HC Deb 06 August 1846 vol 88 cc368-70

On the Motion that the House go into Committee on the Gauge of Railways Bill,


complained that while it recognised the principle laid down by the Commissioners appointed to investigate the subject, namely — deprecating the broad gauge as highly injurious, and recommending the narrow gauge as being best adapted for the country, it yet went on to enact that the existing broad gauge should be doubled in extent; that 500 miles more should be added to that which was already laid down. He saw the Chairman of the Great Western Railway Company (Mr. Russell) present, and he gave him great credit for the spirit in which that company carried out their arrangements, and did not mean to be a party to saddling that company with the loss connected with any alteration of the gauge; but still he thought that this measure did not settle the question in a manner becoming its great importance. There could be no doubt that sooner or later they would feel the dangers, and difficulties, and hindrances attending a diversity of gauge throughout the country, and must come to some resolution in favour of a uniformity of gauge; but this Bill, so far from remedying, multiplied the inconveniences and increased the difficulties of the present system, for while we had 3,000 miles of railway, 2,700 of which were constructed on the narrow gauge, and only 300 on the broad gauge, this Bill, which professed to denounce the broad gauge, and uphold the necessity of the narrow gauge, actually enacted that the broad gauge should be extended 500 miles further. Was that a proper way of dealing with the question, or carrying out the suggestions of the Commissioners? By adopting such a course, the House was but creating difficulties it would have hereafter to encounter; and he therefore asked on what principle it was that this compromise between the broad and narrow gauge was brought forward? He wished to know, too, who was the author of a measure which compromised the question in this way.


said, that the hon. Member had asked for the authorship of this Bill. He (Mr. Gibson) thought he might say with propriety that Parliament itself was responsible for the Bill, seeing that its object was to carry into effect a resolution adopted unanimously by both Houses of Parliament. He could not quite agree with the hon. Member in thinking that this measure would increase the evil of a break of gauge. The fact was simply this—there were a number of Bills which had been passed this Session, in which there was no special clause providing for a particular gauge; they were left to a choice of gauge, and this Bill defined the gauge upon which the companies were to construct their works, in order that the broad gauge should be limited throughout the country. It did not interfere with those companies that had a clause in their Bill providing for the particular gauge on which they should be constructed; it only provided that the railways for which Bills had been obtained without providing for a particular gauge, should be constructed in a way most suited to effect the object which his hon. Friend had in view, namely, to have the least amount of broad gauge consistent with convenience and the greatest amount of uniformity. He agreed with his hon. Friend that uniformity was exceedingly desirable as a national object; but where was the money to come from to effect it?


would be sorry to see the broad gauge proscribed altogether. He did not speak as a scientific man; but he asked any Gentleman who had travelled by the Great Western line, if he had ever been conveyed with equal comfort, or on a railway where the carriages were larger, more commodious, or better ventilated? He (Mr. Protheroe) knew of none.

House in Committee.

Bill passed through Committee.

House resumed. Report was ordered to be received.