HL Deb 24 May 1842 vol 63 cc675-7
The Earl of Ripon

observed that a question was asked yesterday, by a noble and learned Lord (Lord Campbell), respecting the practice which prevailed on one line of railway of locking both sides of the carriages in which passengers were confined; and the noble and learned Lord desired to know what course the Government had taken, or was disposed to take on the subject. The accident which had recently occurred in the neighbourhood of Paris, was certainly of a nature calculated to excite the greatest alarm in this country, and was one which made it the duty of the Board of Trade to take some steps on the subject. He, having the honour to preside over that Board, had accordingly directed his attention to this matter, and the first thing he had felt it his duty to do was to ascertain how far the practice of locking the carriages on both sides prevailed, and it appeared that, with the exception of one railway—the Great Western—none of the companies locked up both sides. Some of them were in the habit of locking up one side of the carriage, leaving the other side unlocked. Feeling, however, that this was a very dangerous practice, and one which might lead to a similar serious calamity to that which had overwhelmed the passengers at Versailles, he referred the subject to the inspector-general of railways, for his opinion as to the degree of danger arising from the practice, and as to the necessity that existed for its being followed. That gentleman had reported that the practice was a very dangerous one, and that he saw no possible advantage that could arise from it, and that he thought it was a practice which ought not to be pursued. Upon the receipt of this report, he directed a circular letter to be addressed to the directors of the different railway companies, calling their attention to the danger of the practice, and inviting them not to continue it. That was the utmost extent of interference which the law authorised the Government to exercise in a matter of this kind, and certainly it was a question of great difficulty as to whether Government should be armed with larger powers of imposing positive restrictions upon all these companies. However, the suggestion had been made by the Government, and he had the satisfaction of stating that he had every reason to believe that there would not be the smallest hesitation on the part of the directors of the Western Railway to comply with that suggestion.

Lord Campbell

said, that the explanation of the noble Earl must be very satisfactory to the public. The question was one of great importance, and was well deserving the consideration which the Government had given to it. Although his noble and learned Friend on the Woolsack had, since the accident occurred at Versailles, travelled in one of these locked up carriages without any inconvenience or apprehension of danger, he believed that his noble and learned Friend's case was a singular one, for there could not be a question that very great apprehensions prevailed in the public mind in consequence of the frightful calamity which had occured in France. He hoped, therefore, that it would be possible to make some arrangements with the railway company, and it not, that some positive law would be passed on the subject.—Subject at an end.

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