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Volume 931: debated on Tuesday 3 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Transport, in view of the recent spillage of acid by a tanker on the M4 in the Avonmouth, Bristol, area, if he will introduce regulations to ensure that dangerous chemicals are transported by rail; and if he will make a statement.

The Government already encourage industry to make greater use of rail for the transport of all freight, including dangerous substances, where it is economic and safe to do so. There are sound economic reasons why this cannot be done for some dangerous traffic where transport by road is essential—for example, the delivery of petroleum spirit to retail outlets which accounts for the bulk of the road transport of dangerous goods. Most chemical firms have no direct railhead, which would mean transferring goods from one mode of transport to another, which, particularly in the case of liquids, can be a hazardous operation. I have no plans to introduce legislation in this area.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects the Health and Safety Executive to bring forward proposals for the periodic inspection of vehicles carrying dangerous chemicals; and if he will make a statement.

Provision for the periodic inspection of dangerous goods vehicles is intended to figure in the proposals now being prepared by the Health and Safety Executive for new general regulations to further control the conveyance of dangerous goods by road. Since the commencement of its work was announced last year by the Health and Safety Commission, the Executive has made significant progress towards formulating its proposals, which will additionally include provisions relating to the design, construction, operation and labelling of dangerous goods vehicles.The first element of the new regulations to be introduced will be the statutory scheme for the marking of road tanker vehicles. The Commission has recently published for consultation its proposals for the labelling of such vehicles with information primarily to guide the emergency services on remedial measures necessary in case of an incident involving spillage, and after considering comments will submit its formal proposals to the Secretary of State for regulations to be made.