HC Deb 01 November 1994 vol 248 cc1038-9W
Mr. Keith Hill

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport which organisation has responsibility under the new structure of the railway industry for ensuring that passengers are kept fully informed about the causes of the delays resulting from serious operating incidents; what arrangements exist to ensure that train operating companies have access to the necessary information; and what steps his Department has taken to monitor the policy followed by Railtrack and train operating companies concerning the accuracy and completeness of information supplied to passengers in such circumstances.

Mr. Watts

Railtrack is required to inform the relevant train operating companies of any incidents. Train operating companies are responsible for informing passengers about delays resulting from serious operating incidents. They work to citizens charter guidelines as laid down in British Rail's passengers charter.

Mr. Keith Hill

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the near collision on the evening of Thursday 20 October involving two passenger trains outside Tunbridge Wells station; what features this incident had in common with the fatal accident at Cowden, Kent on 15 October; how both trains came to be on the same section of track travelling in opposite directions; how close the trains came to colliding and how a collision was averted; what information was given at the time to passengers about the reasons for the resulting delay to services; what telecommunications equipment was available to the relevant signalman and drivers of the two trains; what steps have been taken to ascertain responsibility for the incident; and whether action has been taken against any individual.

Mr. Watts

I understand from the Health and Safety Executive that because of a points failure the signalman had appointed hand signalmen at each end of the short single line through Strawberry Hill tunnel, to hand-wind the points according to instructions from the signalman. An error then occurred which led to the 18.45 Charing Cross to Hastings train running on to the northbound line which was occupied by the 17.40 Hastings to Charing Cross train, and which was standing at a red signal.

The driver of the southbound train was proceeding with caution as instructed, and was thus able to see the points were wrongly set and bring his train to a standstill, 50 yards from the other train.

There were no injuries to passengers or staff, but both drivers were treated for shock.

The circumstances of this incident have nothing in common with the Cowden accident.

I understand that on this line there are telephones on signals which link to signal boxes and these were used as the means of communication between the signalman and the hand-signalmen on site.

I understand that information about services was made available through radio, ceefax and announcements at stations.

Railtrack is carrying out an investigation into the cause of the incident and will then decide what further action is necessary.

Mr. Keith Hill

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the demands on the time of railway managers imposed by the current reorganisation of the railway industry; and what steps he has taken to satisfy himself that these are consistent with the unimpaired discharge of their responsibility for operating the network and for maintaining safety and that the conditions of employment of employees of British Rail and Railtrack provide facilities for the making public of fears about safety matters.

Mr. Watts

Safety is paramount in all railway operations.

I am satisfied that the arrangements in place will ensure that the appropriate levels of safety are maintained. The new safety regulations are being monitored and enforced by the Health and Safety Executive.

Conditions of employment are matters for British Rail and Railtrack.

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