HC Deb 03 July 1940 vol 362 cc825-6
17. Mr. Butcher

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will instruct the main line railway companies that where all third class seating accommodation is occupied and first class seats are vacant, serving soldiers, sailors, and airmen are to be permitted to use such seats without extra charge?

Sir J. Reith

I have consulted the Railway Executive Committee on this suggestion. They advise that, as a general rule, third class travel cannot be permitted in first class compartments, as the railway companies are bound to provide first class accommodation for officers of His Majesty's Forces and others holding first class tickets, and this applies not only at terminals but at intermediate stopping places. But, as indicated yesterday in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen), when notice is given of troop movements arrangements are made to provide adequate seating accommodation. In the event, however, of a train being seriously overcrowded, latitude has been given to the railway staff to allow serving soldiers, sailors and airmen to use first class seats where available.

Mr. Butcher

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his reply, will he take steps to induce the railway companies to take a more realistic attitude towards the travelling public?

Mr. Mander

Does that concession apply to the wives of soldiers, sailors and airmen too? Is not my right hon. Friend aware that there are many soldiers travelling with their wives who would prefer to see them sitting down rather than themselves?

Mr. Garro Jones

While recognising that the railway companies are obliged to provide first class accommodation, in what respect do they fail in that duty if they allow soldiers to occupy empty first class seats?

Sir J. Reith

I will draw the attention of the Railway Executive Committee to what has been said in this House; secondly, I will ask them to advise their operating staff to exercise the latitude referred to; and, thirdly, I will ask them to give me a report in a week or two in the light of experience.

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