HC Deb 21 March 1990 vol 169 cc654-5W
Mr. Cohen

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the near collision on the London Underground in a tunnel outside King's Cross in the week beginning 11 March.

Mr. Portillo

On 12 March, an Underground train travelling southwards on the Piccadilly line stopped at King's Cross station. The train could not continue southwards because the fire brigade had been called to an incident at Covent Garden station. It was necessary, therefore, for the passengers to disembark at King's Cross and for the train to be diverted northwards. To achieve this, the train should have gone south out of King's Cross until it had passed a crossover, and it should then have reversed. In the event, the train immediately reversed. The next southbound train was standing at signals outside King's Cross. The driver saw the headlights of the first train approaching him. In accordance with the procedure in which all drivers are trained, the driver of the stationary train switched off the traction current by shorting the wires, mounted on the tunnel wall, which provide a safety measure for use in contingencies such as this one. The driver of the moving train applied his brakes and came to a halt about a train's length from the other train. London Underground has carried out an investigation of this incident and will be sending a full report to the railway inspectorate.

Mr. Harry Greenway

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will institute a further inquiry into all aspects of safety on London Underground; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Portillo

A further survey of London Underground's safety management will be made by the railway inspectorate later this year, as announced by my right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State for Transport in his statement to the House on 24 May last (Official Report, Vol 153 columns 502–3).

Mr. Spearing

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what representations he has received concerning the claimed hazards in one-person operation of the older deep level tube railways in London(a) prior to and (b) since Monday 5 March; and on what date he expects to announce any action he intends to take consequent thereto.

Mr. Portillo

I am able to trace only representations from the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) about the one-person operation of older deep level tubes in the 12 months preceding 5 March 1990. Since then, I have received none specifically about this matter, though there has been an inquiry from the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) about an incident which occurred on the Piccadilly Line at King's Cross on 12 March.

As to the last part of the question, I have written to the hon. Member about the exercise arranged at the railway inspectorate's initiative and a copy of my letter is reproduced in the Official Report:

21 March 1990

Dear Nigel

It is a coincidence that you put down your Question, about one-person-operation (OPO) of deep level tubes at a time when I was about to respond to your past correspondence on London Underground's emergency procedures in the event of an OPO train driver becoming and the train disabled.

When I wrote to you in September, I mentioned that the Railway Inspectorate would be making further inquiries about certain aspects of these procedures. You were particularly concerned about the practice of "leapfrogging". The Inspectorate arranged for an exercise to be carried out in the early morning of Sunday 28th January on the Bakerloo Line between Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus. It involved four trains, none of which was in passenger service. The simulated emergency was deemed to have been caused by the incapacitation of the driver of the leading train. The simulation was done in such a way as to create the conditions likely to be met if the incident had occurred during the peak hour service.

Since you are already familiar with the procedures involved, I need not go into detail about the particular actions which took place. It is sufficient to say that the Chief Inspecting Officer tells me that he regards the arrangements as acceptably safe and that they constitute a suitable method to deal with the unlikely event of a train stopping within a single-bore tunnel due to the sudden disablement of its driver.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Portillo

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