§ MR. GEORGE DIXON (Birmingham, Edgbaston)
I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that, although by the Act of 1889 Railway Companies were compelled to provide their lines with the absolute block system, the special block signal of thirteen rings known as the "Come at Caution" arrangement, which was sanctioned by the Board of Trade for special purposes only, is now constantly in use for the ordinary traffic; whether the recent serious collisions at Birmingham and Leeds were owing to the use of this dangerous signal; and if it is under the consideration of the Department whether something can be done to carry out more strictly the intention of the Act of 1889?
*THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE Sir MICHAEL HICKS BEACH,) Bristol, W.
(No, Sir, the facts are not quite as stated in the question of the hon. Member. The Regulation of Railways Act, 1889, does not require Railway Companies to provide their lines with the absolute block system. What it does do is to empower the Board of Trade to order a Railway Company to adopt, inter alia, the block system with any exceptions or modifications allowed by the Order, and the Board of Trade have required the Railway Companies to adopt the block system with such modifications, in each particular case, as the circumstances of the railway required. The signal referred to by the hon. Member is probably the signal, "section clear, but 1460 station (or junction) blocked," which is not a signal sanctioned in any way by the Board of Trade, or forming in any way a modification of the Order to adopt the block system. It is a signal adopted by certain Railway Companies for use under certain special circumstances, but it is frequently used in a manner against which the Inspecting Officers of the Board of Trade have on several occasions protested. Whether or not the recent unhappy collisions which have led to lamentable loss of life were due to the use of this signal I am unable to say until I have received the Reports of the Inspecting Officers on the inquiries which have been ordered. I am of opinion, however, that the signal as it is sometimes used is by no means satisfactory, and that, in the interests of the public safety, a greater strictness should be adopted than is possible with such use of the signal. The Reports of the Inspecting Officers on the accidents which have occurred will be carefully examined, and the Railway Department of the Board of Trade will consider whether any, and if so, what, further representations shall be made to the Companies which are still using the signal referred to.
§ MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, under the powers of the Act of 1889, he has power to issue an Order to exclude the use of this signal in the manner referred to, or whether he can only make a recommendation?
§ *SIR MICHAEL HICKS BEACH
I think that is a question of which I should have notice.