HC Deb 05 February 1958 vol 581 cc1187-8
29. Mr. Janner

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if, following the inquest on the train disaster at Lewisham, he will now suggest to the British Transport Commission that automatic train control should be established on all sections of British Railways where it is not installed and so relieve train drivers of their present heavy responsibility.

Mr. Nugent

The British Transport Commission has in hand the installation of automatic warning control on all the main routes of British Railways, and the Chairman has assured us that the Commission will do all it can to accelerate the programme. But automatic warning control, although a valuable help to safety, cannot entirely remove the element of human responsibility.

Mr. Janner

May I thank the hon. Member for that reply? Will he bear in mind, particularly since the Dagenham tragedy which has created even greater anxiety than prevailed before—and that was bad enough—that every expedition should be exercised to produce every mechanical device possible to minimise the grave responsibility upon human beings in control of and driving these trains, so that they may have an opportunity to make use of such devices in the exercise of this dangerous responsibility?

Mr. Nugent

Yes, Sir and that is just what the Commission is doing.

Mr. Popplewell

Will the Minister express to the British Transport Commission the disappointment of this House at the rate of progress in this matter? I think it correct to say that in reply to a Question a week or so ago the Minister indicated that only about 1,000 miles of track had been laid. This is a very small percentage of the running track. In view of the long time the Commission has been engaged on this experiment, is not this rate of progress exceedingly slow?

Mr. Nugent

I think I should say in fairness to the Commission that A.T.C. is only one important aid to improved safety. Colour light signalling and track circuiting are of equal importance. The Commission is making good progress and accelerating considerably over its original programme.