HC Deb 16 June 1846 vol 87 cc595-614

rose, pursuant to notice, to move adoption of the recommendations contained in the Minute of the Board of Trade of the 6th of June, 1846, on Report of Commissioners for Inquiring into the Gauge of Railways, as follows:—

  1. "1. That no line of railway shall hereafter be formed on any other than the four feet eight and a half inch gauge, excepting lines to the south of the existing line from London to Bristol, and excepting small branches of a few miles in length, in immediate connexion with the Great Western and South Western Railways; but that no such line, as above excepted, shall be sanctioned by Parliament, unless a special Report shall have been made by the Committee on the Bill, setting forth the reasons which have led the Committee to advise that such line should be formed on any other than the four feet eight and a half inch gauge.
  2. "2. That, unless by the consent of the Legislature, it shall not be permitted to the directors of any railway company to alter the gauge of such railway.
  3. "3. That, in order to complete the general chain of narrow gauge communication from the north of England to the southern coasts, and to 596 the port of Bristol, any suitable measures should be promoted to form a narrow gauge link from Gloucester to Bristol, and also from Oxford to Basingstoke, or by any other shorter route connecting the proposed Rugby and Oxford line with the South Western Railway.
  4. "4. That the South Wales line, and its branches to Monmouth and Hereford, should be permitted to be formed on the broad gauge, as sanctioned by their Act.
  5. "5. That the Rugby and Oxford line, and the Oxford, Worcester, and Wolverhampton line, should be permitted to be formed on the broad gauge, as sanctioned by their acts; that the Lords of the Committee of the Privy Council for Trade shall exercise the powers conferred upon them by the several Acts, and shall require that additional narrow gauge rails shall forthwith be laid down from Rugby to Oxford, and from Wolverhampton to the junction with the Birmingham and Gloucester line; and that if it should hereafter appear that there is a traffic requiring accommodation on the narrow gauge from the Staffordshire districts to the southern coast, any suitable measure shall be promoted by Parliament to form a narrow gauge link from Oxford to the line of the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway."
The subject which he now brought before the House was one of very great importance, and which had created a very great degree of interest in the country for some time past. It was the question of the gauge on which railroads should hereafter be constructed in this country, and whether any and what measures should be taken to prevent hereafter the inconvenience which had arisen from the want of an uniformity of gauge throughout the kingdom. The House would remember, that last Session, in consequence of the discussion which took place on the Oxford, Worcester, and Wolverhampton Railway, which it was proposed to construct upon the broad gauge, that House, on the Motion of the hon. Member for Stockport, agreed to an Address to Her Majesty for the appointment of a Commission to inquire what measures could be taken to ensure uniformity of gauge, and secure the public from the inconveniences which had been found to attend the break of gauge. That Commission was appointed, and devoted time and attention to the subject. The Report of the Commission had been some time before the House. It had been referred by the Government to the Board of Trade, that they might consider what practical measures could be adopted to carry into effect the recommendations of the Commission. A minute, embodying the opinion of the Board of Trade on the subject, was laid on the Table of the House (about a week since), and it now became his duty to ask the House practically to agree in the conclusions to which the Commission had come. He believed, in the first place, that no difference of opinion existed as to the great inconvenience which a want of uniformity of gauge in all the railroads throughout Great Britain occasioned, or that wherever a break of gauge occurred, there an interruption of the communication took place; and the effect was to detract from that convenience which the public derived from that rapid and cheap communication they now had by means of railroads. But, while admitting all those things, there were other considerations which required to be borne in mind. When it was remembered that the Legislature had sanctioned more than one width of railways, and that a vast amount of capital had been expended on these different gauges, it would be a matter of very great difficulty, almost of impossibility, to require, at the present moment, that either party should alter their gauge. The Commissioners felt that very strongly. They stated, that they felt it would be impossible to call on parties so situated, to make, at their own expense, an alteration which it was calculated would cost at least 1,000,000l. sterling. Nor were they prepared, on the other hand, to recommend that so large a charge as this should be thrown on the public. As, then, it did not seem possible to bring all railways to the uniform standard of width, the next thing was to consider how far the inconveniences attending a want of uniformity could be mitigated, or brought within the smallest limits. Various mechanical contrivances were submitted to the Commission; but, although they admitted their great ingenuity, they were not prepared to say that any of them were calculated altogether to remove the evils attending a break of gauge. The question was, therefore, narrowed to the consideration of what measures could be adopted to prevent the further extension of the existing inconvenience, and to reduce it as to existing railroads, and those which were in progress of construction, to the narrowest possible limits. First, then, as to railroads which had been for some time constructed, and were open to the public. As he had already said, it was felt to be utterly impossible to call on the Great Western Railway Company to incur the expense of altering their gauge (involving, as it did, an alteration of the whole of their carriages and stock); or, on the other hand, that that expense could be thrown upon the public. Nor even could they be called on to adopt the modified measure of laying down a narrow gauge by the side of their broad one. Next came the case of those railways which had received the sanction of Parliament on the broad gauge principle, and which were in a course of construction. First in importance of these was the South Devon Railway, a considerable part of which was constructed, and the whole was in rapid progress. This line, it appeared, was substantially an extension of the Great Western; and if an alteration of the gauge was required on that line, the effect would but be to introduce a new break of gauge at Exeter, or at whatever other point that railway might join the Great Western. The same reasons had induced the Commissioners and the Board of Trade to give a preference to the line through South Wales that was in connexion with the Great Western Railway; because, although it was true that hereafter there might be very extensive traffic between South and North Wales, and the manufacturing districts of England, yet it had been thought important to secure a line from London to Pembroke, and Fishguard on one gauge, so as to secure an uniform communication without interruption with our naval establishment at Pembroke. It was, therefore, thought better that the South Wales line and its branches should be on the broad gauge, as sanctioned by the Act of Parliament. But there were two other lines to which the sanction of Parliament had been obtained last Session. Those to which he had