HC Deb 22 January 1958 vol 580 cc1040-1
25. Mr. Hastings

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will give a general direction to the British Transport Commission that long-distance passenger coaches shall be so constructed that untreated sewage shall be no longer discharged on the permanent way.

Mr. Nugent

No, Sir. This question was recently considered by an expert committee set up by the British Transport Commission. It confirmed the view taken by the European and American railway administrations whom it consulted, that there is no practical alternative to the present method of disposal. The Committee recommended, however, certain modifications in existing equipment which are being considered.

Mr. Hastings

Is the Minister aware that it has been shown experimentally that fluids discharged from railway coaches are not only desposited between the lines but spread to the side of the lines as well? Will not he agree that it is a filthy scheme to permit untreated sewage to be deposited on railway tracks both in town and country, and, at any rate in connection with construction of new rolling stock, will he consider some better method?

Mr. Nugent

All the alternatives have been very carefully considered both here and elsewhere and there seems to be no practicable alternative to the present method. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health has been able to give certain assurances that this is not a danger to health and I think we must leave it there.

Mr. Popplewell

Will the Minister please not accept that as the last word? Surely further experiments should be made because, not only is sewage deposited on the track but, as indicated by my hon. Friend, it also goes on to the couplings and other things which have to be handled by the men concerned? This has been the subject of much discussion between the trade unions and the B.T.C. Will the Minister refuse to accept that nothing can be done but urge further experiment with a view to ending this awful nuisance?

Mr. Nugent

I agree that if some better alternative could be found it would be most desirable. We certainly will urge the Commission to continue to study possible alternatives, including the recommendations of the Committee.

Dr. Summerskill

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that certain eminent scientists have said that untreated sewage may well be a source of poliomyelitis? If so, can he lightly dismiss this question?

Mr. Nugent

I did not dismiss it, but I did say that the Minister of Health had given the House an assurance on 29th October that this did not constitute a danger of infection by poliomyelitis. We certainly accept that it would be desirable to find some alternative, and if we can we will.

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