§ MR. LAING
rose to move a Resolution declaring—That it is contrary to Imperial policy to allow a break of gauge in the Railway communications between the important frontier town of Peshawur and the main Railway system of India.He said, it was his object to prevent a misfortune of national magnitude, a break of gauge in the Indian railway system, at a point which was most important in a military point of view, and which might be regarded, in fact as the Metz of India. The main railway system of British India now comprised 5,000 miles actually opened, inaugurated by Lord Dalhousie, and constructed on the wide gauge of 5 feet 6 inches, by separate companies, under what was known as the guarantee system, at a total cost of £90,000,000, or between £16,000 and £17,000 per mile. The cost, though large, was not excessive, if difficulties arising from the inherent condition of the country—from the numerous rivers and torrents which had to be crossed—were taken into account. The general traffic up to the present time showed that under the guarantee of 5 per cent, there was a loss on the £90,000,000 of £1,600,000 a-year, or about 1½ per cent. That loss was, however, expected to disappear as the means of communication with the different stations opened up—such as branches, tramways, and above all, good common roads—the last named being essential for the conveyance of produce. Though the loss of l½per cent on the capital entailed a considerable burden on the empire, it would be taking only a narrow view of the subject if he were to say that the construction of these railways was not an enormous advantage to India. The progress of the Empire since their construction had been most extraordinary in its rapidity. In the period of about 15 years the Revenue had risen from £30,000,000 to £50,000,000 sterling a-year, and the aggregate imports and exports showed an increase during the same time from £50,000,000 to £100,000,000 sterling. Nobody would deny for a moment that a great portion of that progress was to be attributed to the introduction and extension of railways. During his Vice Royalty Lord 1536 Mayo, one of the most able and popular of the many great Governor Generals of India, became impressed with the great advantages conferred by these railways, and arrived at the conclusion that 10,000 additional miles of railway were urgently needed to supplement the first and main trunk system of 5,000 miles, which had then been completed. For the execution of such a work, economy of construction being obviously necessary, the Government of India had with that view adopted what was called the metre gauge, of 3 feet 3 inches for the lines of the new system, by which it was estimated that £1,000 per mile would be saved on their cost. The superior economy of the proposed break of gauge—though advocated by two distinguished officers of Public Works in India—was disputed by the common consent of all great railway engineers and practical managers. Mr. Hawkshaw, one of the most eminent engineers in the world, had predicted that the Indian Government would have to spend more money in remedying the evil of a break of gauge than they would save by introducing it. That prophecy was confirmed by the experience of all countries into which a break of gauge had been introduced, and especially by what had happened in regard to our own Great Western Railway. He would not, however, go into the general question, his Resolution being confined to the particular case of the line to Peshawur, which was not of local, or even of Indian importance only, but of Imperial interest. They had a continuous line of some 3,000 miles constructed on the 5 feet 6 inches gauge from the principal capitals and centres of India, leading up to Lahore where it terminated, while between Lahore and Kurrachee, the nearest point of shipment for England, and where in any emergency stores and troops would arrive most speedily from this country, the line was constructed already in great part on the wide gauge principle. The question was really confined to whether the line from Lahore to Peshawur, which was about 280 miles in continuation of the 3,000 already constructed, should be constructed on the same gauge, and also the central section of the Indus Valley line between Mooltan and Kurrachee. The hon. Member proceeded to show that from the anticipated saving of £1,000 per mile by 1537 the adoption of the metre gauge they must deduct the cost of the necessary alteration of gauge on the lines already made, and also the cost of the extra rolling stock which would be required for the isolated portion of the system. According to the Estimates of the Indian engineers the saving which would be effected by the adoption of the narrow gauge was £532,823, while, according to Mr. Fowler, an engineer not unfavourable to the narrow gauge under certain circumstances—and who, of all others, was most competent to speak on the question—it was only £30,000. Taking even the larger sum, it was not worth while for such a saving to have a break of gauge on a line of great political importance. There was not a man of the slightest experience in railway matters who would listen to such a proposition for a moment. This was the main line of communication between the Punjaub and the rest of India and with the port of Kurrachee, and on a line of this importance they were about to place the barrier of a break of gauge. The population directly or indirectly interested in this railway amounted to 20,000,0000. This was not a sparse population scattered over an infertile territory. The cultivated area of the Punjaub was alone 12,000,000 of acres, and there were 6,000,000 of acres not yet cultivated, which, under the settled rule of England, were rapidly being brought under tillage. The surplus produce of this territory was reckoned at 777,481 tons, the great bulk of which was of a nature that was ill adapted to stand the loss and expense resulting from a break of gauge. This railway also formed the line of communication for the growing trade with Afghanistan and the whole of Central Asia. They heard a good deal about Russian commerce competing with them in Central Asia, and could anything be more foolish than to interpose a break of gauge on the line by which the produce of British manufactures reached Central Asia to compete with the produce of Russia? Putting, however, aside the commercial interest, he would come to the military and political question, and ask if, for the saving which he had mentioned, it was worth while to interpose the obstacle of a break of gauge in a military and political line of first-rate importance? A break of gauge 1538 meant a great deal more than mere delay. It meant that the engines, carriages, and rolling stock on the other 6,000 miles of railway were not available beyond Lahore, and that in case of emergency 1,200 engines and 36,000 carriages, forming the stock of the main railway system of India, could not be employed on the 1,092 miles of the narrow-gauge line. The proposed complement of the latter, moreover, consisted only of 84 engines and 2,520 carriages, though if it had the same complement as the broad-gauge the estimated saving would be converted into a balance on the other side. Reinforcements of troops and matériel would thus be dependent on this amount of rolling stock. What were the peculiar special circumstances of Peshawur? He had never been one of those who had regarded the progress of Russia in Central Asia with particular apprehension. He believed that no collision was likely to take place between the two great empires in that quarter; but, at the same time, the best way to avert that calamity, or even the lesser calamity of a misunderstanding between the two countries, was that each should feel as secure as possible on her own territory. Experience had shown that there was no more fertile source of misunderstanding than when a nation felt that it was weak and was jealous about what its neighbours were doing. In the event, however, of a serious campaign in Central Asia, the great object of England would be to reach Herat first, and it was manifest that to do that the primary consideration was the possibility of concentrating rapidly at Peshawur every available man, horse, and gun. They ought to recollect also that in moving forces in India they had not simply to move men, but that the impediments of an Indian Army were necessarily cumbrous. Authority and experience both showed that an essential condition of success in the moving of masses of troops by railway was that there should be unbroken communication from end to end of the line, together with an abundance of material and rolling stock. This fact was demonstrated by Mr. Bidder, Mr. Hawkshaw, Mr. Maclean, and other engineers of eminence, who pointed out that on a great military line even the risk of disaster could not be expressed in money, and that a break of gauge might be the cause of actual dis- 1539 aster. At a meeting of the Institute of Civil Engineers, the Astronomer Royal, as a member of the old Railway Commission, denounced the evils likely to arise from the break of gauge. They had, too, the authority to the same effect of gentlemen who combined knowledge of railway working with military experience—he alluded to the inspectors of the Board of Trade. Captain Galton, an eminent officer of the Royal Engineers, who had been connected with the Society for the Aid of the Sick and Wounded during the late war, described the advantage the Germans derived from unbroken gauge, and added that in the case of a break of gauge the confusion in the forwarding of troops would be absolutely indescribable. Captain Tyler, another distinguished officer of the Royal Engineers, said that the difficulty in