already referred, ran in an easterly and westerly direction. But one of the two to which he now referred, passed considerably to the northward of the Great Western main line. In the Act for the Oxford and Rugby Railway, a clause had been introduced, authorizing the Board of Trade to call on the company to run a double line of rail—one suited to the narrow gauge as well as the wide gauge rail. The same rule applied to a portion (not to the whole) of the Oxford, Worcester, and Wolververhampton line. This was considered more just and equitable than to require that the companies in question should alter their gauge. It was felt, also, that if a break of gauge must take place, it would be less inconvenient at Oxford than at Rugby. The Board of Trade were also anxious, in furtherance of the recommendations of the Commissioners, to accom- plish this double line of rail on the lines in question; because, after the Oxford and Rugby line crossed the Great Western, if a narrow gauge communication were opened to the South Western line, a continuous communication on the narrow gauge would be afforded between the manufacturing districts of England and the port of Southampton on the one hand, and those other parts of the south of England where the narrow gauge prevailed. With respect, however, to Bills now before Parliament, and any other railroads hereafter to be constructed, they were disposed to concur in the recommendation of the Gauge Commissioners, that Parliament should sanction none but the narrow gauge of four feet eight and a half inches; at the same time, that recommendation would not be adopted without qualification, or it would extend the very inconvenience which it was desired to remove: because all the extensions of the South Wales line lay to the south of that line, and would have no communication with London by the Great Western Railway, if they were obliged to construct their lines on the narrow gauge, without creating a break of gauge at every point where those lines touched the Great Western. It had been thought necessary to confine permission for constructing new railways on the broad gauge to lines stretching only a few miles from the main line of the Great Western, and which were made for the purpose of opening communications with the populous towns in the neighbourhood, but which were not to form, hereafter, parts of any longer line communicating with the manufacturing districts. If, then, the House agreed with the Commissioners in their recommendation, they would be prepared to resist any attempts that might be made to extend the broad gauge to the northward of the Great Western, unless in the cases he had just mentioned. The Commissioners also were of opinion that in every case of such short branch lines from the Great Western, the Committees should report specially to the House. The Resolutions proposed by the Board of Trade, therefore, coincided with the recommendations of the Gauge Commission, except with respect to those lines south of the Great Western, which he had already specified, and those short lines to the north to which he had last referred. He had already stated the opinion of the Commission, that it was impossible to call upon the public or the Great Western Company to be at the expense of an alteration of the gauge. They thought it most desirable, however, that such an alteration should have been made if any equitable arrangement could have been agreed upon. There was no subject to which the noble Lord the President of the Board of Trade and himself (Sir G. Clerk) had given more attention than to the discovery of such equitable means; but they had been totally unable to discover any that would not entail great injustice to the parties, or expense to the public; and they considered that, on the whole, any great or material inconvenience would be prevented by the modification which he now proposed. With respect to the two lines, as to which they proposed that there should be double lines of rails, he begged to say that that was not a system which they were prepared to recommend generally; but he should add, that they also proposed that that arrangement should take effect on that part of the Birmingham and Bristol railway which lay between Gloucester and Bristol. There were serious objections to the adoption of such a system generally, and they were not prepared to recommend it, more especially not its indefinite extension in the northern parts of England. By the proposed arrangements, it was by no means intended to create a prejudice against any other more general scheme for constructing a railway on the narrow gauge that should run from the north to the south—from the manufacturing districts to the port of Southampton. They thought also that there should be an unbroken gauge from Birmingham to Bristol. The place where the evil of the break of gauge was most felt was at Gloucester, because the greater portion of the traffic to Gloucester was intended, not for Gloucester, but for Bristol, which was the great port. These were the measures which, after the best consideration of the Report of the Gauge Commission, the Government had felt it their duty to propose. They were in accordance with the recommendations of the Gauge Commission, modified, however, in reference to the Great Western and its subordinate lines. Provision was made for an unbroken communication on the narrow gauge to Bristol, and to the south. The proposition now made could not be considered a complete remedy; but the Government had gone as far as lay in their power. It was a question whether it was desirable to ask the Great Western to alter its gauge from the broad to the narrow. The system of railroads was in its infancy. The Commis- sioners pointed out the advantages which they thought the broad gauge had, in some respects, over the narrow, while they stated at the same time that, for the purposes of general traffic, the narrow gauge had its peculiar advantages, which, on the whole, induced them to give it the preference. But the House would recollect the improvements which had been introduced by the Great Western Railway in reference to the acceleration of trains and other matters. The narrow gauge lines had come up to the other, and were able very nearly to equal them; but at the same time the broad gauge lines could employ engines of much greater power than could be used upon the narrow gauge railways. With the experience now acquired, it was highly probable that if all the railways were to be constructed for the first time, a gauge somewhat wider than that of four feet eight and a half inches might be adopted. The narrow gauge carriages afforded ample accommodation for three persons from side to side, and till that width were reached at which a fourth could be comfortably seated, the effect of an enlargement would only be to incur expense and trouble without receiving any corresponding remuneration. Under all these circumstances, he was not disposed to think that there was absolutely any very great superiority of the one gauge over the other. It was impossible to say, after what had taken place within the last twenty years, how much the capabilities of railroads might be developed if an opportunity were afforded of trying experiments upon the larger gauge; and he thought that an opportunity should still be afforded for such experiments, provided no inconvenience resulted from their continuance. The Government, feeling that they could not urge a change in reference to the broad lines already existing, had endeavoured to effect an arrangement with a due regard to the interests of the companies which had constructed those lines, coupled with such recommendations as might secure for them the co-operation of those railways with which they were especially connected. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the first Resolution.


