HL Deb 23 October 1968 vol 296 cc1522-4

[No. 86.]

Clause 120, page 157, line 31, at end insert "including the owner and occupier of the land for which the crossing is maintained."

The Commons disagreed to this Amendment for the following Reason:

[No. 87.]

Because it would place an unreasonable burden on the Railways Board.


My Lads, I beg to move that this House doth lot insist on its Amendment No. 86, to which the Commons have disagreed. If this Amendment were retained the Minister would have powers to require the Railways Board to increase protection at level crossings not used by the public. The clause already gives the Minister powers to require the Board to increase protection at level crossings on private occupation roads which, through increasing traffic, have become virtually public roads, but the Government still do not think that powers should be taken to make the Railways Board solely responsible for the cost of improvements to entirely private crossings.

The Government realise that at some private crossings there may now be a need for extra precautions, and know that in some cases it has not been possible for the Railways Board and the farmer whose land the crossing serves to agree on an equitable method of sharing the cost. As I stated on Report, the Minister intends to bring the Railways Board and the National Farmers' Union together once more with the object of making a determined effort to reach some mutually acceptable standard basis of cost allocation. Should the discussions fail, the Government may have to legislate, but not in the sense of placing the full cost on the Railways Board. I beg to move.

Moved, That this House doth not insist on its Amendment No. 86 to which the Commons have disagreed.—(Lord Winterbottom.)


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, for explaining the reason for the Commons disagreement here, and particularly for his statement that the Minister intends to bring together the National Farmers' Union and the British Railways Board to see whether it is possible to hammer out a solution. I am grateful for the Minister's recognition that there is a need to do something on some of these crossings where modern conditions clearly make the situation unsafe. I know that there are such crossings, and I am sure that new precautions should be introduced. I entirely take the point made by the noble Lord, that if it is impossible to reach an agreement no doubt legislation may be necessary, and I should be perfectly happy to see it tackled that way. I think probably the Railways should not be asked to pay the extra if it proves impossible to get an agreed basis. I think this is something for which the Government have to pay and which public funds have to stand.

I should like to repeat a point I made on Report stage; that where a motorway is being built to-day we have precisely similar circumstances to those in which the railways were built a hundred years ago, and where motorways are built, and farms are severed either by bridge or tunnel, the two severed pieces are connected at public expense. And this is really the only practical approach. But we have inherited a situation in which, although when the severing took place a hundred years ago existing private crossings were perfectly satisfactory, with the changes to modern conditions they simply are not so now; they are dangerous, not only for the farmer but for the trains as well. This is the practical point, and I am glad to hear that the noble Lord has got it. I hope that the Minister will be able to get agreement, and that if he cannot he will be prepared to consider legislation. For these reasons we accept the Commons disagreement.

On Question, Motion agreed to.