the forwarding of troops by railway was not the running of the trains but the getting of the soldiers into the carriages, and that in the case of a break of gauge that difficulty would have to be encountered twice over, and he went on to say that a break of gauge would do away with the advantages in a military point of view which they had been led to look forward to from the construction of railways in India. Then, again, they had the high authority of Lord Lawrence, Sir Bartle Frere, and General Sir Henry Durand as to the necessity, in a military point of view, and also politically as well as commercially, of having an unbroken gauge from end to end of the great and important line to which he referred. He could easily multiply authorities on the point; but the question was one not only of authority, but of experience. The value of railways in time of war was amply shown during the late war. If one thing more than another contributed to the astounding success of the Germans it was the fact that they were able to do that which we were about to preclude ourselves from doing in India—namely, to bring up their troops and supplies from the centre of their forces and reserves to the scene of operations. From Berlin, to the Rhine their lines had an unbroken gauge. There was a break of gauge at Metz, and in order to surmount it the Germans constructed a circular railway. Again, a tunnel 30 miles to the east of Paris was blown up and all the accounts of the war showed that the difficulty of moving stores and supplies 1540 over that one mile thus interrupted was as great as to bring them the 1,000 miles from Berlin to Paris. On the other hand, the want of adequate railway communication was the cause of signal failures on the part of the French. From an official account of Bourbaki's disastrous expedition to the East of France, he learnt that eight days were occupied in forwarding the 18th and 20th Corps d'Armée by two lines a distance of 150 miles; and that it took 12 days to move the 15th Corps a distance which the Minister of War had calculated could be accomplished in 48 hours, a delay which arose mainly from a deficiency of rolling stock. Some of the men were three days in the carriages with the thermometer at 15 degrees of cold. If they substituted 120 degrees of heat for 15 degrees of cold, they would have an example of what would occur if they attempted to mass a large number of troops at Peshawur. Such disastrous delay and confusion they ought by every means in their power to endeavour to avoid in the case of India. He had studiously limited the terms of his Motion so as to include only what he believed to be a question of Imperial policy. It related, moreover, to a subject on which they could act as he suggested without implying any slight or censure upon anyone. He trusted that they might avoid a division by receiving an assurance from the Government that the Indian Government would be recommended to reconsider the subject. Further than that, of course he did not ask the right hon. Gentleman to go. If this were done, he believed the result would be that there would be opened a door of escape to all parties from what he felt satisfied was a very false position.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is contrary to Imperial policy to allow a break of gauge in the Railway communication between the important frontier town of Peshawur and the main Railway system of India,"—(Mr. Laing,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words propossd to be left out stand part of the Question."
MR. GRANT DUFF
I rise to reply to my hon. Friend with some misgiving, 1541 because he speaks with considerable authority as well on matters connected with railways as on matters connected with India, and because I know that he has on his side the sympathies of a large and influential profession, which is strongly prejudiced against the course that has been taken with regard to the change of the Indian gauge. I am comforted, however, by remembering that the decision of the Government of India, which I have to defend to-night, was the most distinctive act in the administration of the able and excellent man who was sent in the end of 1868 to rule our Eastern Empire; and 1 hardly think that the House of Commons, which knew Lord Mayo so well, will condemn a policy which all men know to have been his personal policy, without requiring the assignment of better reasons than I think my hon. Friend and those who agree with him, have given, or are able to give. Perhaps it will be desirable that I should explain very briefly to the Rouse how the idea of making these Punjab lines on the narrow gauge first arose. The making a railway up to Peshawur, which had been thought of at the time of the Mutiny, was first very seriously considered during or just after the Umbeyla Campaign, and the expediency of making such a railway became within the next few years an accepted article in the political creed of a great many persons who occupy themselves with India and its affairs. It was not, however, till 1 868,that a decision was come to by the Government of India upon the subject, and in the first days of 1869, a railway to Peshawur, and a railway from Mooltan towards and down the Indus Valley, were included in Lord Lawrence's great scheme of railway extension. That scheme was adopted by Lord Mayo, and was approved by the Home Government. Meanwhile, an engineer had been engaged and sent to make surveys for the proposed Peshawur line. After the Umballa interview with Shere Ali in 1869, this engineer was directed to attend Lord Mayo at Emballa and explain his plans. These plans were not approved, chiefly because in the opinion of Lord Mayo the proposed railway ran too far away from the old line of conmumication through the Punjab and would, amongst other things, have required a separate set of bridges over the great rivers from those which it was intended to construct 1542 to carry the Grand Trunk road. The engineer was accordingly ordered to make new plans, which plans were ultimately approved. Soon after this, however, Lord Mayo made a journey to Peshawur, and saw with his own eyes what manner of country the Punjab really was—how scanty its population, how enormous its desert spaces, and how narrow the limits within which its trade must lie for ages to come. The result of this journey was that he became possessed with the idea that to make a broad gauge line up to Peshawur would be simply a wicked waste of money, and this view he pressed with all his might upon the authorities at home. The question of the Peshawur Railway and the question of the Indus Valley Railway, which hung on to it, were accordingly most carefully discussed in the Council of the Secretary of State, and very decided opinions were expressed upon both sides. At last, however, it was determined that as it was just one of those questions in which a knowledge of local requirements and local circumstances was all important, the decision must be left with the Government of India. If in a matter of this kind a large expense was to be forced by the Secretary of State in Council upon that Government against its own most strongly expressed opinion, the Secretary of State in Council ought to have a very strong opinion indeed upon the subject. And that was not the case. There was at the India Office about as much argument and authority on one side as on the other. Such was the history of the determination to use the narrow gauge upon the Punjab lines, a determination which has called forth so much adverse criticism; which adverse criticism I shall now attempt to meet. But first the House should clearly understand the problem to be solved. Lord Mayo had to provide with railways the land of the Five Rivers and the great district of Scinde, regions larger than England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland put together. In all this enormous, thinly-peopled and poor country, there were only, if we except the end of the line from Delhi, two little lines—one of 105 miles, and one of 211 miles, or 319 miles of railway altogether. Both of these were on the broad gauge; but on the longer it is intended to lay down a third rail, and on the shorter to substitute the 1543 metre gauge, so that the whole Punjab and Scinde systems will be on the metre gauge, while Lahore will be the point of junction with the general system of the rest of the Indian Continent; and at Lahore there will of course be a break of gauge. I must admit that a certain amount of inconvenience will arise from this break of gauge; but the question which the Indian Government had to ask and answer was not, will the break of gauge occasion any inconvenience, but will the break of gauge occasion such an amount of inconvenience as to counterbalance the advantages which will arise from constructing the Punjab railways upon the metre gauge? That question obviously divides itself into two others:—What are the inconveniences that will result from the break of gauge? and, What are the advantages that will arise from constructing the aforesaid railways on the metre gauge? Now the inconvenience is obviously threefold—inconvenience to passengers, inconvenience to persons sending merchandise, and inconvenience in moving troops. To the first, few will attach much importance, because the inconvenience of a single change in going right across India from Calcutta to Peshawur—a distance of 1,546 miles—is infinitesimal. Somewhat more importance is attached by many to the inconvenience that will be caused to persons sending merchandise; but that inconvenience may be easily exaggerated. Here is what appears to me the fairest estimate of what it will amount to:—As regards goods, the gravity of the evil may be