§ Sir John Mellor (by Private Notice)
asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will make a statement concerning the rail accident at Sutton Coldfield last Sunday.
§ The Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)
Yes, Sir. On Sunday, 23rd January, the 12.15 p.m. express passenger train from York to Bristol, which normally runs via 43 Tamworth, was diverted via Lichfield and Sutton Coldfield on account of permanent way work on the main Tamworth route. In consequence, a conductor driver who knew the altered route joined the engine at Burton.
At about 4.15 p.m. as the train entered Sutton Coldfield station under clear signnals, the engine and nine of the 10 coaches became derailed on a sharp curve. The engine capsized, and five of the coaches were demolished or heavily damaged. I regret to say that 14 passengers and three railway servants, including the conductor driver and the fireman, lost their lives. In addition, 45 people were injured of whom 25 are still in hospital; I am informed that none is regarded as dangerously ill.
An express passenger train travelling in the opposite direction was stopped well clear by the prompt action of two railway servants who were travelling in the derailed train and ran to the closed signal box and put the signals to danger.
A formal inquiry will be opened by my Chief Inspecting Officer of Railways in Birmingham, on Tuesday, 1st February, and the House will understand that I cannot make any further statement at present.
The House, I am sure, will wish to express its deep sympathy with the relatives and friends of those who lost their lives in this accident, and with those who were injured. The rescue operations were organised with great promptness and efficiency, and I should like to pay a tribute to every one of the various local and railway services who took part in this prolonged and distressing work.
§ Mr. Callaghan
May I, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, associate ourselves with what the Minister has said, and pay our tribute to the presence of mind of those railwaymen who so quickly took action?
§ Mr. D. Jones
Will the right hon. Gentleman do what he can to prevent the newspapers from anticipating the results of both the private and public inquiries before they are officially made known?