considered the question one of the most difficult and important that had ever been submitted by the Government to the House of Commons. He was happy to express his opinion, that in the course taken by the Government, they had upon the whole adopted a discreet and prudent line. He should, however, make a few observations on some parts of the Resolutions, which were not, he thought, carried out in the spirit of the right hon. Gentleman's recommendations quite so fully as might be desired. He could understand the principle on which the recommendations of the Government were founded. There were two gauges existing in the railway system of this country, but by far the greater portion consisted of the narrow gauge; the evils of a break of gauge were considerable; and the question for the Government was to determine how they should meet that difficulty. They might with the Commissioners recommend one uniform gauge, of which the advantages were great and manifold; and if he (Mr. Labouchere) thought that a question of paramount importance, if he thought it exceedingly for the interest of the country that all the railways should be on the narrow gauge, the consideration that a million of money was involved would not prevent him from proceeding to effect the change. It would of course be the height of injustice to throw the expense upon the railway companies. They had received the guarantee of Parliament in reference to the broad gauge; and it was not to be expected that those companies should, for the public convenience, adopt the narrow gauge. But though there were, undoubtedly, great advantages in having one uniform gauge throughout the country, there were yet considerations in the opposite direction which would make him—finding the broad gauge in operation—hesitate before he insisted on a complete change in favour of the narrow gauge. He would not enter on a consideration of the comparative merits of the two gauges; but no one who had travelled on the Great Western could question that, with the power of its engines, and the scale of its operations, it constituted a very magnificent and noble undertaking, of which the country had reason to be proud, and which ought not to be put down by hasty interference. The public, besides, had partly benefited by the competition among railways. In regard to the accommodation of the public, and in other respects, the rivalry and jealousy which existed between these two systems, produced very great advantages to the country at large. Considering that they were but at the beginning of railway experience, that every year new improve- ments were brought to light, that new applications were made of the resources of science to facilitate the transport of passengers and goods, he for one would be sorry to suppress one of these rival systems altogether, and to say there should be no broad gauge at all in England. He thought the advantage which he had now stated was no mean advantage to set against the obvious disadvantage of a variation of gauge. There were, however, evils attending diversity of gauge which, ceteris paribus, were quite sufficient to induce the House to determine that the gauge to be adopted on new railways should be the gauge which had been adopted in the majority of cases. He, therefore, concurred in the recommendations made by the Government; first, not to disturb the broad gauge where it existed, and to let it be extended to railways which were continuations of a railway where the broad gauge already existed, and where, if a change were enforced, from the broad to the narrow gauge, the very evil of which complaint was made would be introduced. In this, the main recommendation made by Her Majesty's Government, he entirely concurred. There was, however, one part of their recommendation which was of a very nice and difficult character. In two instances the Government had recommended the House to sanction a double gauge, namely, the broad and the narrow together. He, therefore, supposed that no engineering difficulties of an insuperable nature existed in those cases. If in any instance the public was to receive the advantage of the double system, it was a question worthy of consideration whether the principle ought not to be still further extended. It ought, indeed, to be so only in special cases. But there were two cases which had particularly struck his mind as cases requiring its application; he referred to these two lines of railway, the Birmingham and Oxford, and the Birmingham, Dudley, and Wolverhampton railways. If these were constructed on the narrow line alone, the result would be that between Birmingham and London there would not be, by those routes, a line of railway communication without a break of gauge; and he wished to suggest to the Government whether it might not be made permissive, nay, obligatory on these companies to establish the double gauge upon their lines. In the present state of railway legislation, it was impossible to draw distinctions as to the gauges; but there were one or two points on which the House could agree. The principle that no railway should be allowed to be constructed upon the broad gauge alone was an intelligible principle. The question was one which ought not to be decided by a Committee of the House of Commons. It was a question to be decided on a view of the whole railway system of England by a responsible department of the Government. The interference of Government was not only justified, but absolutely necessary. There was nothing incompatible with this course in the resolutions proposed by the right hon. Gentleman; but if there were, he (Mr. Labouchere) should be inclined to move a series of resolutions himself, for the purpose of taking the opinions of the House on the subject. In one of the resolutions, powers which they already possessed were conferred on the Lords of the Privy Council; so that the provision was superfluous. Probably the object was to give a connected view of the subject; and if so, the right hon. Gentleman might be induced to take into consideration the suggestions which he had now thrown out, with the view of rendering the resolutions complete. In conclusion, he had only to repeat his opinion that the Government had taken a wise and prudent course in the matter; and, though the resolutions admitted of amendment on some minute points, yet he approved of them so far as they went.


