HC Deb 24 February 1970 vol 796 cc972-4
23. Mr. Goodhew

asked the Minister of Transport how many ammunition trains were derailed in 1969; and what were the comparable figures in 1964 and 1959, respectively.

14. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Minister of Transport whether he will give particulars of recent cases of derailment, and attempted derailment, of ammunition trains; and what is the result of ensuing investigations.

Mr. Murray

During 1969 there were six reportable derailments of trains carrying military ammunition or explosives. Reliable figures for such derailments in 1964 and 1959 are not available.

The measures being taken to reduce the risk of accidents were described in my right hon. Friend's answer to the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) on 21st October, 1969. One of last year's derailments, at Chelmsford, was the subject of a public inquiry on 6th November, and the inspecting officer's report will be published in due course. We have no evidence that any of the incidents involved sabotage or criminal intent.—[Vol. 788, c. 204–5.]

Mr. Goodhew

Does the hon. Gentleman know to what extent these accidents are due to the use of antiquated rolling stock? Is this being looked at in the inquiry?

Mr. Murray

Yes, we are looking at it, and I assume that it will be looked at in the inquiry. We have been very concerned about the carriage of ammunition, and various measures have been introduced to reduce any risk. But I should point out that accidents involving ammunition trains have been very low indeed.

Mr. Ron Lewis

Will my hon. Friend have another look at this matter? We are not so much concerned about the derailments as with the rolling stock and hot boxes which are causing damage and fright in my part of the country. Will my hon. Friend ask British Rail to institute a greater degree of inspection of such vehicles?

Mr. Murray

I take note of my hon. Friend's point. I should point out that there has been only one explosion on an ammunition train in the past 25 years, which, as my hon. Friend knows, occurred in Carlisle. But I can assure him that British Rail are taking every necessary measure to lower the risk of such accidents.