HC Deb 03 April 1957 vol 568 cc390-2
33. Lord Balniel

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation when he expects to introduce automatic train control for railway traffic passing through Welwyn Garden City.

34. Mr. G. Wilson

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what progress is being made with the extension of automatic train control throughout the railway system of British Railways.

Mr. Watkinson

As I informed the House on 13th February, I gave my final approval to the British Railways Automatic Train Control system on 30th November last. The British Transport Commission is now going ahead with its plans to provide the equipment as quickly as possible on all the main traffic routes, including the main line through Welwyn Garden City.

Lord Balniel

Whilst appreciating that it might not be possible to introduce this automatic control immediately at Welwyn Garden City, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend is aware that there is the greatest local concern about the mechanical efficiency of these signals? Can he give an assurance that the very highest standards of safety are being maintained at the station?

Mr. Watkinson

I think that I know the point my noble Friend is making, and it refers to one signal only. I do not think I ought to anticipate the report of my Chief Inspector of Railways, but I think that I can say to my noble Friend that, so far, prolonged tests and examination of the signal have not disclosed any fault.

Mr. Wilson

Will my right hon. Friend urge British Railways to expedite the setting up of the system as quickly as possible, not only for humanitarian reasons. but because the very high record of safety on British Railways is of considerable commercial value and a great deal of damage is done if there arc accidents that can be avoided?

Mr. Watkinson

I quite agree, and I think that the Commission places the utmost priority on trying to get A.T.C. going as quickly as possible.

Mr. Popplewell

Would the right hon. Gentleman press the Transport Commission to fix an early date for completion of automatic train control? Is he aware that experiments have been conducted for seven to ten years, which seems a tremendously long time? Is he also aware that in the Welwyn Garden City area, which has been subjected to these tests for years, everyone was disturbed when it was learned that there was an engine running on the line which was not fitted with this automatic control? Will the right hon. Gentleman see that more engines are equipped to utilise the control where it is already in existence?

Mr. Watkinson

I will certainly see to that.

Mr. Usborne

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that a year or so ago there was an accident at Sutton Cold-field, near Birmingham, and the inquiry found that the driver was driving the train a little too fast? Will the automatic control provide some kind of speedometer or some method of ensuring that the driver knows how fast he is driving the train?

Mr. Watkinson

Perhaps the hon. Member will be good enough to put a Question on the Order Paper. This is a rather technical matter.