Alfred Dorris’s working day had started like any other. His 3.20am alarm went off and within two hours he was driving Tram 2551 and picking up early morning commuters in Croydon.
“I woke up that morning expecting to go to work and have a normal day. And, it all went wrong,” he later said.
Mr Dorris has never spoken publicly about why his tram derailed killing seven people and injuring many others on November 9, 2016 in South London.
Relatives of the dead are furious he has never apologised and was not called to give evidence at a two-month inquest. Last week a jury concluded the crash was an accident after he had a microsleep leaving the tram speeding towards a sharp bend where it derailed.
Now, the Telegraph can reveal for the first time how 10 months after the crash during a lengthy police interview with his lawyers present he repeatedly apologised and said that fateful day had left him living a “nightmare” in “hell”.
Transcripts of the interview show how he told officers he thinks about the families of those who died everyday and he will “never get over it”.
But, when Jean Smith, mother of Mark Smith who died, was shown his comments, she said: “It’s not worth the paper it’s written on. It was not an apology to the families of the seven who died or anyone else. This was an apology to himself for being in this situation.”
Last week a jury concluded the crash was an accident
Born in Paddington, London, in April 1974, Alfred Nathaniel Dorris started his working life as milkman and bus driver before joining First Group in 2008 as a tram driver.
He soon chose morning shifts to spend more time with his wife, Dimpal, and daughter at their home in Bromley, Kent.
Until the crash, he had a perfect record at Tram Operations Ltd, was a “respected” employee and had driven that same stretch 693 times without incident.
During the interview, he struggled for words as he recalled how he failed to brake in time before the now notorious Sandilands bend.
“Halfway through the tunnel, I just remember coming over all disorientated,” he said. “Like, I just weren’t sure where I was. I was confused.”
Explaining how he thought he was going in the opposite direction, he added: “All I can remember seeing was just a long, dark stretch of track ahead … When I realised where I was it was too late for me to do anything.”
He insisted he had “blacked out” as the carriage rolled but was adamant he had not fallen asleep beforehand.
“I was upset, you know traumatised. I weren’t sure what had actually happened… I was upset … angry.”
He said he “got really emotional” when told by rescuers people were under the tram after the glass shattered.
Tram 2551 derailed after taking a sharp turn
Credit: PAUL GROVER
As dazed passengers were led from the wreckage in the pouring rain and dark, he recalled: “I was just saying to them, ‘I’m so sorry.’ … then it got too emotional for me and I had to get out and … collapsed.”
He added: “All I think about, [is] how it’s affected everyone else – all the families. You know I’ll never get over it. It’s something that I’m going to have to carry forever.
“I’m not thinking about myself. I’m thinking about them. What it’s like every time they have a birthday or Christmas or any family occasion. It’s going to be hell for them.
“I know their life has changed forever now. I think the people will be blaming me for what happened to them and I’ll never ever be able to get over it. That’s how I feel all the time and everyday.
“People may think it’s been easy, but it’s not been easy for me. By thinking, oh you know, oh look at him, he can carry on living a normal life. But it’s not like that. I’m living the nightmare everyday. It’s hell. And you know, that’s why I’m sorry, because it’s horrible. ”
Relatives of those who perished said the jury’s failure to reach an unlawful killing finding meant they felt “justice has been suffocated”, a feeling compounded by the coroner’s refusal to call bosses from Tram Operations Ltd, which runs the network, and Transport for London, which owns the infrastructure.