could not agree with the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. The Government had not adopted the great national principle which they ought to have adopted. It was admitted that railroads were in their infancy, and therefore the House should not interpose obstacles in the way of improvement. The Gauge Commission had been appointed in compliance with the public wish. He was at first strongly in favour of the broad gauge; it was only from perusing the evidence and report produced by the Commission, that he was led to alter his opinion, and to adopt the conclusion that, as regarded the community, politically, commercially, and individually, the line which had been generally adopted was the best. No step should be taken incompatible with the adoption of one general scale. The break of gauge was a great evil. But, while the proprietors of the broad gauge lines deserved great credit for the spirit they had shown in making experiments and improvements, the question was, considering that there were 2,500 miles of railroad, and that the extent might soon be three times as great, whether it were possible, with the evidence collected by the Commissioners, that the House could go back, so as to have the broad gauge established? He thought it impossible to take that course; and therefore every step should be taken to extend the narrow gauge. The differences of expense between the broad and the narrow gauge was estimated at from 5,000l. to 8,000l. per mile. It was now proposed to allow 500 miles of new railway to be constructed with the broad gauge; but every mile added to the number constructed on that principle increased the existing difficulty. Individuals should not be led to cherish the hope that the broad gauge might yet be generally introduced. The House ought to prevent any further deviation from the narrow gauge. There were 274 miles on the broad gauge at present; if they allowed it to extend 500 miles more, they would increase the points at which there would be very much break of gauge. Allusion had been made to the adoption of the broad gauge on the Welsh lines. The best judges in the country were agreed that it would be the worst system for that country; and he had been informed that even Mr. Brunei himself proposed to introduce the narrow gauge there. He was not prepared to say that further experience might not show the practicability of an intermediate gauge; but up to the present time the weight of evidence was undoubtedly in favour of the narrow gauge, and the opinion of the Commissioners was on the same side. He trusted, therefore, that the House would adopt their recommendation, and confine their decision to the first resolution, for this year at all events, waiting for further experience before they ventured beyond. One important consideration in favour of this course was the question of expense, which must in a great measure regulate the tolls. He therefore begged to move as an Amendment that all the Resolutions except the first be omitted.


