HC Deb 08 May 1968 vol 764 cc392-3
28. Mr. Moyle

asked the Minister of Transport when the report of the public inquiry into the Hither Green railway disaster will be published.

Mr. Marsh

The Report by Colonel McMullen, Chief Inspecting Officer, on the Hither Green accident has been delayed by the formal investigation into the accident at Hixon automatic half-barrier level crossing on 6th January. He will complete the Report as soon as possible, but it is unlikely that it can be published before July or August. Colonel McMullen is, however, satisfied that the cause of the Hither Green accident was a broken rail and that the steps taken since the accident by the British Railways Board to improve track testing and maintenance are adequate.

Mr. Moyle

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reassurance. Would he agree that public inquiries, particularly where the question of human life is involved, should be completed as quickly as possible to ensure that any uncertainty that may exist is investigated and cleared up quickly? Is not 10 months too long a time to wait for these matters to be cleared up?

Mr. Marsh

I appreciate my hon. Friend's anxiety, which I share. The problem here was, as I say, the subsequent accident at Hixon. It is important, in addition to speed—and I assure my hon. Friend that I accept the need for speed—that accidents of this sort should be thoroughly investigated.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Would the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the publication date, since I suggest that July or August is too far ahead for us to wait and since public concern about this matter is really acute? Is he aware that he would be performing a valuable service if he made the Report available long before July?

Mr. Marsh

I assure the hon. Gentleman that we want to expedite the publication of the Report as much as we can. However, the Hixon accident is involved and it is important that both of these inquiries should be conducted exhaustively, in terms of avoiding future accidents on the same basis and for the benefit of the people involved.

Mr. Webster

At this time of financial stringency, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that there is no cut back in measures designed to achieve safety on the permanent way?

Mr. Marsh

Yes, Sir.