HL Deb 19 April 1961 vol 230 cc623-5

4.2 p.m.


My Lords, perhaps I may intervene at this moment, in order to make a statement, in similar terms to the one that has just been made by my right honourable friend in another place, about yesterday's rail crash.

At about 1.30 p.m., the 12.25 Fenchurch Street to Shoeburyness down passenger train, which was proceeding over the up line on account of prearranged engineering work on the down line, became derailed at a point about half a mile on the London side of Pitsea station. The engine turned over and the leading two coaches telescoped badly. The third and fourth coaches were derailed and damaged.

There were about 150 passengers in the train. I regret to say that two of them were killed and 42 injured. Last night 36 passengers were detained in hospital; 25 are still in hospital. I should like to extend my sympathy and, I am sure, the sympathy of the House to the relatives of those who died, and to wish the injured a speedy recovery.

The emergency services responded rapidly to calls for help. The House would, I know, wish me to thank them, and the many local people who went to the site, for the assistance they gave.

During the evening rush period, trains from Fenchurch Street for Pitsea and beyond were diverted via Tilbury, and an emergency bus service was introduced between Laindon and Pitsea. Normal services were operating this morning.

Colonel Robertson, an Inspecting Officer of Railways, went immediately to the site of the accident and will hold a formal inquiry.


My Lords, I should like to thank the Minister for his statement and to associate my noble friends on this side of the House with the expression of sympathy by the Minister to the relatives of the killed and to the injured. We should like to echo his thanks to the local people who assisted, and to the emergency services, and I think we should congratulate the Transport Commission on their speedy return to normal services by this morning.

I think your Lordships will have been rather concerned to learn of the high casualty rate. Nearly one-third of the passengers on the train became casualties, most of them serious and still detained in hospital. It would also seem, from the statement, that the casualties were largely due to the fact that the two leading coaches telescoped badly. What we should like to know from Her Majesty's Government is whether they agree that this incident underlines the need for speeding up railway modernisation. Over many years we have heard of the danger, in a crash such as this, of using old-fashioned wooden coaches. Until the Transport Commission get on with and complete their programme of modernising railway stock, there will always be the danger that tragedies such as this will be repeated.


My Lords, noble Lords on these Benches would also like to be associated with the words spoken by the noble Earl in extending sympathy to those concerned. I wonder whether the noble Lord would bring to the attention of his right honourable friend one small matter which often crops up in circumstances like this—namely, that human nature is such that, when a great disaster like this occurs, out of the goodness of their hearts people run to help and incur considerable expenditure in regard to their own personal goods as well as effort. Many of them are often out of pocket as the result of being good Samaritans. Might I ask that that point of view be taken into account, and that they should be put in a suitable position to draw on any funds that may be available?


My Lords, naturally, I am grateful for what noble Lords have said. Of course, I cannot at the present moment comment in any way on this accident until the Inspector has held his inquiry. But I think I should be justified in saying that it is most unpleasantly ironic that the work in question for which this train was diverted was connected with the modernisation and electrification of this line. So far as the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord 'Rea is concerned, I will certainly draw the attention of my right honourable friend to what he has said.