was of opinion that the hon. Member's Amendment would tend to increase the evil of which he complained. The difference between his Amendment and the Resolution was simply, that the Amendment admitted of no exceptions, and would declare that all future lines must be on the narrow gauge. The South Devon line, now constructing, with a line into Cornwall, was a continuation of the Great Western, and unless they compelled that company to take up its broad line, they must allow its continuation to be made on the same scale. He did not quite understand whether the first resolution applied to railways that had obtained their Acts, and were now under construction, or only to lines that were then before Parliament: it ought to be more clearly expressed. With regard to the third and fifth, he thought Parliament ought not to give what amounted to a pledge that some certain plan should be adopted on the lines those resolutions would affect; they ought to withhold any expression of opinion on that subject till some definite scheme had been come to. To the fourth resolution he decidedly objected; he almost doubted if they could constitutionally adopt it. Could they tell companies whose Acts had been already passed, that they should not proceed according to them? As to the announcement of the intention of the Board of Trade to exercise the powers given it under former Acts, he thought it right it should do so; but, having so resolved, it should exercise those powers entirely on its own discretion and responsibility, and not shift it on Parliament by requiring an instruction. With these exceptions he was prepared to support the resolutions.


said, some decision ought undoubtedly to be come to in reference to the rival gauges. A Committee over which he had the honour to preside were placed in considerable difficulty arising from this very question. A proposition had been submitted to the decision of this Committee on behalf of the Great Western Company, to purchase, or in some other way to absorb within their own management, nearly the whole line from Birmingham to Bristol; and they proposed to establish this line on the narrow gauge. The difficulty he felt was this, and he had adjourned the Committee in order to await the decision upon these Resolutions. The Midland Company proposed to alter the broad gauge from Stoneham to Bristol to the narrow. That would be entirely consistent with the Resolutions of the House, and he might recommend the Committee to accept the plan submitted by the Midland Company. But there would come such a host of objections from counsel. If, then, he proposed that a double line should be made, the parties might decline on the ground of expense. He therefore should like to have the instructions of the House, or rather of the Government, before he allowed the parties concerned to proceed farther in a contest of so costly a nature. He wished to be instructed whether he were to call upon these parties to construct two lines, or whether one route was to be within the other, or whether they were to be side by side. If he were to allow these things to be discussed by counsel and agents, a fortnight would be consumed. Was he to tell these parties that unless they would undertake to construct two lines, they should not have their Bill? If he were left to his own discretion, unguided by the Resolutions of that House, he would certainly make a direct application to the Board of Trade, and adjourn the Committee until he had received the reply of the Government.


