HC Deb 17 December 1984 vol 70 cc70-1W
Mr. Snape

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will set up an inquiry into railway safety standards with particular reference to staff levels and rostering and to investigate the effects of financial constraints on railway safety.

Mr. David Mitchell

There is no evidence of any general decline in safety on the railways. On the contrary, the railways have been getting progressively safer during the past decade. The number of significant passenger train accidents so far this year is no greater than in recent years. What marks 1984 as different is the bunching of accidents recently in a relatively short space of time, and the deeply-regretted number of passenger fatalities, which had been relatively high by railway standards, but for which one accident—at Polmont—is largely responsible.

All the recent accidents are being investigated, the more serious by formal inquiry, and there will be published reports on them. If the investigations indicate that staff levels, rostering, or the finance available to the Railways were significant factors, the chief inspecting officer will say so in his annual report on railway safety for 1984 which, in accordance with normal practice, will review the overall safety position. A separate inquiry into railway safety would merely duplicate the work of the independent railway inspectorate.