measured by the quantity of goods that would have to be transladen. There are two points at which such translading might take place, Lahore and Mooltan; at Lahore, of goods either arriving from the north and proceeding in the direction of Umritsur and Delhi, or arriving from trimitsur, or places beyond, and proceeding towards Peshawar; at Mooltan, either of goods arriving from the south and destined fur ulterior conveyance by the broad gauge east of Lahore, or of goods which having been brought by the same lines to Lahore for conveyance 1.o places south of Mooltan, had not been transferred to the narrow gauge at Lahore, and therefore required to be so transferred at Mooltan. Now of these last two descriptions of goods the quantity may be safely pronounced to be nil. According to the latest trade statistics, the total of imports into Mooltan from all places east of Lahore was, in 1870–71, only 10,130 tons, the exports from Mooltan to the same places being under 2,400 tons; and a glance at the map will suffice to show that no appreciable poriton of this insignificant traffic can have 1544 emanated from, or been destined for, the half-desert tracts extending for a considerable distance to the south of Mooltan. At Lahore, the other point of meeting of the gauges, the state of things is somewhat, but not materially, different. The quantity of traffic passing through that city in 1870–71, either from the eastward toward Peshawur, or eastwardly from Peshawur and places intermediate was, according to the Caine statistical tables, as follows:—imports, 414 tons; exports, 112 tons: total, 526 tons. Let us liberally suppose that on the completion of the Lahore and Peshawur Railway, these quantities will be doubled, becoming a total of 1,052 tons; and, with still greater liberality, let us admit that the out-turn of the Jhelum Salt Alines will simultaneously rise from 40,000 to 100,000 tons, and that not more than half of this quantity will either be consumed within the territory of the, Five Rivers or sent westward into Afghanistan, the other half being exported in the direction of Delhi, notwithstanding that only 13,000 tons seem to be as yet so exported annually, and notwithstanding also that it will thereupon come almost immediately into competition with the produce of the Sambhur Lake. Even then, and after all this amplification, the aggregate traffic compelled by break of gauge to break bulk at Lahore will be no more than 51,052 tons. Now, 4d. per ton is pretty generally considered to be the maximum representative in cash of the commercial ill effects of break of gauge. 51,052 fourpences, therefore, or £850 a-year, or interest at 5 per cent on a principal of £17,000, represents the very utmost commercial harm that can be expected to be done by break of gauge between the railway systems of the Punjab and of the rest of India.I know that some English engineers have said that 4d. a-ton is too low an estimate; but, as a matter of fact, I am informed that translading from carts to their trucks cost the East Indian Railway not 4d., but 3d. a-ton. If it be replied that the inconvenience of delay cannot be measured by money, I would say, alas! would it were really so. If it were so, our Indian lines would pay better. Why are they paying so badly just now? It is because in India "time is not," so to speak, "of the essence of the contract." Time is no object whatever, save in exceptional states of the market. It is only now and then that the Indian merchant wishes to move his goods quickly. On this point I would quote General Strachey, who says—It is not in the least to the point that a break of gauge in England, under circumstances of a totally different nature, has been found to be intolerable. To complain of the injury done to the traffic on the Indus Valley Railway because vehicles started from Delhi, for instance, will not be able to pass to Kurrachee, would not be less visionary than a similar complaint as to interchange of traffic between Russia and Spain. No tendency to any such traffic can arise that will have the smallest practical importance.1545 There remains the inconvenience which will be caused in the moving of troops. Now that inconvenience, if it were as great as some consider, would have been unquestionably fatal to the wisdom of the course which was followed by Lord Mayo's Government. But for what purposes do we want troops on our North-Western frontier? Clearly either for the ordinary exigencies of the frontier service, or to meet an invader coming from beyond the passes. There is no doubt, I suppose, that any railway on any gauge will make it much easier for us than it is now to provide for the ordinary exigencies of the frontier service. You provide very well for them even now without a railway. You never had the least difficulty, except in the Umbeyla Campaign. We must look then entirely to the inconvenience that will be caused by break of gauge in getting up troops to meet an invasion. But can any human being picture to himself any conceivable concatenation of circumstances which would bring an invasion upon us as a surprise. Why, the very instant that a rumour conies of Russia's building a fort or moving a squadron of Cossacks a thousand miles away from our frontier, a number of well-disposed persons are even now seized with a fit of "Russo-phobia tremens;" and if there were the slightest shadow of possibility of any attack being made upon you, every coign of vantage which our own frontier and the passes which look down upon it, to say nothing of other points in advance if they were wanted, would be perfectly easily and perfectly quietly taken into the safe keeping of our commanders. People always seem to imagine, when talking of this question, that our troops would be drawn from Eastern and Central India in a great hurry. But that is not practically what would happen. The temptation in such a case as I have put would be rather to denude other parts of India too much of troops, than to be slow in getting them up to the frontier. Any railway on any gauge that has ever been proposed would enable us to send forward, at the very first whisper of danger, all, and more than all the troops we could possibly spare from other parts of the country; and a great many of the best native troops whom we could use for such a war as the one I am speaking of would, in all likelihood, not be brought up from 1546 other parts of India at all, but recruited in our frontier districts, just as were so many of the men who served us so well, and that against their own kindred, in the Umbeyla Campaign. What does our force—what does the transferable part of our force lying habitually east of Lahore amount to? There are some people who talk as if we were to expect an invasion by the hosts of Attila, and could bring to meet it the hosts of Xerxes, and that all these same hosts of Xerxes would have to be conveyed by railway from some points on the eastward of Lahore. But that is a dream. Why, out of our 195,000 troops, how many do you think we have now in the Punjab and Scinde? We have at this moment in the Punjab and Scinde, within marching distance of the frontier, 16,300 British troops and 18,500 Native troops, besides our Native auxiliaries. And when we wanted to reinforce these, we have our broad-gauge lines up to Lahore, and we could also draw reinforcements through Kurrachee, which when the Punjab system is complete, will be connected with the mouth of the Bolan, as well as Peshawur and the frontier generally, by the metre gauge. Now at what rate could we bring up reinforcements to these troops along our metre-gauge lines? I will answer in the words of Mr. Thornton—Even with rolling stock at the rate of one engine and 30 vehicles for every 13 miles, it has been demonstrated, by carefully and minutely detailed calculations, that in the course of a week 12,000 combatants of all arms—infantry, cavalry, and artillery—fully equipped, and with a month's rations, could easily be moved from Lahore to Sukkur, or 11,000 from Lahore to Peshawur, or three corps of 4,000 each, one from Lahore to Peshawur, a second from Lahore to Sukkur, and a third from Kurrachee to Sukkur.Well, but if the inconvenience to passengers having to change carriages once in a journey of 1,500 and odd miles is really inappreciable, if the amount of inconvenience to persons sending merchandise can be measured by a figure of about £17,000 a-year, and if the inconvenience likely to be occasioned in the moving of troops is what I have represented it, how did Lord Mayo do unwisely in determining to save money by making the Punjab lines on the metre gauge? There may be much difference of opinion as to what the exact saving will be, but surely it stands to reason that there must 1547 be a saving; and in a huge country like India, where we have such endless work to do in road and railway making, every saving we can make means more roads and more railways somewhere. General Strachey, comparing our metre-gauge rails used on the other Indian lines, calculates the saving on the whole Punjab system at about £2,000,000. The present Government of India, comparing our metre-gauge rails with light rails laid on the standard-gauge, calculates it at about £750,000. Now the lowest of these estimates, or a lower one than any, would be quite sufficient for my argument. For every £5,000 we can save on these lines we can make another mile of railway, and I believe that Lord Mayo was perfectly right in saying that our Indian railway system is only in its infancy. It is a continent with which we have to deal, a continent where great public works are of the very first necessity, and a continent which is not rich. To reason about what may be wise economy there, from what would be