declared his intention to support the Resolutions of the Government, and to oppose the Amendments of the hon. Member for Montrose. He felt bound, however, to state his opinion, that, as regarded the broad gauge companies, these Resolutions were in a high degree restrictive. The Government was, he admitted, beset with difficulties. They had to reconcile the conflicting claims of parties who had invested many millions under the sanction of the Legislature; they had to reconcile the conflicting opinions of engineers, and of speculative and practical men; they had also to deal with the Report of the Commission; and under all these circumstances, he thought that the Government had acted with great fairness. The Report of the Board of Trade was short, but it was plain and practical. It appeared to him to be founded on two principles—to mantain good faith with all, and to restrain within the narrowest possible limits the evils which must result from the break of gauge. He was not disposed to think that it was expedient to omit the second, third, and fourth resolutions. Those resolutions clearly pointed out the particular mode in which that principle should be carried out. When the Bills for those lines were passed, a condition was annexed by the Board of Trade, that the promoters of them would exercise the power of constructing an additional narrow gauge between Oxford and Rugby. The question had been started, whether the narrow-gauge line could be constructed with safety and propriety between the broad rails? He did not think any possible objection could be made to it. As far as the engineering portion of the question went, he would offer no opinion, but he could illustrate it by the evidence of three eminent engineers, who stated that they saw no possible inconvenience in carrying out the principle of the Government Report. He quite agreed with them, that it was advisable that no interference should take place, and that skill and science should be left to decide what was best for the public. In that respect he thought the Government had acted wisely. No man who read the Report could doubt that a much higher speed could be attained on the broad than on the narrow gauge. They should bear in mind, also, that a very large additional number of passengers, second as well as first class, could be carried on these trains. But it was not in speed alone, but in the combined operation of speed and power, that the broad gauge showed itself superior to any other line, as they were enabled to carry first as well as second-class passengers in their express trains. The Government had expressed its anxiety to obtain for the humbler classes increased accommodation on the railways. The companies were required to close their carriages, and to carry them at low fares; and why should they not be also afforded the opportunity, which was of so much value to the labouring classes, whose time was their only capital, of travelling at increased speed? It was impossible for any person who was not practically acquainted with the working of the railway system, to form any idea of the extent of the traffic. It was well known that the narrow-gauge lines were already speculating on the necessity of constructing a second line of rails alongside the other, at an enormous expense. Now the broad gauge was able to carry all the traffic that presented itself, and thereby insured by its power that punctuality which was one of the most important elements of the railway system. Was the House prepared to limit the advantages thus afforded by the broad gauge? He was not going to deny that the break of gauge was an inconvenience. It involved a change of carriages, and that change was necessarily an inconvenience; but he did believe that that inconvenience had been greatly exaggerated. The House would remember that the only example which they yet had of a break of gauge was upon a line which was under an adverse administration to that of the broad gauge. He believed that the inconvenience of a change of carriages was in that way unfavourable from the system of rail- way travelling. It was impossible at the starting of a train to send off a sufficient number of carriages to meet the diverging traffic at every fresh point. The more those points were multiplied, the greater the difficulty would be, and it was evident that some inconvenience must arise. They had only to make those breaks where they could be made with the least inconvenience. It had been further objected that the broad gauge was much more expensive, and the hon. Member for Montrose told them that the difference in the construction was from 5,000l. to 7,000l. per mile. Now, that was not the fact, and the evidence that had been given before the railway tribunals had shown that the difference of expense was not more than 500l. per mile. He admitted that there was some inconvenience in the two systems; but the advantages more than counterbalanced the inconvenience. The rivalry between the two systems was beneficial to the public. When the Great Western line was first opened, the cost was less than upon any other line. The narrow gauge followed their example in lowering the fares, and the Great Western again reduced theirs, while additional speed and more accommodation were at the same time afforded to the public. For these reasons he regretted that the Government had limited the broad gauge to the district they had prescribed for it. In his opinion, a larger district should have been awarded to the proprietors of that line. They had, however, evinced every desire to meet the suggestions of the Government with regard to the narrow line in that district, by offering to purchase the whole of the line, or to lay down the broad gauge on it. That, however, had not been assented to. He assured the House that so far as the broad gauge was concerned, they would give every facility in their power to carrying out the Resolutions as proposed by the Government to that House.


