HC Deb 21 November 1955 vol 546 cc1045-6
Mr. Neave

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he has any statement to make on yesterday's railway accident at Milton, near Abingdon.

The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)

Yes, Sir. At about 1.15 p.m. yesterday the 8.30 a.m. excursion train from Treherbert to Paddington became derailed when it was diverted, as planned, from the up main line to the up goods loop near Milton, between Steventon and Didcot, owing to engineering works in progress on the up main line. The engine went down the 20 ft. embankment to the left and was overturned and seven of the 10 coaches were derailed. The leading four coaches followed the engine down the embankment and were wrecked. I regret to say that 10 passengers were killed, and 96 people were taken to hospital, of whom 76 were detained, including the driver and travelling ticket collector whose injuries are not very serious. The fireman was practically uninjured. The up main line was reopened to traffic under a speed restriction at 8 a.m. this morning.

I have appointed Brigadier C. A. Langley, an Inspecting Officer of Railways, to hold an inquiry into this accident and he has already visited the site. I am sure the House will understand that I cannot make any further statement on this matter at present.

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. The rescue operations were organised with exceptional promptness and efficiency, and a leading part in them was played by the personnel of the R.A.F. and military depots nearby. I should like to express appreciation to them and to the various local and railways services who took part in this prolonged and distressing work.

Mr. Ness Edwards

I should like to associate my hon. and right hon. Friends with the sympathy which has been expressed. This accident has cast a blot over the valleys in and around my constituency. I have met some of the people concerned, and I am sure they would like me to say that what they appreciated more than anything else was the succour voluntarily given them by the men from the two Service camps. That sense of gratitude, of what was done to succour the wounded and injured, has remained uppermost in their minds. On their behalf, I should also like to pay a compliment to the part which British Railways played in succouring these people after the tragedy.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I appreciate what the right hon. Gentleman has been good enough to say.

Mr. G. Wilson

Can my right hon. Friend give us an assurance that when the inquiry into this most regrettable accident takes place special attention will be given to ascertaining whether the accident was in any way connected with the alteration in signalling rules at places where a speed restriction is in operation, having regard to the fact that some engine drivers believe that the rules—

Mr. Monslow

On a point of order. In the light of the statement which has been made—and as an inquiry is to be held, in which certain members of my organisation are involved—may I suggest that the matter is sub judice, and that no further statement should be made at this stage?

Mr. Wilson

I was not asking for a statement; I was merely asking that something should be considered—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I heard the Minister say that an inquiry would be held into this most distressing accident. I have no doubt that every relevant circumstance, as the House would desire, will be taken into consideration and duly weighed.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I need only say that this investigation will be undertaken by an extremely experienced officer, in whom I have the utmost confidence. I am quite certain that he will go very fully into the causes of this accident.