wise economy here, is almost to court illusion. An impression has got abroad that Mr. Thornton admitted on behalf of the Indian Government that the saving would only be a saving of 10 per cent. Mr. Thornton, who is an excellent officer, carefully guarded himself from admitting anything whatever on behalf of the Indian Government. But he did not even admit as an individual what he is said to have admitted. What he did was this. In order to gain a dialectical advantage he said to his opponents, "I'll admit for the sake of argument that your figures are right, and even taking your own figures I will show that the saving was sufficiently considerable to make it worth the while of the Government to face the inconvenience of the break of gauge." It is all very well for our candid friends to say now, "We are quite in favour of cheap railways for the Punjab, but you should have kept the 5 feet 6 inch gauge and laid it with light rails." Our candid friends, however, know well that that was not the proposition which they and those who think with them put before Lord Mayo's Government. The engineers employed on the Lahore and Peshawur lines proposed 60lb. rails, and Mr. Andrew's engineers proposed 68lb. rails for the Indus Valley. The idea of the light rails was a mere after-thought of our 1548 candid friends, but it was in the meantime—no thanks to them—considered on its merits and rejected by Lord Mayo's Government. For not only would our light rails be soon destroyed if we worked upon them the heavy broad-gauge stock; but what would become of us if one of our bridges, built to carry our light stock, broke down when we were using the heavy broad-gauge stock? That is exactly the kind of thing that always in this contradictory world happens on an an emergency. I do not believe in these Punjab lines having to be used in an emergency, but our candid friends do. Their whole argument is based upon the probable occurrence of an emergency which will require half the broad-guage stock of India to be used over the Punjab lines. I firmly believe that when the Punjab system is complete its rolling stock will be sufficient even for any emergency. As for the sufficiency and much more than sufficiency of the narrow gauge for all the ordinary work of the Punjab, the remarks of General Strachey, which I will presently quote should, I think, carry conviction; but it must be remembered that it is intended to connect the Punjab metre-gauge lines with the Rajpootana metre-gauge lines, so that we shall have all their rolling-stock to supplement that of the Punjab lines.It has been ascertained," says General Strachey, "that the total traffic of the East Indian Railway—the heaviest worked line in India—may be taken to be about equal to 840 tons of goods, and 1,064 passengers, carried over every mile of railway in 24 hours. Also, it is found, taking the combined passenger and goods' traffic, that the average load of an East Indian train is about 71 tons of goods, together with 89 passengers, which we may consider as carried in a mixed train. Supposing, further, the passengers to be equally divided between the up and down traffic, and the goods to be carried in the approximate proportion that actually holds in the two directions, about six trains such as I have described, in both directions, would suffice to do the work. Now, if we set a narrow-gauge railway, such as those actually under construction at the present time in India, to carry this traffic, we should find that the load of an average East Indian train could be conveyed in about 14 narrow-gauge waggons and three narrow-gauge passenger carriages of the pattern now being supplied, supposing all the waggons and carriages to be run full. If the vehicles were supposed to carry only half their full loads, double the number of trains would be required to that actually run on the East Indian line. Such a narrow-gauge train as I am speaking of would consist of—say, 18 vehicles, including a break-van, and, if full, might weigh in the gross 144 tons; with vehicles half-full, 1549 the load might be about 100 tons. One of the 12-ton engines recently made for the Indian narrow-gauge lines, would suffice to draw such loads on the ordinary easy gradients of Indian lines. Hence it follows that the whole traffic of the East Indian Railway, as now existing, might be carried on a line of narrow-gauge railway, with an average of 12 trains a-day each way, such trains running hall empty. As such a condition of things could not possibly be necessary, and as two engines could be combined—an 18-ton and a 24-ton engines could easily be provided if desired—there can be no room to doubt that the narrow-gauge lines, as now being constructed, and doubled where necessary, are quite capable of carrying the heaviest traffic now existing in India, or ever likely to be brought on them.I have been arguing throughout as if the matter was res intacta, because my object has been to show that Lord Mayo in this, the most distinctive act, of his too short Vice-royalty, acted the part of a wise and of a bold man. But the matter is not res intacta. A large part of the money required to make the Peshawur line on the metre-gauge is already actually spent for metre-gauge purposes. I am free to confess that I cordially agree with Lord Mayo's policy in the matter, but I will not ask the House to commit itself to anything of the kind. I claim the votes not only of those who think that Lord Mayo did wisely, but also of those who, although they would have preferred a different policy, are unwilling to reflect upon his memory in a matter which cannot be now altered without heavy money loss, and are content to say, Fieri non debuit, factunt valet; and I claim the votes of all Indian economists who object to large expenditure being forced on India by English opinion. The forms of the House do not permit me this evening to move the Previous Question or otherwise to evade the direct issue raised, but I think I may fairly ask hon. Members not, after a discussion of only two or three hours—a discussion to which they must in the nature of things come, with our natural prepossessions, against a break of gauge in England—to condemn a break of gauge in the very different circumstances of the Punjab. It is a strong measure hastily to condemn a policy which was ardently pressed upon the Home Government by the last Viceroy, which is being carried out by the present Viceroy, and which has been most cordially approved by the last Viceroy but one, that last Viceroy but one being the man of all men who has most 1550 right to speak with authority to his countrymen about the Punjab; for he it was who saved the Punjab to the British Empire. Thus speaks Lord Lawrence, and with his words I will conclude—In the particular case of the railway between Peshawar, Lahore, and the sea, which is a continuous line mainly desirable for military considerations, it no doubt appears at first an especial evil that there should be a break of gauge. But on closer inspection, I still think that there are preponderating arguments in favour of the more economical arrangement. From Lahore to Kotree, and indeed to the sea-port of Kurrachee, there are vast tracts of waste land, of what may be more or less described as wilderness, for the most part thinly inhabited and poorly cultivated. In progress of time, with the introduction of irrigation, all this will be changed. But for another generation the above description will generally apply. Under such circumstances, a cheap railway seems obviously the best arrangement in an economical point of view. Moreover, all along this distance, the railway will have to compete with the Indus, which in its downward course, for agricultural produce is amply sufficient. From Lahore to Peshawar the country is better cultivated, but for the most part somewhat poor, with little traffic except that of salt, between Jilum and. Lahore. As a military line, it appears to me that a break of gauge is not of first-rate importance. The demands on the line will obviously be for the transport of troops, of military stores and supplies. But in respect to the troops, halting places, where the men can rest and refresh themselves, are absolutely necessary, and there will be no difficulty in making the points where there will be a break of gauge some of the places for resting the troops. Indeed, I may remark that Kotree, Multan, and Lahore would be the very places along the line which would naturally be selected for such a purpose. And again, as regards supplies of all sorts, we have, or shall have depots and magazines, from whence the necessary articles would be pushed up or down the line as circumstances required. I can scarcely conceive a state of things where it would be of any real importance to push a convoy of troops and stores from one end of the line to the other without stoppage. The climate of India for many months in the year more particularly demands attention to such precautions in respect to the troops. On such a subject as that now under discussion, engineers have indeed a full right to be heard, and their opinions are doubtless of much value. But while we are bound to hear what they have to say on the subject, we must reflect that it is also one which involves many considerations on which the financier, the administrator, and the statesman ought also to have their say. So long as a railway is likely to pay a fair return for the outlay, within a moderate period after being opened, We may safely expend more than as a mere financial speculation may be desirable. But when there is no real prospect of such a result for many years, to incur large expenditure seems to me to be very unwise. It is only heaping up debt which we can never defray.