hoped that no ex post facto law would be sanctioned to compel companies which had obtained Acts for making the broad gauge, to make them now upon the narrow. He wished to know where nothing was said in an Act about the narrow gauge, whether the company would have the power of making the narrow gauge, as well as the broad, on their line? A case had arisen which would render the construction of a double gauge necessary, or at least advantageous to the public. He meant the line from Yeovil to Taunton, and he wished to know whether these parties could legally make both gauges on their line?


would rather be excused from giving a positive answer to the hon. Member for Manchester, as it involved a legal question, with which he was not competent to deal. In respect to the question of the right hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. Ellice), the right hon. Gentleman had better apply to the Board of Trade, as he had done on a former occasion.


said, he could not help thinking that great convenience would result by the temporary withdrawal of the resolutions, or the adjournment of the debate, because he thought in their present state they would fail in carrying out the intentions of Government. He was of opinion that it would be necessary somewhere to have a discretion lodged for special exceptions. He thought that the broad gauge should not be extended as a simple line, but in conjunction with the narrow gauge. He could not but think that some of the resolutions in the way they were drawn up were objectionable.


was also of opinion that it would be better to withdraw the resolutions for more mature consideration. He thought that these resolutions were most inconsistent in themselves. By the second resolution it was proposed— That, unless by the consent of the Legislature, it shall not be permitted to the directors of any railway company to alter the gauge of such railway. Now this, he thought, was the most idle resolution they could propose, for the consent of the Legislature was already given in the Bills of the various companies, and no resolution of that House could prevent them from acting upon that consent. The fourth resolution said— That the South Wales line and its branches to Monmouth and Hereford, should be permitted to be formed on the broad gauge; as sanctioned by their Act. Well, then, if they were sanctioned by their Act, what was the use of passing such a resolution as this? He was really at a loss to understand the meaning of such a resolution. He was equally at a loss to know why, by the fifth resolution, they should direct the Board of Trade to do what they had previously resolved to do. The right hon. Baronet said, that these resolutions were printed with a view of bringing the whole subject before the House. So far it was of course right; but surely they should be drawn up in a manner consistent with the dignity of the House. With respect to the first resolution, he wished to know whether the Oxford, Worcester, and Wolverhampton branch, which connected itself with the Great Western at Oxford, would come within the exception referred to in that resolution? He had a difficulty of comprehending this part of the resolution. What was the meaning of the second exception referred to in the resolution? Were not those lines alluded to already sanctioned by Parliament? He hoped that these resolutions would be withdrawn, with a view of further considering them.


thought there was much inconvenience suffered in consequence of this matter having been so long delayed. He was of opinion that the House should not separate without affirming the general principles on which the House should for the future proceed. He understood that the right hon. Gentleman proposed to withdraw the last three resolutions. In such case there would remain, of course, only the first two for present consideration. He thought the words "or the Board of Trade," ought to be inserted after the word "Legislature." With that slight alteration, he thought they might proceed to pass the first two resolutions; but if the last four only were to be proceeded with, he would affirm the principle contained in the first.


expressed his satisfaction that the Board of Trade had laid down a proposition for preserving the broad gauge, and hoped that the principle would be extended hereafter.


expressed his wish that some resolution should be come to by Government for the decision of the Committee which was now sitting.


said, that it was his intention to vote in favour of the Resolutions of the Government, as it was the wish of the railroad world that such resolutions should be passed. He hoped that Government would do something to settle the question of the gauges.


