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Volume 438: debated on Monday 9 June 1947

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Holidays, Midweek Travel


asked the Minister of Transport whether, in addition to the staggering of hours of work and of holidays, he will urge, in order to relieve weekend congestion on the railways, that firms should arrange for a proportion of staff holidays to start in midweek.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour to the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) on 27th March.

Is not this weekend congestion being rapidly adjusted by the rise in railway fares?

Staff, Doncaster (Tea Facilities)


asked the Minister of Transport if he will inquire into the reasons for the delay in providing suitable arrangements for providing the railway staff at Doncaster Central stations, numbering 180 workpeople, with cups of tea during working hours, in accordance with the request made by the N.U.R., Doncaster No. 2 branch, in February last; and if he will expedite the provision of this necessary welfare facility.

The staff can obtain tea at reduced prices from the refreshment room between 7.30 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily. As soon as additional refreshment room staff are available, a 24-hour service will be provided, as an experiment.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, during the war, excellent facilities were provided on the station for the troops and the Armed Forces, that these facilities could easily be transferred to the staff, and that his Department has failed to do that? What action does he propose to take to expedite the matter?

That is not a question for my Department. I cannot deal with what happened on this station during the war, but I have stated in my reply that the matter is under investigation.

If the Minister treats the staff with the same priority as he treated the troops, everything will be all right.

Staff Resignations


asked the Minister of Transport how many railway employees have left the service of the railways in 1947 up to date; and if they represent a normal or an abnormally high percentage of the total number of railway employees.

I regret that it has not been possible to collect all the information in the time available. With my hon. Friend's permission, I will circulate the answer in the OFFICIAL REPORT as soon as possible.

Is the Minister aware that on reaching the retiring age and electing to take their pensions, for some unknown reason, railway staffs are subsequently refused re-employment by the railway companies, and, in view of this very serious loss to the railways of experienced men and women, will he look into the matter to see if it is not possible to allow retired members to be re-employed?

Obviously, I cannot answer a question like that at a moment's notice. If my hon. Friend will communicate such evidence to me, I will look into the matter.

Service Breakdown, London—Southend


asked the Minister of Transport if he is aware of the chaos which existed when the London to Southend railway service broke down on Whit Monday with the result that nearly 30,000 people were stranded and many of them forced to sleep on the beach: and whether he will make a statement.


asked the Minister of Transport, if he will make a statement on the circumstances by which 10,000 persons were marooned at Southend, on Monday 26th May, consequent upon the failure of water supplies for L.M.S. locomotives; why no assistance was asked from the Southend waterworks until 6 p.m., although the trouble was known to the railway company at 3 p.m; why the suggestion to boost water supplies to the engines by hoses with the aid of the N.F.S. was turned down; and why the restaurant room at Fenchurch Street was not kept open to provide drinks for the incoming passengers.

About 36,000 people travelled on, this line to Southend on Whit Monday. A failure in the locomotive water supply at Shoeburyness depot first became evident at 2.30 p.m. and the Shoeburyness Council was immediately asked for a supply from their mains. Unfortunately, this proved ineffective owing to a defect in the tanks. Arrangements made for engines to take water at Southend also failed to produce adequate supplies and it was ultimately necessary to by-pass the meter. No suggestion to any railway official that the N.F.S. might have been able to assist can be traced. The last train left Southend at 1.48 a.m. and I am informed that there were no passengers left on the station or in nearby streets at that time. The staff serving the refreshment room at Fenchurch Street who live in the Southend neighbourhood had been on duty throughout the day and were not asked to stay after 10.30 p.m.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this water problem has been known to the railway company at Shoeburyness for a long time, and why have no steps been taken previously to deal with it?

Would my right hon. Friend indicate why his Department are responsible for incidents of this kind, as many of us are under the impression that the railway companies are responsible, at least until they are nationalised?

That is the point I have been making in my reply. In reply to the first supplementary question, I could not say, but I will make inquiries as to whether this defect was known before the incident occurred.

District Railway Trains (Lighting)


asked the Minister of Transport whether his attention has been called to the inefficient lighting in some of the District Railway trains, which becomes so much worse when the train is in motion that it is impossible to read; and if he will take steps to have it improved.

With the smaller number of lamps now in use in order to save electric current and coal, the reduction in lighting which normally occurs when a train is accelerating inevitably becomes more noticeable. The lighting in those cars in which the reduction may have been excessive is now being examined and steps have already been taken to effect an improvement.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this defect is especially apparent at the ends of the compartments, because the lamps do not throw their light to that extent?

Yes, Sir. As I have indicated, any deficiency below the average is now being examined.

Locomotives (Coal Traffic)


asked the Minister of Transport what is the approximate proportion of railway company engines normally engaged in hauling coals.

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the proportion will be adequate to ensure that all the coal trucks do not remain in sidings for a long period?

I do not think there is any justification for the inference that coal trucks do remain in sidings for any length of time. In any case, that is not the Question I have been asked to answer.

Charges (Increases)


asked the Minister of Transport what is the approximate annual loss on the running of the railways at present; by what percentage, approximately, railway fares and freight rates have been increased since 1939; and to what extent the loss is caused by transfer of traffic to road vehicles plying for hire.

In regard to the first part of the Question, I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to the hon. and gallant Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) on 12th May last. Main line railway fares and freight rates have been increased since 1939 by 33â…“ per cent. for ordinary passengers and merchandise by passenger train; and by 25 per cent. in all other cases. I have no information on the last part of the Question.