HC Deb 17 July 1961 vol 644 cc885-6
Mrs. Castle

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Transport whether he will make a statement on the crash of the 8.50 a.m. Colne to Fleetwood boat train yesterday.

The Minister of Transport (Mr. Ernest Marples)

Yes, Sir. At 10.25 yesterday morning the 8.50 a.m. diesel boat train from Colne to Fleetwood ran into the rear of a stationary ballast train standing on the down line between Weeton and Singleton signal boxes. I regret to inform the House that the driver of the boat train and five passengers were killed, 115 passengers were taken to hospital, and 18 are still detained there.

The boat train was travelling at speed round a sharp right-hand curve when it hit the ballast train. The leading coach leap-frogged across a number of wagons of the ballast train and was hurled down a 14 ft. embankment. The next three coaches jack-knifed and came to rest in a precarious position with the ends of two of them high in the air. The fifth and sixth coaches remained on the line.

At the time of the accident the up line was closed. Replacement of ballast and sleepers on this line had been completed and arrangements were being made to resume normal working on both lines. It is not yet clear why the boat train and the ballast train were on the same section.

London Midland Region is holding an inquiry today. My Chief Inspecting Officer of Railways will open the Ministry of Transport inquiry next week, probably on Tuesday, 25th July.

I should like to express my sincere sympathy with the bereaved and with those who were injured in this tragic accident. I should also like to thank all those who came to the assistance of the injured.

Mrs. Castle

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the whole House will join him in expressing sympathy to the bereaved and injured and to all the passengers who suffered shock and strain, and also in expressing our appreciation of the work of the rescuers?

May I ask the Minister whether, when his inquiry is conducted, it will, among other things, take into account the extent to which the number of casualties has been affected by the type of coach used on this diesel train, so that we may increase our knowledge of all the factors making for safety on the railways?

Mr. Marples

I will draw that point to the attention of the inspecting officer.

Mr. S. Silverman

While joining the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) in the condolences and the expression of appreciation of all the help that was rendered at short notice, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind that according to workmen who were working on the line at the time assurances had been given that both lines, the up line and the down line, had been closed and that they were taken completely by surprise that there were any trains there? Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that there are some rather extraordinary features of this accident? May I also ask whether his inquiry will be held in public?

Mr. Marples

The inquiry will be held in the usual way, and, if necessary, the report will be published. I think that it would be wise of me not to comment until the inquiry is held.

Mr. G. Wilson

Can my right hon. Friend say whether this section of the line is subject to automatic train control?

Mr. Marples

I could not say, without notice.