wished the resolutions to be carried out to their full effect, and hoped that the same attention would be bestowed on the same branch lines as had been given to grand trunk lines which had been constructed in the south part of the kingdom.


trusted that there would be no alteration in the resolutions without full time being given for their consideration; and he, therefore, wished to know whether it was the intention of Government to adhere to them? If Government were prepared to pass the resolutions as they now stood, the House was prepared to go along with them.


stated that it was his intention to adhere to these resolutions.


pointed out the inconveniences of two gauges in the South Wales district, where the broad gauge was now prevalent.


said, the resolutions were carefully prepared by the Board of Trade, and in such a way as to render them acceptable to both parties. It was, therefore, highly desirable, after the consideration they had received, they should be adopted as they stood. It was very remarkable no hon. Member had spoken in favour of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Montrose, who appeared on this question to have deserted his old friends, and to have taken a particularly narrow-gauge view of the subject. It was erroneous to suppose that no benefit had arisen from the existing difference in the gauges. Those differences had given rise to considerable competition between the lines on which the different gauges existed. The result had been, a very great improvement in the machinery, as well as a great increase in railway facilities generally. As to the suggestion which had been made for the appointment of a board to decide on the gauge question, he was not disposed to suggest to the House to relinquish the powers it at present possessed. He was of opinion that the Railway Department of the Board of Trade had proved a failure, inasmuch as their decisions, somehow or other, invariably were made public before they were even officially announced. He would contend that the evils which were supposed to arise from a break of gauge had been greatly exaggerated; for as great, perhaps greater, inconvenience existed in those parts of the country where the uniform gauge prevailed throughout. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, would adhere to the resolutions as prepared; for it would be impossible, if they debated till doomsday, to frame them so as to please everybody.


objected to the broad and narrow gauge lines being laid down on any railway unless the two lines were kept quite distinct.


called the attention of the right hon. Baronet the Vice President of the Board of Trade to a report made by General Pasley, which contained a plan laid down by Captain Powell, of the Guards, to obviate the inconvenience of the break of gauge. He hoped that report would be presented to the House. The transfer of passengers from one line to another was not the great inconvenience arising from the break of gauge; the great inconvenience was, the transfer of goods. Now, he believed that Captain Powell had suggested a very ingenious method by which goods might be transferred from the trucks suitable to one line to the trucks suitable to another with very great facility. Such a plan was very important, and he thought it would be well if its details were laid before the House.


was happy that he had elicited so much information, and he would not give the House the trouble of going to a division; but, in order to have his opinion on the records of the House, he would not withdraw his Motion, but allow the House to deal with it as they thought proper.

Amendment negatived. First Resolution, with an Amendment to insert the words "South Wales" after the words "Great Western," agreed to.

On the Second Resolution being proposed,


said, there had been a clear understanding that, the first resolution being agreed to, the others should not be pressed. Many Gentlemen had gone away under that impression; he must, therefore, oppose proceeding further with them upon that occasion.


objected to the wording of the second resolution. It was, and would be, inoperative; it could never carry out the object it was intended to effect, and, consequently, it would expose that House to the contempt of the public. The resolution would be wholly useless unless its provisions were carried out into an Act.

After a desultory conversation,


suggested that the resolution should run thus:— It is the opinion of this House that provision ought to be made by law for preventing the directors of railway companies from altering the gauge of their railway without the consent of the Legislature. The suggestion was assented to, and the resolution so modified was adopted.

On the Third Resolution being put, several Amendments were successively moved and withdrawn, and ultimately the question was put on the original resolution, as follows:— Motion made, and Question proposed, 'That it is the opinion of this House, that, in order to complete the general chain of narrow gauge communication from the north of England to the southern coasts, and to the Port of Bristol, any suitable measures should be promoted to form a narrow gauge link from Gloucester to Bristol, and also from Oxford to Basingstoke, or by any shorter route connecting the proposed Rugby and Oxford Line with the South Western Railway.

It being then objected to, the debate was adjourned.

House adjourned at a quarter to Two o'clock.

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