HC Deb 10 February 1966 vol 724 cc620-1

Mr. Longden (by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Transport namely, whether she will make a statement about a fire which broke out on a commuter train near Report, Hertfordshire, early yesterday morning, as a result of which 30 people had to be taken to hospital.

The Minister of Transport (Mrs. Barbara Castle)

At about 8.20 a.m. yesterday morning a fire occurred in a diesel multiple unit train from Harpenden to St. Pancras. The train was stopped near Radlett close to the Handley Page Aircraft Company's works. The company's fire brigade and ambulances were summoned and reached the scene very rapidly. I understand that 33 passengers were injured and removed to hospital, and that 9 are still detained. A number of other passengers received slight injuries and were treated at the site.

I am sure that the House would wish to join me in wishing them all a speedy recovery. I have ordered a formal inquiry into this accident and the report will be published.

Mr. Longden

I thank the Minister for that reply and associate myself with her sympathy. Is she aware that the exceptional hazards of commuters are increasing daily? Will she increase the scope of the inquiry to look into the whole arrangements of British Railways?

Mrs. Castle

No, Sir, a number of accidents have recently been given publicity, and I am, of course, watching the position closely, but there is no trend to show a general deterioraiton in safety.

Mr. Goodhew

Is the right hon. Lady aware that a large number of those injured were constituents of mine and that there is grave concern in St. Albans that this is the tenth of a series of similar accidents of this sort where fire has broken out and that, but for the good fortune of a train not coming in the opposite direction, many lives might have been lost? Will she look into the whole series of accidents?

Mrs. Castle

It is true that 12 fires in this type of stock were reported in 1965, but only one was serious. Most were minor and the inspecting officer will take them into account in his report which, as I said, will be published.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

Is it not a fact that safety on British Railways is as good as safety on any railway system in the world, that the number of accidents and deaths has gone down year by year since 1947, and that the comparison with road accidents is very striking?

Mrs. Castle

I think that it would be true to say that there are no grounds for feeling that there has been a general deterioration in safety.