Sir G. Harvie Watt
(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he has any statement to make on the railway accident which took place at Barnes last Friday night.
§ The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)
Yes, Sir. At about 11.29 p.m. on Friday, 2nd December, 1955, the 11.12 p.m. four-coach electric passenger train from Waterloo to Chertsey and Windsor which was travelling on the down local line ran into the rear of a stationary or slowly moving freight train at the approach to Barnes station and junction. The leading coach of the passenger train was overturned, and it and the brake van of the freight train caught fire and were burnt out; the remaining three coaches were not seriously damaged. I much regret to say that 11 passengers, together with the motorman of the passenger train and the guard of the freight train lost their lives, and that 35 persons were injured, of whom 15 are still detained in hospital.
Traffic was interrupted on all four lines. Three lines were re-opened at 11.12 a.m. on Saturday, 3rd December, but the down local line was not available to traffic until 5.44 p.m. on that day.
I have appointed the Chief Inspecting Officer of Railways to hold an inquiry into this accident, and he visited the site 201 on Saturday morning. I am sure the House will understand that I cannot make any further statement on this matter at present.
I would like, however, to pay tribute to the very prompt action of the Metropolitan Police and of the ambulance and fire services, who were on the spot in strength within twenty minutes of the accident. The highest praise is due to them and to the railway staffs who took part in the difficult and dangerous work of rescue.
The House will, I know, wish to express its deep sympathy with the relatives and friends of those who lost their lives in this accident and with those who were injured.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
As these recent accidents have caused some concern, not least in my own constituency, from which a number were killed and injured, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether there will be an opportunity to debate the Reports of the Chief Inspector on these accidents, when they are published?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I cannot say anything about that at the moment. An inquiry is to be undertaken by the Chief Inspector, and we ought to wait for that.
§ Mr. Monslow
Would it not be a precedent if it were agreed to have a debate on a flatter of that character?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Altogether apart from that—and there is a good deal of force in what the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Monslow) says—questions about Parliamentary time are certainly not for me to answer.