Mr Albert Murray: The Board tells me that no capital expenditure is involved.
Mr Albert Murray: That has nothing to do with the original Question about capital expenditure, which I have answered. We are satisfied that the new concentration on Blackpool North is a sensible solution to many problems in that area.
Mr Albert Murray: I am certainly prepared to look at anything that hon. Members may put to me on this. I shall be glad to answer any specific points if my hon Friend will write to me.
Mr Albert Murray: We will consider on their merits any applications made to us by the British Railways Board for the conversion of public level crossings to automatic half-barriers. Proposals for replacing public level crossings by bridges or tunnels are usually embodied in larger road schemes and details of all cases are not readily available.
Mr Albert Murray: As the hon. Gentleman knows, the British Railways Board is working hard on conversions as a result of the Hixon Inquiry. The minimum cost of a bridge in rural areas is over £100,000. Two that are to be built in rural areas will each cost over £250,000. so they are expensive propositions.
Mr Albert Murray: Certainly, we will be prepared to put that point to the British Railways Board.
Mr Albert Murray: Mandatory signs are now being erected at all automatic half-barrier level crossings which make it quite clear which drivers must telephone the signal box for permission to cross.
Mr Albert Murray: 211 people were killed in such accidents in the first eight months of 1969; figures for September and October are not yet available. Statistics for articulated vehicles were not collected in 1968. We are studying the new accident returns to see whether further action is required.
Mr Albert Murray: Naturally, the Ministry is concerned about any road accidents. But it should be pointed out that not all the 211 deaths were the result of jackknifing, but just with articulated vehicles. The Government are conducting operational trials, in conjunction with British Road Services, on literally dozens of anti-jack-knifing devices.
Mr Albert Murray: I do not know that we give any inducements.
Mr Albert Murray: Obviously this has to be taken into consideration, but the fact that we are holding operational trials with many of these devices shows our concern in the matter. We must certainly consider all the devices being put into our hands for testing.
Mr Albert Murray: The provisional figure for reportable derailments on all railways in Great Britain for the 12 months ending 31st October. 1969, is 418. Comparable figures for the 12-month periods ending in 1968. 1967, 1966 and 1965 were 345, 317, 282 and 234, respectively.
Mr Albert Murray: Derailments occur for a variety of reasons. I could not give a date by which we may expect to see an improvement, because the British Railways Board has a continuing campaign involving various safety measures to bring down the number of derailments.
Mr Albert Murray: My right hon. Friend has powers to institute general inquiries, but we have no plans to conduct such an inquiry at present. The British Railways Board is paying particular attention to all the problems that bring about derailments, including the question of speed restrictions, the provision of hot axle box detectors and a variety of other measures.
Mr Albert Murray: I am very grateful for the opportunity to clarify the position about inquiries into railway accidents, and I thank the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) for giving the Ministry that opportunity. I think the whole House is aware of the hon. Member's persistence in this and other matters, with which he has had great success. The hon. Member is mostly concerned about inquiries into accidents...
Mr Albert Murray: I promise the hon. Member that I will come to that later. The Statute that empowers the Minister of Transport to order an inquiry into a railway accident is the Regulation of Railways Act, 1871, as very slightly amended, as regards railway staff, by two later Acts. Under Section 6 of the 1871 Act any railway company, and that of course includes the regional managements of British Railways...
Mr Albert Murray: I am just looking at the hon. Member because he is irresistible: for no other reason. As I was saying there were 243 accidents involving open doors, usually an open door on one train being struck by another train, and 87 cases of trains running into animals on the line. Much more seriously, there were seven collisions be- tween passenger trains, eight collisions between passenger trains and...
Mr Albert Murray: The Anglo-French agreement has not yet come into force. It would be premature to raise the matter with the French Government until we know by practical experience whether the quota is inadequate, and to what extent. When negotiating the Italian agreement, the British delegation represented strongly that the quota was inadequate. An Anglo-Italian meeting will be held early next year to...
Mr Albert Murray: There are other methods of taking goods to the Continent, but the mere fact that in the agreement we have ensured that there is a periodical review will enable cases such as my hon. Friend has put to be raised.
Mr Albert Murray: Not as far as I know. But countries can exclude lorries anyway, and the point of the agreement on quotas was to get half a loaf rather than find the bakery closed.