HC Deb 24 March 1871 vol 205 cc603-6

rose to ask the Postmaster General, Whether he was prepared to expedite the night mails between Bristol and Cornwall. The present state of the postal communication in that district formed a great practical grievance, and an amount of delay and inconvenience was occasioned which ought to be put a stop to. At present letters leaving Bristol at 6.30 a.m. reached Plymouth at 12.25 p.m., and then they were detained there until 2 o'clock, occasioning a loss of an hour and 35 minutes in the very middle of the day. But the most important point was found in the arrangements with reference to the night mail. The limited mail, which left London at 9.0 p.m., arrived in Bristol at 12.20 a.m., but it did not carry the letters any further on the road to Penzance; they were left to be carried on by an ordinary passenger train, which lost 50 minutes in the journey between London and Bristol, 35 minutes between Bristol and Exeter, 25 minutes between Exeter and Plymouth, 20 minutes at Plymouth, and half-an-hour between Plymouth and Falmouth, when compared with the journeys made by an express train. The up train from Fal- mouth lost an additional 20 minutes before it arrived in London. This caused great inconvenience in Cornwall. In Penzance, for instance, letters were delivered between 10 and 12 o'clock in the day, and as the mail went out at 2.30 p.m. there was only a very short time left for sending replies; while as to the night mail, the letters came in at 7 in the evening, and had to be answered by 5 next morning, so that people had either to sit up all night to get their replies in the post or else lose more than 24 hours. In a large shipping port it was particularly important that letters should be delivered early, because a packet might arrive with letters late in the day—too late for letters to be posted the same day, and the consequence might be that 24, or, in the case of a Friday, 48 hours might be lost—a matter that might be of the greatest moment to commercial men. He would venture to ask the right hon. Gentleman carefully to look into this subject, and to consider whether he could not, with due regard to the interests of his Department, facilitate the delivery of letters in the West of England, and by so doing confer a great boon on commercial men.


said, he could fully corroborate the statement of the hon. Member. It was most desirable that the present state of the postal communication in Cornwall should be improved.


protested—not for the first time—against the Post Office being regarded as a department for raising revenue rather than as one established for the purpose of providing for the delivery of letters, not only in the large towns, but in the small villages and remote districts.


said, he need scarcely assure the hon. Member for Penryn that any wish he might express would receive his most careful attention. The hon. Member would, however, feel the difficulty of the position in which he was placed, having to decide between conflicting claims for additional postal accommodation, urged by a number of districts, not only in this country, but in Scotland and Ireland. As regarded the observations of the hon. and learned Member for Devonport (Mr. M. Chambers), he thought that his conduct since he had succeeded to his present office had shown in the most practical manner that he entirely agreed with him that the Post Office should not be regarded merely as an institution for raising revenue, and that the convenience of the public was the main object which that Department sought to carry out. He must observe that it was not true that the whole postal revenue was spent in this country, for, unfortunately, no less a sum than £466,000 per annum of it was expended in providing postal communication with the Colonies and foreign countries. With regard to the question of this particular district, the speed at which the mails travelled from London to Bristol was 35 miles an hour, from Bristol to Exeter 32 miles an hour, from Exeter to Plymouth 24 miles an hour, and below Plymouth 21½ miles an hour. In fact, the speed of the mail train was in accordance with the amount of the trade and population of the different districts through which it passed. The same was the case in the remoter districts of Ireland and Scotland. He was afraid it would be impossible to carry out exactly the project of his hon. Friend—namely, to have a limited mail travelling the whole way from London to Penzance at the same speed as it went from London to Bristol. [Mr. R. N. FOWLER: The mail travelled at express speed from London to Bristol. He wanted it to go all the way at express speed.] At any rate, his hon. Friend wished the mail to travel at a considerably increased speed. The hon. Member complained of a detention of one hour and 35 minutes at Plymouth; but the reason for that was that it did not suit the people of those places to have their trains running at the same time as would best suit the mail; and an additional train for the mail would involve a considerable extra expense. Moreover, between Plymouth and Falmouth there was only a single line of rail, and that in no small degree increased their difficulty. However, the attention of the Post Office had already been directed to that matter, and would continue to be so; negotiations on the subject had been opened with the railway companies, and if they could enter into fair arrangements with those companies they would be happy to meet to a certain extent the views of his hon. Friend. They recognized the importance of the town represented by his hon. Friend, and also of the great mining population of Cornwall—a county the postal revenue of which was considerable, and which had a right to increased postal advantages.


desired to express towards the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down that gratitude which mainly consisted of a lively sense of favours to come. As regarded the past and the present, the people of Cornwall had no reason to be grateful to the Post Office authorities, who seemed to have looked upon them as "remote, unfriended." The rest of the line—"melancholy, slow"—would apply rather to the Post Office authorities than to Cornishmen. The mails travelled between London and Edinburgh—a distance of full 400 miles—in 11 hours and 10 minutes; whereas they took 11 hours and 25 minutes in the journey from London to Falmouth—a distance little over 300 miles. The present unsatisfactory state of things was entirely owing to the Post Office, which had shown constant hostility to Falmouth, in depriving that port of the mails, and in other respects. Now that they had a new Postmaster General he hoped a better state of things would arise.