Trams on strike as ex-driver sentenced for 2015 death

Tram drivers walked out on wildcat strike in Riviera capital Nice after a former driver was handed a six-month suspended jail term for manslaughter in connection with a passenger death in 2015.

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The city’s trams came to a halt on Thursday night (April 12) as the drivers sought to protest the sentence, and no trams are expected to run today.

Replacement buses are in operation in the city, although a report from local radio station France Bleu said they were very full and “not very frequent”.

The strike comes after a former driver, who had been employed by tram operator Lignes d’Azur, was yesterday handed a six-month suspended prison sentence for his role in the passenger’s death almost exactly three years ago.

Jacques Burgède, a 76-year-old man from Nice, died on April 11 2015, after falling in a tram as the driver applied the emergency brake.

In the subsequent trial, Mr Burgède’s family had blamed not only the driver, but also the brake manufacturer, Alstom, saying that its “too-violent” braking system should also be implicated.

The trams only had two levels of braking, the court heard, making the emergency brake feel extremely severe to passengers inside the carriage.

The family’s lawyer, Me Yannick Le Maux, said: “The driver was just the last link in an entirely defective chain.”

But this was rejected by the court, who found the driver’s actions had accidentally contributed to the man’s death, and punished only him.

In response, a statement from Lignes d’Azur said: “Due to an unplanned social movement, the tramway lines are closed today (Thursday) from 19h. Extra buses will be in place during the stoppage.”

This was not the first time a passenger died after an emergency braking in a tram.

In Montpellier in 2012, a 72-year-old man also fell to his death in the same situation, in a tram also made by Alstom.

In its defence, Alstom - whose tram systems operate throughout the country - said that its construction specifications in both cases had been approved by the appropriate body (OEQA) and the relevant State authorities.

Yet, the mayor of Nice recently announced that the city’s next two tram lines will run carriages with “four levels of braking, instead of just the current two”.

Nice has had trams in operation since 2007.

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