§ Sir A. Bossom
asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will give a general direction to the British Transport Commission that all passenger train carriages and their material contents should be constructed of fireproof material in order to prevent recurrences of recent fatal accidents.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I do not consider it necessary to give a general direction about the construction of passenger train carriages, because it is already the policy of the British Transport Commission to build these vehicles of fireproof materials so far as is practicable. Increasing numbers of all-steel passenger carriages have been built since the introduction in 1951 of the British Railways standard coaches, but owing to difficulties in obtaining steel it was not until the end of 1953 that the building of composite wood and steel carriage bodies could be finally discontinued. The capacity of the Commission's carriage shops is now fully absorbed in the construction of all-steel passenger rolling stock and in addition large orders have been placed with the industry. It is the Commission's policy to use the maximum available building capacity until the wood-framed vehicles have been eliminated, but the controlling factor has been and continues to be the availability of steel.
Up to the present 7,200 all-steel vehicles have been built, representing 17 per cent. of the total stock; 20,660, or 50 per cent., 323W are of composite wood and steel construction, leaving 13,900 vehicles, or 33 per cent. of the total stock, with bodies wholly of wood on steel underframes. The Commission envisages the replacement of all the wholly wooden bodies within the next seven years, but it must necessarily take longer to replace the comparatively modern rolling stock which has composite steel and wood bodies. In addition to the main body structure, fire-resisting materials are being used to the maximum practicable extent in all new construction.