§ Mr. du Cann
asked the Minister of Transport when the report on the British Railways sleeping car fire at Taunton will be published.
§ Mr. Fowler
The report on this tragic accident is published today. It makes it clear that the fire began with the ignition of bags of linen loaded close to a heater in a carriage vestibule. The fire was not detected until it had spread to involve the interior of the sleeping car. The combination of failings which allowed this 561W to happen could and should have been avoided.
The inquiry included a thorough review of fire precautionary measures on trains and the report lists the additional precautions now taken by British Rail. Changes introduced by British Rail promptly after the fire included new arrangements for the supervision and training of sleeping car attendants, alternatives to the heating and ventilating system, and improvements in the means of escape, including prominent notices in a number of languages drawing passengers' attention to them.
The inspector has identified a number of further recommendations for the board to implement—some of them long term and involving development of new equipment and modifications of the design of existing and new sleeping cars.
Nothing can wholly guard against human error, but I am satisfied that all reasonable measures to prevent another such tragedy have been identified and that the British Railways Board are acting on them.
I would like to endorse the inspector's commendation in his report of the efficiency and bravery of the train crew, the care given by passengers and local householders to the injured, and the rapid and professional reaction of the emergency services.