HC Deb 03 February 1943 vol 386 cc877-9
22. Mr. Woodburn

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport how long it will be before the improved lighting in railway trains, recently announced, will be installed on trains in the Glasgow, West of Scotland and Edinburgh areas, respectively?

Mr. Noel-Baker

The lighting of trains in the areas to which my hon. Friend refers will be improved as rapidly as the supply of materials and labour allows. I regret, however, that in the Glasgow area some delay will be inevitable, for the reason that the limited supply of labour available to the railway companies is fully engaged in repairing malicious damage to passenger rolling-stock. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for this opportunity of explaining that vandalism in railway trains, especially in the Glasgow area, has become a most serious problem. During the last three months more than 2,000 carriage windows have been broken, 1,500 window straps torn or cut, 1,000 war-time lampshades broken or torn off, and the upholstery in 320 compartments cut, in addition to other considerable damage to the carriages. During 1942 more than 43,000 electric bulbs were broken or stolen from trains in Scotland. As I have already said, these mischievous acts by irresponsible travellers will seriously delay the introduction of improved lighting since the necessary repairs must absorb the labour and materials required.

Mr. Woodburn

Has my hon. Friend made any investigation into the reasons for this?

Mr. Noel-Baker

The public authorities have made every endeavour to find out why it is going on. It seems to be pure vandalism of the most reprehensible kind.

Mr. McKinlay

It is only recently that the railways put glass in. Workers' trains have been notoriously ill-fitted.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Perhaps my hon. Friend will furnish me with details.

Mr. Maxton

Who supplied the hon. Gentleman with these facts, because in 3½ years' travelling in the West of Scotland I have only seen two cases of a broken window and destroyed upholstery?

Mr. Noel-Baker

The facts are supplied by the railway company, but photographs have been published, and there is no doubt about the matter.

24. Sir L. Lyle

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of War Transport whether, as his Department officially informed the Press on 23rd January that batteries for providing improved lighting on the main railways would be available almost immediately to enable passengers to read newspapers in comfort, and that all trains and public vehicles, with certain exceptions, would have uniform lighting, he will now say on what dates he anticipates each of these improvements will be achieved?

Mr. Noel-Baker

I regret that inaccuracies in the newspaper report to which my hon. Friend refers have caused misunderstanding. The facts are as follow: An officer of my Department spoke to a reporter of the changes and improvements in lighting which we are hoping to introduce. He said that, among other things, we are arranging that the lights in trains shall no longer be swiched off while the trains are standing at station platforms. He said that this could be done almost immediately in electric trains to which current is served direct, but that it could only be done in trains in which the lighting is done by batteries when there is a through switch control. My hon. Friend will observe that none of this referred to improvements in the lighting itself, nor to the provision of batteries. No mention was made by my officer of uniformity of lighting or of public service vehicles. I regret that I cannot yet say at what dates the other improvements in lighting can be introduced, since this must depend on the labour and materials which can be obtained. I have, however, asked the companies to inform me at frequent intervals of the progress they have made. My hon. Friend will understand that there are such great differences in the rolling-stock, and in the lighting systems adopted by various companies, that uniformity of lighting is impracticable.