HC Deb 28 May 1869 vol 196 cc936-8

said, he rose to call the attention of the President of the Board of Trade to the Report of Colonel Rich on the Abergele accident of last August, and to ask some Questions with regard to it. The subject was well worthy the attention not only of directors of railways, but of the public at large. On the present occasion he would not refer to the particular question which he had brought forward on a former evening respecting the possibility of preventing certain kinds of railway accidents by proper legislation; neither would he attempt to do away with that happy security in which the President of the Board of Trade indulged with regard not only to the conduct of directors of companies in general, but also as to the safety in travelling which the right hon. Gentleman himself enjoyed on their lines. All he would say on that point was that he hoped that from that dream of happy security the right hon. Gentleman might never be rudely aroused. For his own part, he had been less fortunate than the right hon. Gentleman, as he had been present at various accidents, including the fear- ful one to which he was about to refer; and he might remark that those who, perhaps, proved the exceptions to the rule laid down by the right hon. Gentle-man regarded railway accidents with a certain feeling of dread. The Report made by Colonel Rich, the Government Inspector on the Abergele accident, contained several statements which gravely affected the directors not only of that particular line, but of all the railways throughout the country. One of these statements amounted to a charge of gross fraud perpetrated on the public. After going through the evidence, Colonel Rich said that blame attached to three servants of the company, but he went further than that and remarked— So far the three men are seriously to blame, and their neglect his been the immediate cause of the accident; but men of that class cannot be expected to do their duties well if the railway com-panics do not give them the most convenient and best appliances, and do not look after them strictly and enforce their own regulations. Colonel Rich went on to say that the company had not complied with the rules respecting the inspection by the Government of their line before it was used, that, the very siding at the Llandulas station had been constructed subsequently to the railway being inspected, and that if it had been so inspected it would not have been pronounced fit for use. After stating that certain rules were made by the company for the guidance of their servants, Colonel Rich inserted in his Report the following paragraph:— Lastly, I fear that it is only too true that the rules printed and issued by railway companies to their servants, and which are generally very good, are made principally with the object of being produced when accidents happen from the breach of them, and that the companies systematically allow many of them to be broken daily, without taking the slightest notice of the disobedience. If that were true it was a gross fraud on the public who travelled on the lines, and who believed that the company's rules would be enforced. He did not wish to conceal the fact that Colonel Rich said the management of this particular line was in general very good, but he added— I desire to take advantage of the attention which this deplorable event will attract to bring before railway companies what I conceive to be the great defect in their systems, and which has led to most of the accidents I have inquired into —namely, a want of discipline and the enforcing of obedience to their own rules. His present object was simply to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether his attention had been directed to this very remarkable Report, whether he had called upon the company for an explanation of the extraordinary statements therein made; and, if not. whether it was his intention to do so?


said, that as a director of another large railway company, the Great Western, he could not allow the sweeping censures passed by Colonel Rich upon railway companies in general to remain uncontradicted. They were most serious censures, and ought to be met by all the railway companies at once. It would, indeed, be a gross fraud upon the public if it were true that the companies made rules in order to deceive the public, and for the purpose of being produced when an accident occurred. On behalf of the company to which he belonged, and in whose affairs he took an active part, he repudiated Colonel Rich's statement in the most unqualified terms.