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Yes, Sir. The facts as so far known are that at 21.20 on 11th March the 17.00 fly ash train from Drake-low to Fletton comprising 27 vacuum braked hopper wagons and hauled by a Type 4 diesel engine collided at slow speed with the rear of the 17.54 fly ash train from West Burton to Fletton which was standing on the up goods line about one mile south of Peterborough Station. The stationary train comprised 48 air-braked hopper wagons and its brakes were on at the moment of collision which made the effects of the collision worse. It is with deep regret that I must inform the House that two of the three trainmen in the cab of the colliding engine were killed and the third was trapped and injured. The guard who was riding in the rear cab of the engine escaped injury. The cause of the accident has yet to be established and I have directed that an inquiry into it be held.
I know the House will join with me in expressing sincere sympathy with the relatives of the deceased and with the injured trainman.
Is the right hon. Lady aware that the citizens of the railway city of Peterborough would wish to be associated with her expressions of sympathy to the families of those who were killed? Is she also aware that there is growing apprehension that the number of accidents of this sort happening are too often due to some internal failure? It is suggested, for example, that the train which was in front in this case, according to the timetable laid down, should have been behind. Is there anything that she can say at this early stage about that?
No. It would be very wrong of me to anticipate the examination at the inquiry. I think that the House would rather wait and see what is revealed. I would not like to prejudge.
Is the right hon. Lady aware that we on this side of the House would like to be associated with her expressions of sympathy to those concerned, particularly to the railwayman who was trapped in the train for more than ten hours? When looking into this inquiry or at the position generally, would she perhaps inquire into the growing concern at the increase in the number of derailments of freight trains over the last two or three years? Her Department's own figures show a steep rise in these derailments, and I think that it is worthy of a general inquiry.
Each derailment may have its own special characteristics. It may prove to be that the causes here were not identical with those in other derailments. I think that the best thing is to examine cases in detail, as we try to do, and certainly I am keeping a very close watch on the position.