A Crossrail contractor’s lorry has been involved in the death of a cyclist, I can reveal today.
The HGV was removing materials from the new Crossrail station at Liverpool Street when it collided with nursing assistant Maria Karsa (pictured below) at Aldgate last September.
Two of its three side sensors – fitted under safety measures imposed by Mayor Boris Johnson – were not working and the driver had been using a hands-free mobile phone.
The involvement of a Crossrail vehicle emerged only after weeks of investigation into Ms Karsa’s death. It is believed to be the first cycle fatality involving a vehicle working on the £16 billion cross-London train link, which is part of the Mayor’s transport empire.
The Crown Prosecution Service decided not to prosecute after reviewing CCTV evidence and deciding that the 41-year-old driver, who has not been named, did not fail the standard of being a “competent motorist”. The lorry had diverted off its approved route due to roadworks.
Donnachadh McCarthy, co-founder of Stop Killing Cyclists said:
This alarming news about faulty sensors on a truck working for the Mayor’s own Crossrail project highlights the wider failure of the Mayor to crack down on the shocking estimated 30 per cent of London’s trucks that are believed to be faulty and illegally driven.
Ms Karsa, 21, from Islington, had been cycling to the Royal London hospital in Whitechapel for a morning shift on September 15. She died in the same hospital a week later despite strenuous efforts to save her life. It is thought she normally worked at St Bartholomew’s hospital but had agreed to work overtime at its sister hospital.
City of London coroner Paul Matthews recorded a verdict of accidental death at an inquest in March. He said that it could only be proved that the phone line was open just prior to the collision, and not that the driver had been speaking on the phone. It is not an offence to use a hands-free device. Nor is it an offence to have faulty sensors – as they are fitted voluntarily.
A CPS London spokesman said: “After a very careful review of the evidence, including CCTV footage and a report from the investigator, the driving was found not to have been below the standard required for a competent motorist.
“We have communicated this decision to the family and offer our sympathies to them and friends of Maria Karsa. This was a tragic collision for which no-one can be held criminally liable.”
The CPS spokesman added: “We found that he was lawfully using the telephone as a hands-free device. There is no evidence this played a role in the collision.”
In his Vision for Cycling in London, published in March 2013, Mr Johnson said Crossrail contractors would be contractually required to implement safety measures.
He wrote: “We will insist that all vehicles, and those of any subcontractors, on our projects conform to the highest practical specifications of cyclist safety equipment, and that all drivers are fully trained in urban driving techniques.”
No action has been taken against the driver, who had completed a one-day Crossrail cyclist awareness course, or his firm. Crossrail said this was because no criminal charges were brought and that, according to police expert evidence at the inquest, the broken sensors “did not contribute to the incident”.
A spokesman added that moves suspending drivers whose vehicles breached Crossrail safety rules – outlined in the cycling vision above – were only implemented after Ms Karsa’s death.
Figures published by the Mayor this week revealed a fall in the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured in London, down 27 per cent from 671 in 2012 to 489 last year.
A Crossrail spokesman said: “We remain deeply saddened by the accident that caused the death of Maria Karsa. Our thoughts are with her family and friends.
“By putting in place a comprehensive package of safety measures, we have brought about far-reaching changes to HGV safety in London. But tragic incidents such as this demonstrate the importance of continuing to focus on safety standards.
“We are continually looking for ways to improve HGV safety and have recently introduced tougher measures, including suspending drivers who fail safety checks and further training for inspectors on site.”