§ Mr. Boston
(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a statement about the accident on the railway line between West Minster and Queenborough on the Isle of Sheppey on Friday 25th June, 1965, in which two young children were killed.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport (Mr. Stephen Swingler)
I understand that three children, one aged four and the others three, climbed from marshland on to the railway embankment through a 10-strand wire fence, and the two younger ones were electrocuted. The older one stayed away from the rails and was unharmed. Police on the road nearby saw the children and tried to stop an approaching train from Sheerness in order to pull the children away from the live rail but the train driver was not able to stop his train before passing over the bodies. I should like to express my very sincere regrets and those of my right hon. Friend that this tragic accident should have happened.
§ Mr. Boston
Will my hon. Friend allow me to be associated with him in his message of sympathy to the families involved in this tragic accident? Can he say whether the West Minster unmanned level crossing was in any way involved in the accident? Is he aware that there is a long history of attempts to get something safer—for instance, a footbridge—where this unmanned level crossing is? Even if it was not involved, will he look at the matter? Is my hon. Friend satisfied with the safety precautions and the wire fencing in the area where the accident occurred?
§ Mr. Swingler
The crossing was not involved in the accident. It is about half a mile away from where the children unfortunately penetrated the wire fence and managed to get on the railway line. Nevertheless, I shall, of course, have the additional matter to which my hon. Friend referred investigated. I think that I should say no more about the other matters, which will be the subject of an immediate investigation by the chief inspecting officer and a report will be made and published.
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd
The Opposition would like to be associated with the expression of sympathy made by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary.