HC Deb 07 February 1861 vol 161 cc141-2

asked the President of the Board of Trade, Whether, in consequence of the numerous Railway accidents which have recently occurred, it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to introduce any measure during the present Session, founded on the Report of the Committee on Railway Accidents, which was laid on the Table of the House in the year 1858?


said, the Report of the Committee, of which he believed the hon. Gentleman who put the question was Chairman, had received the careful consideration of the Government. With regard to one of the recommendations of the Committee—that the Board of Trade should apply to Parliament for power to enquire into railway accidents, and to report to Parliament—he had to state that though the inquiries which were now made were without the authority of law—were made on sufferance in fact—yet it was practically found that the railway companies showed no indisposition to give all the information in their power; and therefore it was not thought necessary to apply to Parliament on the subject. If the railway companies were to evade inquiry, or to refuse information, then probably it would be the duty of Government to come to Parliament for sufficient powers. With regard to the recent accidents, he had applied to the Railways Inspectors and had been informed by them that— All the accidents which have occurred since the prorogation of Parliament have been inquired into, and the reports upon them will be presented to both Houses very shortly. The inspecting officers have been carefully investigating the recent cases of broken tires, and it is proposed to send a circular to all railway companies. There was another important recommendation of the Committee, to the effect that means of communication should be established between the guard and the engine driver. He believed that such means of communication were most desirable, and he had been informed that there were recent cases of railway carriages having been dragged along without wheels for some distance without the driver's being aware of it. But it was a question whether a Bill ought to be introduced into Parliament to make such communication compulsory. Many of the railways had already adopted some plan of communication, and he thought it was not desirable to interfere more than absolutely necessary with the freedom of action of railway companies, or to relieve directors from the responsibility of conducting the traffic with due regard to the safety of the public. It was not, therefore, the intention of the Government to introduce any Bill into Parliament giving them further powers with respect to railways.