§ MR. CRAWFORD
admitted that he approached the consideration of this 1551 question with strong prepossessions against a break of gauge; but that those prepossessions had been considerably shaken by the statement of his hon. Friend (Mr. G. Duff) who had just sat down. He was not so clear in his own mind as he had been when he came down to the House that the Motion represented the true policy to be adopted on this subject, and he should feel bound to record his vote in favour of the Government. He desired, however, to draw attention to one point that had hitherto escaped notice—namely, the position of the House of Commons in reference to the Government of India, on a subject like this. Did the House claim that its dictum should decide the policy to be adopted by the Indian authorities on a point of internal administration? The revenues of India had been placed under the Council of India by the House, and with it the responsibility ought to rest. He thought, too, that the military view of the question taken by the hon. Gentleman might be accepted as that of the most competent authorities. If this Resolution were carried, what security was there that the Secretary of State for India would send a despatch to the Governor General of India requiring him to carry it into effect, or that the Governor General would thereupon alter his present policy? He had been a careful student of Indian affairs for a great many years, and he would say that he had never entertained anything of the feeling which his hon. Friend had described as Russo-phobia. He could not support the proposition of the hon. Member for Orkney (Mr. Laing), or ask the House to express its opinion upon a matter regarding the expenditure of India.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR,
in supporting the Motion, said, he desired to call attention to a very important point—he meant the disastrous effect in a military point of view the break of gauge would produce, in the event of a war breaking out, on the Northern frontier of India. And not only was the break of gauge involved in the question, but also the construction of railways by the State out of means provided by the State. At one time he was favourable to the construction of the great works necessary for the development of the resources of India by the Government, instead of by committing 1552 them to contractors; but he was no longer of that opinion. It was by the means of contracts that the great trunk lines of railway had been carried out, and he thought it would be a great mistake if that policy were abandoned. It was true that these lines had been constructed at a most enormous expenditure; but, in future, much of this expense might be avoided. Looking at the importance of the line from Lahore to Peshawur, and seeing the extent of the lines leading from Calcutta to Peshawur, he could not look with a favourable eye on any change of gauge which might interfere with the value of the rolling stock on the existing 5,000 miles of railway; for by relinquishing the advantages we possessed in the existence of the present large amount of rolling stock, we should materially affect its efficiency in assisting our military arrangements. It was impossible that we could look upon the line connecting the main lines of India with the line to Peshawur merely as a commercial undertaking—it must be looked upon as a military and political line. As a commercial line, he did not place any great value upon it; but the importance of having the military line completed as soon as possible well deserved the attention of the Home Government. In spite of all the confidence we ourselves felt, we could not prevent the people of India from feeling great alarm respecting the supposed advance of Russia towards our frontier, and he strongly urged on the Government the necessity of preserving the line from Lahore to Peshawur on the same gauge. Only 500 miles were wanting to complete the line of communication from Kurrachee to Lahore and thence to Calcutta. Kurrachee was a place of great importance, because the port had been of late years considerably improved, and vessels of great depth could now enter it. He wished to mention another point with regard to the break of gauge. Many persons underrated the serious inconvenience which this break of gauge would occasion in having to transfer men and stores from one carriage to another; but, in a military point of view, it was necessary to have all material arranged for transport on a uniform system throughout all the lines in India. He hoped the Government would think it desirable to refer this 1553 important question back again to India, in order that it might be reconsidered; matters being now in a different position from that in which they were when Lord Mayo first took up the project. For these reasons, he should support the Resolution of the hon. Member for Orkney.
§ SIR CHARLES WINGFIELD
thought the hon. Member for London (Mr. Crawford) had no ground for saying that this was a question on which the House ought not to express any opinion. The question was one of great Imperial importance, because the security of our Indian Empire very much depended upon it. He was willing to admit that metre gauge railways could be made at much less cost than railways on the standard gauge; and, on the whole, he thought the Government of India were right in adopting the metre gauge for branch lines and lines intended for commercial purposes only. The question at issue, however, was whether that gauge should be adopted for the completion of a system which was designed for great strategical and military as well as commercial purposes. His hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for India said expense had been already incurred in commencing the construction of the line on the metre gauge, but omitted to say what that expense was. If it had been incurred for rails and iron girders for bridges they would be available for other lines. In his opinion, the Government greatly underrated the inconvenience of a break of gauge. Their argument was that the only circumstance that was likely to call for a great and sudden concentration of troops in the Punjab would be a menace of invasion by Russia, or some other foreign Power; and, in that event, we should have ample warning, so that the troops might be moved leisurely to the spot. Still, considering the uncertainty of war, it would be rash to assume that such an emergency might not arise as would necessitate the moving up suddenly of a large number of men, with guns, ammunition, and the impedimenta of war. The serious consequences which, in such a contingency, might arise from a break of gauge, it was impossible to overrate. He would concede that the saving from the adoption of the metre gauge would be quite as large as the Government estimated it; but, even if it were larger, it could 1554 not be set in the scale against the great inconvenience, and, possibly, disastrous consequences which might ensue from a break of gauge.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,—
§ MR. DICKINSON
said, he was interested in one of the Indian railways, and wished to introduce railways, as far as possible, throughout the country. He was convinced, however, that this could not be done unless the lines were constructed on a much more economical plan than at present. He confessed that, as a rule, he did not believe in purely military railways, and thought it a misfortune that such railways should exhaust money which would be much better applied in developing the commercial resources of the country; but, in the present case, he thought it was of the utmost importance that if there was to be a railway from Kurrachee to Peshawur there should be no break of gauge in its course. It might be contended that such a line was a complete system, the basis of operations being Kurrachee and Lahore; but that involved the absorption of those parts of the Scinde, Punjab, and Delhi lines as were between Kurrachee and Kotree and Mooltan and Lahore, and was subject to the objection that the rolling stock for the system would be insufficient, and could not be supplemented from other lines for the military emergency for which alone the line was required. In his judgment, the arguments adduced by his hon. Friend the Member for Orkney (Mr. Laing) were so convincing that it was hardly possible for anyone to vote against his proposal.
