HL Deb 12 July 1878 vol 241 cc1330-2

asked the noble Lord representing the Board of Trade, Whether the Board intends to make any representations to the Railway Companies of the United Kingdom respecting the state of the platforms at their respective stations, and of the foot-boards and door-steps on their carriages, with reference to the safety and convenience of passengers getting into and out of carriages on the platforms; and whether they would endeavour to obtain from the several Companies, from time to time, Returns of the alterations made, with a view to the removal of the dangerous intervals now existing at many stations, both vertically and horizontally, between the floor of the carriages and the level of the platforms, which, as recommended by their Inspectors, Sir H. Tyler and Colonel Yolland, should not exceed four inches where the platforms were on the curve, and two inches where the platforms were straight? As the subject was under the consideration of the House a short time ago he would, probably, be expected to assign some reason which would justify his again calling attention to it. The noble Lord who replied to the Question on the last occasion (Lord Henniker) stated that the Board of Trade were quite aware of the dangers to which railway travellers were exposed through the want of properly-constructed platforms and footboards; but that, although they concurred with the recommendations which had been made to the Railway Companies, they did not see their way to the proposing of any measure on the matter. That statement he considered unsatisfactory; and he hoped that on further consideration the Board of Trade would deem it advisable to take action. He was sure that the President of the Board of Trade could make representations to the Railway Companies, which would induce them to make alterations in accordance with public requirements, and the Returns now asked for would enable Parliament to judge whether further legislation was required. When the matter was last under discussion, the unfortunate death of Sir Francis Gold-smid was fresh in their Lordships' minds. The noble Lord representing the Board of Trade on that occasion referred to the Correspondence which had passed between the Board and the South Western Railway Company. At that time the Papers were not in the hands of their Lordships, but since then they had been presented to Parliament, and he must say that he did not consider the statement of the Company satisfactory. They were asked what measures they intended to take in order to prevent a repetition of such an accident? and, so far as he could see, they gave no answer to the inquiry. They appeared, in fact, to object to any interference whatever. Under such circumstances, he conceived that Parliament was bound to do something. Parliament ought to interfere and call upon the Railway Companies to discharge their duties to the public. It seemed to be thought that the Companies would soon awake to the necessity of taking action themselves; but whether that awakening was to be by the force of public opinion, by legislative action, or by the mild persuasion of the Board of Trade, was not clear. It was said that there was no wrong without a remedy; but in the present case the wrong was admitted, and the remedy was not yet forthcoming. He hoped, consequently, that the noble Lord would give an assurance that the Board of Trade would take some steps in the matter.


was sure that their Lordships, like himself, would acquit the noble Lord of desiring anything in raising the discussion, except to serve the public interest. He thought he could safely say that, great as was the interest taken by the noble Lord in the subject, the interest taken by their Lordships was equally great. The matter was constantly under the consideration of the President of the Board of Trade; but as it had lately been discussed, it was only necessary that he should briefly answer the Question of the noble Lord. He might state, for the information of their Lordships, that for a long time past it had been the practice of the President of the Board of Trade to communicate with the different Railway Companies with regard to their platforms and foot-boards on all occasions when his attention was called to their dangerous or inefficient condition. The Board of Trade now proposed to address a Circular Letter to all the Railway Companies in the United Kingdom, inquiring what steps they had taken, and were about to take, for providing proper platforms, as well as proper door-steps and continuous foot-boards to all their carriages, so that passengers might be fully protected and provided with the greatest possible convenience? The Board of Trade regretted that they were not in a position to assent to the Return on this subject, which the noble Lord was anxious to obtain. It would be very difficult, and also most costly, to prepare; and would not, even if it were possible to obtain all the facts sought for, give the noble Lord the information he desired to elicit. At the same time, he need scarcely say that the Board of Trade were anxious to do whatever they could in the matter.