might as well do it in style.”
The cost of the smash at Attercliffe last October amounted to more than £1 million, with the wrecked tram train having to be sent back to the makers in Spain to be fixed and several sections of track needing repairs.
HGV driver Kevin Hague (pictured below), of Duncan Street, Brinsworth, admitted failing to comply with a traffic light signal when he appeared at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court on Monday.
He was fined £250, ordered to pay £85 in costs and given three penalty points on his licence.
Hague was also charged with driving without due care and attention but no evidence was offered by the prosecution.
Magistrates heard the crash, which happened at the junction of Staniforth Road and Woodbourn Road on October 25 last year, with 80 passengers on board, had left the tram train driver “traumatised”.
“The tram had left the Attercliffe stop at around 3.15pm with 80 passengers on board,” said prosector Ms Kelly Hutchinson.
“The HGV went through a red light, the tram couldn’t stop in time and derailed.”
Ms Hutchinson said when the tram driver, Dan Woodhouse, had approached Hague to say he had gone through the red traffic light, he responded: “I know, but if you are going to do it, you might as well do it in style.”
In a victim impact statement, tram driver Mr Woodhouse said he “felt lucky” he was driving a new tram train on that day as they could handle a much bigger impact compared to the older version and added: “I could have been seriously injured.”
He said he had faced a very difficult and emotional situation and did not want to be thrust into the media spotlight, adding: “The impact it has had on me — I can not even look on social media.”
Tim Bilby, managing director of Stagecoach Supertram, said in a statement that the collison had had “a lasting impact” on the firm.
He said the launch day of the new Tram Train service had attracted substantial press interest but the incident had caused media speculation the new system had fault and affected their reputation.
“Stagecoach Supertram are devastated by the events,” Mr Bilby said.
“Had it happened on one of the normal tram trains, it could have caused injuries to the passengers and driver or even caused a fatality.”
Mr Chris Hopkinson, mitigating, said Hague had previously held a clean licence and had been driving HGVs since 1975.
He told the court Hague, who was “not overly familiar” with the crash scene, had thought the traffic light was on green.
Mr Hopkinson added: “He simply made a mistake and admits the light must have been on red when he went through it.”
He also pointed out in court that another accident happened in the same spot just a month later, which prompted a report by the Rail Accident Investigation Branch.
As a result of the investigation, improvement works were made to the lights, which Mr Hopkinson said now made the view a lot clearer.
In reference to the comments made after the collision, Mr Hopkinson said: “Mr Hague does not dispute what the tram driver heard at the scene, but Hague was on the phone to his office.
“He was speaking to a colleague, who said it was all over social media and in response to that, he made the comments.”
Chair of the Bench, Mr Lynne Fairbridge, said: “A red light has not been complied with, resulting in a collision with 80 passengers on board plus the driver, who has been severely traumatised.
“It has also had a serious and lasting effect on Stagecoach Supertram’s business and had an adverse impact on the travelling public.”