§ MR. BOURKE
thanked hon. Gentlemen opposite for the handsome manner in which they had spoken of the late Viceroy of India, who was mainly or wholly responsible for the change of policy which had been adopted with reference to this railway question, and he was sure nothing would have pleased the noble Lord better than to have remitted the question for the decision of the House of Commons. One of the difficulties of the question arose from the fact that, on a prima facie view of it, all the arguments would be against the change that had taken place; for, as an abstract point, there could be no doubt that a break of gauge was a 1555 serious inconvenience. But Indian railways were very different from English lines. In this country we had a dense population and small distances to travel; but in India, so far as railway purposes were concerned, there was a sparse population and immensely long distances to travel. In India only 20,000,000 passengers passed over 5,000 miles of railway in a year; but in England 100,000,000 passengers were carried over the same distance in the same time; and the amount of goods carried in India was only 4,000,000 tons per annum, which was rather less than the amount carried over one English railway. What was the state of things when the change of policy in regard to Indian railways took place? During the last few weeks of his administration Lord Lawrence in an able Minute on the subject, stated that the ruinous extent to which the capital accounts of many English companies had been extended was a matter of public discussion, and if that was dangerous in England it was far more dangerous in India, where all ordinary restraints were removed by an absolute guarantee of the interest, which was now subject to no limitation whatever. Lord Lawrence went on to say that he regarded that danger with great concern, and that if the Government wished to avoid it they must take some means for putting an effectual stop to the insidious growth of the capital accounts of the old lines. Under those circumstances a reconsideration of the whole matter became almost imperative. The Government of India had already raised £90,000,000 of capital, and for interest on that the taxpayers of India had paid £17,500,000 from 1856 to 1869, in addition to the rates and fares paid for railway accomodation. The Indian railways had cost on an average between £17,000 and £18,000 per mile, or exactly double the original estimate. Had the cost been within the original estimate the railways would have been paying between 5 and 6 per cent, instead of costing the taxpayers of the country 3½ per cent. Under these circumstances it came under the serious consideration of the Government, and Government found themselves in this condition—They were perfectly impressed with the fact that India was starving for want of railroads; but they saw that if they were obliged to go on 1556 making at the cost at which they had been hitherto made, no country in the world could go on without coming to bankruptcy in a short time. Therefore it became necessary that the Government of India should take some means of making these lines at a far cheaper cost than railways had been formerly made. It was a little too late for the engineers generally, as a body, to come forward and say that the policy of the Government was wrong, and that the estimates were deceptive and theoretical—as, so far from being theoretical, the Rajpootana line was being made at £4,000 or £5,000 per mile. It was a common saying that no man would purchase an elephant to carry a donkey's load; but by constructing broad gauge lines in India that was precisely what they were doing. The traffic was altogether too small for the enormous weight of waggons that were to be found on the railroads. The consequence was, therefore, an enormous waste; and if the system of railways was to be begun again in India the broad gauge would not be adopted. He would give two or three figures to illustrate his meaning. Everybody connected with this question was acquainted with the Festiniog Railway, and men had come from America, Russia, and Norway to see it. Now, with a 2 feet gauge, it carried 9,388 tons per mile, while the broad gauge was carrying only 822 tons per mile; so that in India with a narrow gauge they would be able to carry 15 times as much as they were doing at this moment. The consequence of the broad gauge was that there was very much waste not only in power, but also in waggons, the weight of rails, and every single element that went to run up railway expense. And here he begged to refer to the authority of a nobleman who had done more than anyone else in England in the way of railway enterprize with a view to the benefit of the people among whom he lived, he meant the Duke of Sutherland. That nobleman having seen the Festiniog Railway, said—I have expended about £200,000 in promoting and making railways in the North. Had these lines been constructed on the narrow gauge, and had they in consequence cost only two-thirds of the cost that has been expended upon them, I should have obtained a direct return on this large sum, which I have laid out for the benefit of my estates and of the people 1557 in those remote districts. As it is, I shall suffer considerable loss.The Duke evidently would not have been frightened by difference of gauge. He thought, therefore, if it came to be a question between narrow gauge and no railway at all that it was better to have the narrow gauge even though there should be a break. He would quote another passage from a pamphlet written by Mr. Fairlie, a distinguished engineer. He believed it was the opinion of Mr. Hawkshaw that although the Government of India might lay down a system of narrow gauge they would have to go to the expense of taking it up again. As Mr. Hawkshaw was an eminent authority, it was only fair to quote an eminent authority also on the other side. Mr. Fairlie said—It will be seen that, notwithstanding the absence of competition, and with everything to favour the working of the line, the actual dead weight is over five tons to one ton. If, on the other hand, the gauge had been 3 feet instead of 5 feet 6 inches, the dead weight under the same management would have been reduced from 5 to 1, or 1¼ to 1. Let us imagine the saving that this change would effect in fuel alone, considering that less than one-fourth of the tonnage now hauled would afford precisely the same accommodation to the traffic that now exists, and would produce the same paying result. It surely does not require a philosopher to see that the narrow gauge is infinitely superior in every respect, even to the 4 feet 8½ inch gauge, and it ought to be engraved on the mind of every engineer that every inch added to the width of a gauge beyond what is absolutely necessary for the traffic adds to the cost of construction, increases the proportion of the dead weight, increases the cost of working, and, in consequence, increases the tariffs to the public, and by so much reduces the useful effect of the railway. Let us suppose, for one moment, that the conditions in the cost of construction in the two instances were reversed, and that a 3ft. gauge line would cost twice as much to make as a 5ft. 6in. gauge—even in such a case the difference in the cost of working each ton of goods would be so enormous that the narrow gauge would be by far the cheapest of the two in the end.If there was a country in the world to which those remarks would apply, it was India. It should not be lost sight of that the people of India were very poor and unless passengers could be carried at a very cheap rate indeed the Government would not be able to fulfil the primary duty of giving accommodation to the people, and would be prevented by the unprofitableness of the concerns from extending them. What, then, was the course which the Government of 1558 India had to pursue? A great responsibility was thrown upon them. They were aware of the outcry that would be raised in India if they attempted anything like a change of gauge, not only by the companies and the engineers, but also by everybody who was against a break of gauge in the abstract, and who did not consider the difference between the condition of India and of England. The most minute calculations were made by the most eminent engineers in India. The most eminent engineers that India could furnish were sent to England to consult with the engineers at home. The India Council was consulted, and they took the opinions of very great engineers in this country. Many of these gentlemen, looking at the matter from an engineering point of view, were diametrically opposed to the opinion of the Government of India; many, on the other hand, took the Government view, and some said that under the circumstances of India, though they objected to a break of gauge, they were in favour of the system proposed to be introduced. The Government at home took a long time to think over the matter; finally, they referred it back to India, and left the decision to the Indian Government. The Government of India then decided that they saw no reason to alter the opinion they had formed, and the railroads were begun. The late Viceroy of India writing to a private friend upon this subject in January, 1871, said—I have no doubt that our decision on the gauge will be very much attacked. The truth is, as regards India, 'Cheap railways or none,' and I would rather do without railways at all than incur the future risk of that normal increase of expenditure, and consequently of taxation, which is our only real danger in India. It is impossible in this country where the people are much poorer than is imagined, to dig deeply into their pockets. I say, then, let us have railways that will pay us, or no railways at all, if their effect will be to add £100,000 or £150,000 every year to the permanent debt of the State, I will have none. I have no hesitation in expressing a most decided opinion on this matter, and fighting for it, bemuse it is one that is not in any degree a commercial or engineering question. It is a question of high policy, which I am better able to judge than the merchant or engineer. The 3ft. 3in. gauge will give us all we want for years, and will save us hereafter from financial and political difficulty, and it is very clear our duty is to have it.He now came to the question immediately before the House—the line between Peshawur and Kurrachee. The hon. 1559 Member for Orkney (Mr. Laing) did not lay much stress upon the commercial aspect of the question. He (Mr. Bourke) did not himself rest his case at all on the commercial view. Looking at the nature of the country he should say that nowhere could Government have been less justified in constructing a line of railway, than between Lahore and Peshawur, apart from strategical purposes. There was a sparse population, and the country was extremely unfertile. It was no doubt a very important strategical position; but it was impossible to imagine that any enemy could ever come across the Hindu Kush. It was absurd to compare Peshawur to Metz as the hon. Member for Orkney had done. There was not one point of similarity between them. Under these circumstances it was necessary that the railway from Lahore to Peshawur should be made on the cheapest principle possible. It was but an insignificant branch. When the line should be completed to Kurrachee they would then have a continuous narrow-gauge line all the way from Kurrachee to Peshawur; and the line would never have been made if it had only been intended to have a line from Lahore to Peshawur, because the whole question lay in having a line of 1,100 miles with all its rolling stock available for military purposes. The most eminent engineers all agreed that with the rolling stock of 1,100 miles of railway they could concentrate 12,000 troops in four days, with their artillery and food for some days. He did not mean that they could send elephants and camels as well, for he was not aware that they were sent by any line. They heard talk about the great masses of troops that it might be necessary to concentrate; but where were they to come from? In any case of danger they would have all their troops on the frontier, and every relief from Bombay, Ceylon, the Cape, and where else they could get them, would come to Kurrachee, from whence there would be a narrow-gauge system extending for 1,100 miles, which would be sufficient for all purposes. There would be another line of the same gauge for 180 miles, and indeed there was a very near chance of having in all 1,800 or 1,900 miles of narrow-gauge line. As regarded the break of gauge, there would be none along the whole frontier, and it was not so much a question of massing 1560 troops from the south to the north as the massing troops along the frontier. He could not but think, therefore, that the Government of India came to a right conclusion when they said that they would not spend one halfpenny more upon these lines than it was absolutely necessary to spend, because the danger in India which over-shadowed every other was the financial danger. What they wanted most there were railroads, but their only chance of having them was that they should be made cheaply. Under all the circumstances it would be madness to spend upon this railway a halfpenny more than was sufficient to construct the narrowest gauge line that would carry the traffic. The gauge fixed was 3 feet 3 inches, and it would carry 15 or 16 times more traffic than there was likely to be on the line for many years to come. He, therefore, hoped the House would pause before reversing the decision of the Government of India. He trusted that he might be allowed to say, in conclusion, that the Government of India, as constituted in 1871, would have been the last body of men to think the House of Commons was not a really good tribunal for this kind of question provided they took all the circumstances into consideration and and were not guided merely by one or two elements of the question.
