HC Deb 05 November 1974 vol 880 cc889-91
Mr. David Mitchell

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will make a statement on the railway accident at Bramley, near Basingstoke, in which three people lost their lives yesterday.

The Minister for Transport (Mr. Frederick Mulley)

Yes, Sir. I much regret to inform the House that at 5.29 p.m. last night three people were run down and killed by a freight train while crossing the railway line at Bramley Station. I am sure that the House would wish me to convey our condolences to their relatives.

Investigations are still proceeding, but it appears that they were passengers who had alighted from a Basingstoke to Reading train and who, instead of using the station exit, attempted to cross the line behind the departing passenger train and walked into the path of the freight train coming in the other direction.

Mr. Mitchell

I join the Minister in his expression of concern and his words of sympathy to those involved. Is he aware that this is a built-up area? There is no footbridge or barrier preventing access from the platform to the level crossing. Therefore, people can get off a train and easily walk down on to the level crossing in exactly the way that happened on this occasion. Is he also aware that there is no Tannoy equipment available to the signalman, who can observe what is happening, to enable him to warn people against this? Will the right hon. Gentleman take these matters into account in his investigations, and take steps to ensure that such an accident cannot recur, by reason of the changes which I have suggested?

Mr. Mulley

I cannot prejudge the outcome of the inquest that is to be held into these unfortunate deaths. The fact is that the level crossing, which exists with wicket gates immediately to the north of the station, was closed at the time. In the light of the report we receive on the inquest I shall certainly have a look, in conjunction with British Railways, at the points the hon. Gentleman raised.

Mr. Fox

I associate myself with all that has been said. However, there is a matter which is of even greater concern. My information is that this is the second accident of this kind at this spot, and I am sure the House will expect the Minister to convey our concern about that to British Railways.

Mr. Mulley

I cannot say that I am aware of the previous accident at this spot, but naturally I shall draw the attention of British Railways to what the hon. Gentleman said. However, I am happy to feel that this is the first time that I have had to come to the Dispatch Box in pursuance of my present office in connection with a railway accident.

Mr. Beith

Can the Minister confirm that the usual procedure for investigating railway incidents will in due course take place and will lead to the kind of report that we normally get? Does he not agree that there are many railway stations where crossing the line by sleeper crossings is common practice? Therefore, the railway authorities should look carefully at the procedures to be adopted and warnings which should be given at those places. Many members of the public, amongst whom I expect are Members of the House, need to be more careful about observing the warnings which appear at these places and which are often casually ignored by many of us.

Mr. Malley

I am sure the hon. Member's point about people being concerned to ensure their own safety is well taken over the whole sector of transport matters. In this case the gates were closed and I am sure that regular users of the station must have been aware of the need to exercise caution in crossing the line when the gates were closed. Investigations are proceeding and it would be quite wrong of me to try to draw any conclusions until I have all the facts which will be elicited by the inquest.