§ 3. Mr. Gwilym Roberts
asked the Secretary of State for Transport what are the latest figures available for the number of deaths and serious accidents involving coaches; and if he will give in the Official Report any available breakdown on the nature of the damage to the coach and the cause of accident.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. John Horam)
In 1977 occupants of public service vehicles suffered 64 deaths and 1,269 serious injuries. Any casualty rate is of course a matter for concern, but these figures represent a fatality rate of only one-sixth of that for car and taxi passengers. I regret that a detailed breakdown is not available of the nature of the damage and the cause of the accidents.
§ Mr. Roberts
Does my hon. Friend accept that unfortunately there will probably be many casualties during the summer due to the considerable delay in 435 implementing the proposals for roof strengthening and brake improvements? As he put proposals before the House about two years ago, is it not now time that something was done?
§ Mr. Horam
I thoroughly understand my hon. Friend's concern for speedy progress. We forwarded to the EEC draft regulations for strengthening roofs in 1977. The EEC has not made very fast progress. Therefore, I am not waiting for the EEC to come to conclusions and we shall proceed independently of the EEC. As I have said, I understand my hon. Friend's concern that we should make rapid progress.
§ Mr. Temple-Morris
I think that the Minister will agree that we appreciate the problem and that the industry is to be congratulated on the considerable fall in accident rates over the past decade. I think that the figure has fallen from 17,000 to about 12,000. Does he agree that when accidents happen they are horrendous and often involve children and old people? When may we expect action —we are grateful that we are going ahead on our own—especially on brakes and roof strengths?
§ Mr. Horam
We are consulting later this year on individual requirements for higher braking standards. We are close to making progress on that score. However, implementation must follow industry action, which inevitably takes some time. In this instance it will inevitably take a couple of years before coaches can be produced to the new braking standards. I have already indicated that we are determined to make progress on roof strengths despite the relatively slow progress that is being made by the EEC.