§ MR. DENISON
said, that having in the past agreed with the Government of India, he did not now hesitate to express his difference from them. This was a question of first-rate importance. In a military and Imperial point of view it was difficult to exaggerate its importance, either independently of, but particularly in connection with, the present Central Asian question, which made this discussion very opportune. The Under Secretary for India (Mr. Grant Duff) had raised two objections to the acceptance of the Motion; first, that very considerable progress had already been made with the line from Lahore to Peshawur; and secondly, that they ought not to pass a Resolution which would be condemnatory of the action of the Government of India. The Resolution, however, was so worded that it would be simply an expression of opinion on the part of the House, and the Government of India might, of its own Motion freely reconsider the question with the advantage of the additional knowledge gained during the last 18 months. And if it 1561 came to a division he should feel compelled to vote for the Resolution, not without a deep sense of the impolicy of the House at any time interfering with the Government of India, but at the same time not deprecating that necessary and moderate expression of opinion on Imperial subjects which the House was occasionally called upon to give. He appreciated to the utmost the high character of the late Governor General, who took a conspicuous part in the action they were discussing, but, had they still the happiness of seeing him, he would, he was sure, have been the last person to object to public men expressing their opinions upon any portion of his policy. It could not be disputed that in extending railway communication in India it was desirable, wherever possible, to adopt the cheapest railway that the traffic of the country could support, and if this were an integral portion of a narrow-gauge line almost everything would be in favour of that gauge; but it was a mistake on military, strategical, and Imperial grounds to have a break of gauge, and particularly at this particular junction between two existing broad gauge systems. And if proof were wanting that the insertion of the narrow gauge between Kurrachee and Lahore and onwards to Peshawur was in the highest degree impolitic, it was at hand. For in order to connect this proposed narrow gauge along the Indus Valley with the same gauge in other parts of India, it was actually proposed to carry a line across the desert, from Ajmere to the Indus, 400 miles in length. And that simply because in no other way could the rolling stock of the narrow gauge travel from one part of the country to the other. The Report of the Viceroy and Council of India to the Secretary of State said that were this simply a question of constructing a section of the existing line between Lahore and Peshawur, they would dismiss all ideas of anything but a standard gauge line. That being the case, it was surely open to the House to review the decision of the Indian Government. It seemed as if the narrow gauge had been a foregone conclusion. There had been anxious endeavours on the part of the Government of Lord Lawrence, followed up by that of Lord Mayo, to find means of reducing the cost of railways in India, because it was impossible to continue a 1562 system which was causing so great a strain on the finances of the country. That was a very laudable object, and one which must commend itself to the approbation of all who had official knowledge of India. But the question was whether, having already expended about £90,000,000 on 5,000 miles of railways in India, it was worth while, for the mere saving of a single half a million of money, to destroy the completeness and continuity of their system of communication? Moreover, had the whole of the circumstances of the proposed line, with the new gradients, and new curves which had now been adopted, been under the consideration of the Government when their unfortunate decision was come to, he did not think that paltry saving would have led Lord Mayo to persist in that break of gauge at Lahore with all its acknowledged inconveniences and mischievous consequences. Having quoted a passage from a speech made by Captain Galton, in answer to the pamphlet of Mr. Thornton, the hon. Member complained that the military considerations involved in that question had been made light of and put in the background by the Under Secretary of State. The means of rapidly bringing up supports from the rear of an army massed on the North-West frontier had been treated as a very secondary matter; but if that was not a military or strategical line of railway, he wished to know what it was intended for at all, as it was admitted that the traffic would be of an insignificant amount? It was to be regretted that the Indian Government, in deciding on the question, had acted upon the advice of their military engineers, because there had existed an unfortunate jealousy between the military and civil engineers, which had produced injurious results in reference to railways. He could not see in what useful or constitutional way the House could express its opinion on so great a question, except in the form of a Resolution like the present, which was not one of a hostile but of a friendly character. In the opinion of the supporters of the Motion, it would be a serious error if the Indus Valley as well as the Lahore and Peshawur Line was not constructed on the same gauge, and made a continuous and integral part of the existing railway system. It was still possible for the Indian Government even now to reconsider its decision, for no 1563 steps of any importance had been taken which need prevent the question from being re-opened if there were any inclination to do it. If any expense had been incurred, it could not be so great as the cost of the triple line between Moultan and Lahore, which was to make their system fit in with what they proposed to do. The material for bridges and permanent way might all be diverted to Ajmere or elsewhere on the narrow gauge system. The estimate of the Government for making the triple line was £360,000, and still further expenses would have to be incurred in connection with it. He believed that it would still be the wisest course to abandon the metre gauge, and he feared that otherwise its adoption would in a few years prove to have been an injudicious measure.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, that this subject did not seem to him to be a simple one. There was first the question, if we were now engaged in considering as a new question the proper policy to pursue in the construction of lines in India generally, what policy ought we to pursue? Then we had to consider, if we were free to act on our own responsibility, what would be the proper course to pursue with respect to a system in which a great deal had been already done? Again, there was the great question, what ought the House of Commons to do in a matter which had been properly left to the Government of India, and on which it had formed a decided opinion? He approached this question without prejudice, but with considerable interest, because when he was Secretary of State for India this question of railway extension was very much under the consideration of the India Office and of Lord Lawrence, and it was thought that what was to be done should be executed on a consistent plan. A large part of the main trunk lines of India had been constructed upon the guarantee system, which was costing the Government annually a considerable sum. At the same time, there were many districts of the country which needed an extension of the railway system. What had already been done was laying a heavy burden on the finances of India, and it was dangerous to go on adding to those expenses. The conclusion come to was that it would be de- 1564 sirable to adopt a system of extension of lines throughout India, and that they should be guided generally by the amount of money placed at their disposal, and select the lines most likely to be remunerative. It was, however, considered that there were cases in which it would be important to proceed at once, without question as to the prospects of profit, on account of political or military reasons. All these questions had been considered with reference to extensions on the standard gauge, for though one company had then obtained concessions for lines in Oude and Rohilcund on a lighter system, the question of a narrower gauge had not engaged much attention. Among the exceptional lines which it was thought desirable on political or military grounds to proceed with at once, the Lahore and Peshawur extension stood foremost, and connected therewith the completion of the line between Kurrachee and Lahore. The Home Government rather pressed the prosecution of those lines, and, Lord Lawrence concurring in that view, it was understood when he quitted office that they would speedily be constructed, and on the standard gauge, no other plan having been contemplated. The object in view was not to guard against possible invasion, but to strengthen the North-Western frontier and enable troops and supplies to be rapidly forwarded in case of disturbance. After he had quitted office, Lord Mayo, who had succeeded Lord Lawrence, with characteristic vigour and grasp of mind, applied his practical mind to a comprehensive view of the whole railway system, which he saw ought to be developed as rapidly as possible; while at the same time he thought no undue burden should be laid on the finances of India. The question of constructing railways on a gauge narrower than the standard was considered, and the conclusion arrived at was that under that system it would be possible, at a comparatively moderate expense, to establish important lines of communication as feeders to the main lines of India. It must be borne in mind that the extension of the narrow-gauge system was still in part on its trial, and it was possible that the same kind of question raised that night with respect to one railway might be raised with respect to other railways which might be constructed. It might be said 1565 that the break of gauge would be a