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Service Breakdown, London—Southend

Volume 438: debated on Monday 9 June 1947

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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.