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Railway Accidents

Volume 931: debated on Wednesday 11 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Transport in how many railway accidents, in each of the last five years, locomotive failure has been the cause or a contributing factor.

The number of train accidents, excluding fires, caused by the failure of locomotives or multiple units over the five most recent years for which confirmed figures are available was: 1971, 28; 1972, 11; 1973, 21; 1974, 16; 1975, 15.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the figures that he has just given are a tribute to the skill and dedication of the people who care for and maintain the rolling stock on British Rail? The ageing nature of that rolling stock is presenting grave problems to these people. I appreciate the significance of my hon. Friend's announcement last month, but will he seek further to improve the rolling stock?

I support my hon. Friend's tribute to the efforts that have obviously led to the reduction in the number of accidents involving engines. The figures are a tribute to British Rail, in view of the existing state of its rolling stock. My hon. Friend will have noted my right hon. Friend's remarks about the importance of rolling programmes and investment levels generally. We take that to be an extremely important point.

I compliment the dedication of British Rail and its splendid record on having so few accidents, but may I call my hon. Friend's attention to a central line, not a branch line, up to Sheffield, with its increasing deterioration of rolling stock? It has more breakdowns of engines than it should have and has had in the past. Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that more investment is necessary for that line in order to improve its whole service?

Yes, indeed. I think that there will be some electrification on that line in the near future. I believe that there are plans for electrification, and my hon. Friend will then see some improvement.