great impediment to commerce, and that there were cases where it was not applicable. The policy of constructing additional railways in India rapidly and cheaply had been deliberately adopted by Lord Mayo's Government, and they ought to be very cautious how they broke into that policy by objecting to its adoption in particular cases. When the matter was first brought under his notice he confessed he was surprised and not pleased at the contemplated break of gauge between Lahore and Peshawur. The more he thought of the matter the more he saw the difficulty of the situation. He was not convinced that if the matter was now for the first time to be decided on, he would say that the system now adopted was the right one. Regarding the question in the abstract, it would, he thought, be better that there should be but one gauge the whole way from Peshawur to Kurrachee, and from Peshawur to Calcutta and the East, and that great difficulties would be avoided by the maintenance throughout of the standard gauge. He quite concurred, too, in what had been said as to the undesirableness of breaking up the Grand Trunk Road, as it would to some extent be broken up by the policy which had been adopted. Again, he thought that the pecuniary advantage to be derived from the adoption of the narrow gauge had been over-rated, as the cost of re-laying portions of the line would be considerable. Still, no doubt a saving would be effected, especially when they remembered what had been said as to the throwing out of a branch line to Dadur, which might lead to a communication being ultimately established between the points commanding the Khyber and the Bolan Passes. It would be great economy to make that line upon the cheapest principle applicable to a line for military purposes, and it was important that there should be no break of gauge in it. Under all the circumstances, he felt himself in a very balanced state of mind with regard to the advantages and disadvantages of the system, and if the matter were res integra and we were the proper persons to decide upon it, he was bound to admit with his present state of information he should be very much inclined to agree with the hon. Member for Orkney (Mr. Laing). 1566 There were, however, two considerations which should not be left out of view. The first was that the work had been commenced, and that a certain amount of progress had been made in it. A particular policy had been decided upon, and there would be no little inconvenience in interfering with it now and undoing what had been done. It would, he thought, be unfortunate if it should go abroad that the policy of making cheap railways on the narrow-gauge system had been abandoned and discredited. He did not feel very sure either that it was desirable we should hold out to the world that it was of such enormous and pressing importance that India should have the means of rapidly sending large masses of troops to the North-Western frontier against a great European Power, and that for that purpose we had changed our policy. What we had to fear was not an advance on the part of Russia, but the danger which arose from agitation in the native mind in consequence of a belief that Russia was advancing. Was it not probable that the native mind would be still more agitated by any hasty change of our plan or policy, with a view to check that advance? What weighed with him most was the fact that the matter had been deliberately, and for a considerable length of time, discussed by the Indian Government and by the Secretary of State in Council in this country. The Secretary of State and his Council appeared not to have any very strong opinion upon the subject, as he gathered from the speech of the Under Secretary for India. There must have been a considerable division of opinion upon the subject, for in effect they told the Government in India that they were the best judges of the matter, but they had now come to the conclusion that they must support the Government of India, and that there appeared to be no sufficient reason for over-ruling the conclusion at which they had arrived. It would be under the circumstances a very delicate task for this House to pass any formal Resolution such as that now under consideration, for it would be a sort of censure upon the Government of India, and to dictate the policy which they should adopt. He did not suppose, looking to the quarter from whence the Resolution came, that it was intended to be of a hostile character; but it would not tend to strengthen the 1567 hands of the Indian Government to have such a Resolution as this placed on the Journals of the House. When they considered that the policy which the Resolution would recommend to the Government of India was one urging them to incur greater expense, and to throw a greater burden than they think right on the Indian taxpayer, the House ought to be very cautious how they adopted such a Resolution. He regretted the absence of the hon. Member for Brighton, who took so much interest in the Indian taxpayer, because the adoption of the Resolution might be misunderstood. Approaching, therefore, the subject with rather a leaning towards the hon. Mover's opinion in the abstract, he had clearly come to the conclusion that it would be a very great misfortune if the House were to formally place a Resolution of this kind upon its Journals. The discussion was no doubt right and reasonable. He did not know if he might go so far as to hope there was still time for the Government of India to reconsider the question; but, at all events, it was a question well deserving the consideration which it had received from that House. He hoped, therefore, the Mover would be satisfied with the discussion, and would withdraw the Motion, and not put himself and others in the position of voting upon the Motion, thereby indicating a feeling as to its merits, which it would not be altogether just to attribute to them.
said, he ventured to second the appeal made by the right hon. Baronet opposite. His hon. Friend the Member for the Orkneys (Mr. Laing) must be sensible that all of them approached the discussion of this question with a prepossession in his favour. They bad had in this country much debate upon the break of gauge. The greatest of all the railway battles was fought in that House about 30 years ago upon that subject; and nothing could be more decisive than the victory, not only of the narrow over the broad gauge, but a victory of unity of gauge over diversity of gauge. Consequently, it had become with them a sort of fixed principle. And we were very slow to admit the possibility of a different arrangement. There were peculiar circumstances in this country, but they hardly detracted from the general rule. Coming to the question with a prejudice in favour of 1568 the Motion, there were very strong reasons why the House should not at the present time commit itself to a Resolution of this nature. In the first place, it would be a distinct declaration, in an abstract form, of a title by the House of Commons to give directions to the Government of India with regard to the executive details of that Government, and that would be an important precedent to establish. In the next place, the primary effect of the operation of the Resolution would be to increase the financial burdens of the people of India; and he could not help feeling that the House was a great deal stronger in cases where it interposed even beyond the recognized limits of its action presumptively in favour of those who paid the taxes and bore the expenses of Government in any part of the Empire than in a case where primâ facie it would be interposing with the direct effect of adding to those burdens. Then let them consider the effect as regarded the House itself. His hon. Friend and those who supported him were, from their experience of railway matters, entitled to speak with what corresponded to official authority; but he would allow that there was something a little difficult in the position of the independent Member like himself and others who could not feel that they had acquired by a tentative discussion of this kind such a true and proper competency to deliver a judgment in the matter as to warrant their laying down the law in the shape of a Resolution. There was this further consideration—that the authority of that House never should, by any voluntary act of theirs, be subjected to receive a rebuff; and he was by no means certain that, if they were to pass this Resolution, such might not be the result. The House would not pass such a Resolution in the case of a Colony having a representative Assembly. As a substitute, India had a body of gentlemen independent of Parliament. They had heard of the impartial attitude of the Council of India on this question, but he was not so sure that the Council, which Parliament had set up as a statutory authority, might not feel it to be its duty to oppose itself within the limits of its power to the claims of that House to pass a Resolution of this kind. The passing of the Resolution might leave the House in a painful position in case 1569 it did not produce the desired effect. He did not give a judgment of his own for or against what had been said of the Government of India. Under these circumstances, the wisest course for the House to pursue was that which had been pointed to by his right hon. Friend opposite. Those who knew his noble Friend the present Viceroy of India when in that House were well aware of his just balance of mind and his diligence and impartiality, and would readily believe that the arguments and statements made that night would be carefully considered by him and by his councillors and advisers. But if any further pledge were wanted, he could engage that the whole of this discussion should be duly commended to their consideration.
§ MR. LAING
said, he thought that after the speech which had just been made, and the speech of the right hon. Gentleman formerly Secretary of State for India, the best discretion would be exercised by being contented with the strong expression of opinion elicited in the course of the debate, and refraining from pressing his Motion to a division.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.