HC Deb 21 June 1889 vol 337 cc422-3

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether it is the case that on the Great Northern of Ireland Line of Railway, on which occurred the recent collision, causing the loss of 77 lives and serious injury to over 100 persons, the servants generally have to work from 14 to 18 hours per day, and in some cases men are on duty for a spell of from 18 to 20 hours without relief, and that the stationmaster at Belfast comes on duty at 6.15 a.m., and does not leave off till midnight, and the porters there come on at 6.15 a.m. and do not leave till 10 p.m.; whether it is the fact that the two men who acted as guards on the excursion train that met with the fatal disaster were untried men, shunters at Newry Station, and had no knowledge of the line or of the duties of a guard, and that one of them, Moorhead, had been on duty 16 hours the previous day, and also from four o'clock that morning, and that his wages were 11s. per week; and whether he, considering what has occurred, will this Session endeavour to pass a Bill to so far regulate the employment of railway servants as to secure that their duties may be performed efficiently, and with a due regard to the safety of the lives of passengers.


From the Return recently presented to Parliament, it appears that in the month of March, 1888, 208 engine-drivers and firemen were employed on the Great Northern of Ireland Railway, and that there were 693 instances in which these men were employed for 14 hours and upwards in a day, and eight instances in which signalmen were so employed. There were two instances in the same month in which engine-drivers or firemen had been employed for 18 hours and upwards. I have no information as to the hours of service of the stationmaster and porters at Belfast. With reference to the guards of the excursion train which was recently in collision I can say nothing. It would not be proper for me to express any opinion as to the direct or indirect causes of the disaster until I have received the Report of the officer appointed to inquire into the accident, and during the legal proceedings now pending. As regards legislation, I must refer the right hon. Gentleman to the answer which I gave on the 18th inst. to the hon. Member for North-East Northamptonshire. It is probable that any Bill which may be introduced will deal with other subjects besides that of automatic brakes.


Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake in the proposed Bill that railway servants shall not be worked beyond the maximum number of hours?


I cannot give such an undertaking. It is questionable whether any legislation on that subject is possible.