HC Deb 22 May 1851 vol 116 cc1234-5

Sir, seeing the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade in his place, I wish to know whether, in consequence of the numerous and fatal accidents that have recently occurred on railways, arising, as it appears to me, from the short interval now allowed between the departure of one train and the starting of that which succeeds it, the Board of Trade are prepared either from their own authority to recommend to the Railway Board to adopt such measures as will prevent as far as possible the recurrence of such accidents, or, if the Railway Board are not possessed of sufficient powers to do so, whether it is the intention to apply to Parliament for such additional powers as are necessary to enable the Railway Board to interfere effectively to protect the lives and limbs of persons travelling on railways? I believe it is more than ever necessary that some precaution should take place at the present time, when there are advertisements from almost all the railway companies stating that several cheap trains will start to bring up numbers of persons to visit the Great Exhibition. The consequence might be, that either trains would be overloaded, being what were called monster trains, or it would be necessary for the companies to despatch trains at so short an interval that if the slightest accident occurred to a previous train, it would not be able to proceed before the next came up, and a fatal collision took place. There ought to be a regulation that a train shall not approach a station until it is signalled by the electric telegraph that the preceding train has passed beyond it. Two serious accidents have recently occurred on railways; and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to state that measures will be taken to prevent the recurrence of such fatal accidents, as far as lies in the power of the board.


Undoubtedly the subject has received, and continues to receive, the utmost attention on the part of the Railway Commissioners. It is quite true, as the right hon. Gentleman has stated, that two most disastrous accidents have recently occurred upon two different railways in this country. With regard to the first of those accidents, an able Report has been presented to the Railway Commissioners, by Captain Nathaniel, who was sent to investigate the matter, and I shall lay that Report before the House. With regard to the other, a coroner's inquest is sitting upon it, and we have sent down an inspector specially to investigate and report upon the circumstances. With regard to what the right hon. Baronet has said a3 to the propriety of the Railway Commissioners undertaking the special control of railway arrangements with a view to the public safety, I must take the liberty of asking the House to be very cautious before it adopts the opinion that the public security would be increased by taking the responsiblity and control out of the hands of the railway directors, and transferring them to the hands of the Railway Commissioners. It is very natural, when several accidents occur, that we should have alarm and excitement on the subject; but notwithstanding the two recent occurrences, I must remind the House that, taking the railway communication on the whole, it has been conducted with a degree of personal security to the persons who travel, as well as with a degree of regularity and expedition, that is quite surprising. The subject will receive the best attention of the Railway Commissioners; but I cannot, as at present advised, hold out any expectation that I shall come to the House for any measure to give increased control to the Government over railway directors.

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