This article was originally published in the North Wales Weekly News on 5 September 2018.
One of the unavoidable consequences of being a Member of Parliament is the need to do a considerable amount of travelling. In my case, that includes weekly journeys between Colwyn Bay and London Euston.
The travel time is around 2 hours 45 minutes, over an hour faster than when I was first elected 13 years ago. It is a reasonably sociable experience; every week I see people who make the same journey at the same time. It has, for all of us, become a matter of routine.
Usually, by the time the train has reached Llanddulas on the journey to Euston, I have already got stuck into my reading, preparing for my Select Committee the following day. I barely glance out of the window. Next time I take the journey, however, I shall put down my papers and look.
On Monday last week, I attended a service at Saint Michael’s Church, Abergele, to mark the 150th anniversary of the Abergele train disaster. It was, at the time, the worst train accident ever to occur in Britain.
The Irish Mail, which was four minutes late on its journey from London to Holyhead, was picking up speed to make up the lost time. It collided with a number of runaway goods wagons that had been negligently ‘loose shunted’ near Llanddulas station. The wagons were loaded with paraffin, and the resulting conflagration resulted in the loss of 33 lives. Escape proved impossible for most of the passengers, who, on imagined safety grounds, had been locked in their carriages. All 33 victims now lie in a common grave in St Michael’s churchyard.
An inquest into to the disaster was held at Abergele town hall. That was followed by a report from a Board of Trade inspector, who made a number of recommendations for improving rail safety. The disaster, consequently, was the catalyst for the development of a regime that has resulted in the safe, comfortable travel experience that we take for granted today.
The 33 dead were remembered at what was a respectful, dignified service. I will think of them again when I travel through Llanddulas.