§ Mr. REES
asked the President of the Board of Trade, whether he is aware that the number of accidents that occurred during 1908 in connection with the coupling and uncoupling of vehicles, considered as a percentage of the number of vehicles in use, is nearly twelve times more numerous in the case of carriages with tight couplings that in the case of wagons with slack couplings; and that, considering the comparatively few coupling operations which take place with carriages as compared with wagons, the actual number of accidents per coupling operation occurring with tight couplings on carriages is very much in excess of those taking place with the slack coupling on wagons; and whether, in view of the risk involved in the present method of tight-coupling carriages, he will take steps to have a suitable automatic coupler investigated, with a view to its being adopted on British coaching stock?
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
I am advised that coupling accidents are comparatively more numerous in the case of screw coupled stock than in that of stock fitted with loose couplings, but the total number is not great, and not one of the four fatal accidents in 1908 would have occurred if the men engaged in coupling had refrained from going between the vehicles before they had come to rest. The 249 833 non-fatal accidents in connection with screw-coupled vehicles were mostly of a trivial nature. Apart from the question of the expense of fitting all passenger carriages and other vehicles running with passenger trains with automatic couplings there are other difficulties attendant on their introduction, and I am informed that it is hardly likely that the number of accidents of a serious character would be materially reduced by their adoption. In these circumstances, I do not think an investigation such as my hon. Friend suggests would lead to any practical result.