HC Deb 16 May 1988 vol 133 cc673-4
14. Mr. Snape

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether he will meet the chairman of British Rail to discuss improvements in railway safety in the light of the report by the railways inspecting officer on the Colwich junction collision in September 1986.

Mr. David Mitchell

No, Sir. The British Railways Board will be formally reporting to the Secretary of State on all aspects of the report in the near future.

Mr. Snape

It must be a matter of some concern that the passion for economy that pervades British Rail management can lead to a reduction in the number of locomotive inspectors who are available to travel on west coast main line trains. Is it not a worrying aspect of modern technology that a train travelling a few yards past a red signal can come into head-on collision with a train travelling at 100 mph? Is it not a tribute to the skills of those who work in British Rail Engineering Ltd. that, despite the severity of the accident described in the report, not a single passenger lost his or her life?

Mr. Mitchell

I join the hon. Gentleman in paying full tribute to British Rail's improved standards in the rolling stock that it is manufacturing these days, compared with the designs of some years ago. Indeed, that is and should be a matter of some considerable pride to the railway supply industry. On the hon. Gentleman's point about locomotive inspectors, I am informed that the ratio of drivers to inspectors is lower in recent years, and, thus, efficiency of supervision has improved.

Mr. Wigley

When the Minister is discussing improvements in safety with the chairman of British Rail, will he ensure that some attention is given to the worries expressed on the Cambrian coast line about open and unmanned crossings, in view of the number of accidents that have occurred? Will he impress upon the chairman of BR the need to take into consideration not only railway matters but the feelings of local communities when such problems arise?

Mr. Mitchell

The hon. Gentleman will know that there are clear rules as to what form of level crossing is appropriate, and in which circumstances. Those rules have recently been revised in light of the Stott inquiry. I am also conscious of the fact that it is incumbent on BR to explain what it is doing to the people in the vicinity where change is proposed, because whenever change comes there is fear. I am satisfied that the arrangements are perfectly safe, but I am certain that the hon. Gentleman is right to want BR to explain that to the local people.