§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON,
in rising to call the attention of the House to the loss of life on railroads, the numerous collisions, most of them arising from causes which might have been prevented, that have occurred during the last eighteen months, and to the greater amount of safety the public would derive from a more general adoption of the absolute block system, the system of interlocking signals and points, and the use of a larger proportion of break power on trains on the principal lines of railway throughout the country; and to move a Resolution thereon, said: Sir,—As very naturally great interest is taken by the public in the question of safety in railway travelling, I, have the less hesitation in endeavouring to submit to the House some of the reasons by which I hope to be able to show not only that we do not at this moment enjoy that amount of security in railway travelling that we ought, but that means do exist which if put in action would have the effect of very considerably increasing its safety. I propose also to try to show that the time has come when the Government may properly step in and interpose between the Railway Companies and the travelling public in this matter. I am well aware that it will be said that the present is not an opportune time for bringing forward the question, because, in the first place, the Government have already, by their Railway and Canal Traffic Bill, attempted to deal with this subject during the present Session; and also because the discussion which took place in 1871, and which I myself raised in this House, showed that in the opinion of this House it ought not to touch this question of interfering with the management of railway travelling. Further, that the Report of the Committee which sat in 175 another place this year, goes to confirm that conclusion. I cannot help thinking, however, that in both these instances that would be a wrong conclusion to come to. For if we look at the Report of the Committee which sat in another place this year, with regard to this particular question, we shall see that every line of that Report bears out their feeling in favour of providing additional securities for the travelling public; and the only reason why the Committee did not recommend their adoption I believe may be summed up in this—that what was submitted to them was "a hard-and-fast line" which they did not like to take upon themselves the responsibility of recommending should be enforced indiscriminately; whereas, if such a proposal as I now venture to submit to the House, leaving a discretion in the authorities, had been substituted for an absolutely fixed line, their opinion would have been altogether different. I may also be met by another argument. It is often said that it is impossible to interfere with such a vast concern as the Railway Companies of this country. But in answer to that I would point to the fact that the Government have shown by their Bill this year that they are not unprepared to deal with the question. In that Bill they deal with the question of the convenience of the travelling public, and I think they are hardly justified in saying that they cannot interfere with that which concerns the public security from accidents and the safety of life in railway travelling. Now, Sir, I am well acquainted with the old argument which we have always had to meet on these occasions, that if you take into account the number of persons who are carried by the railways and compare with it the number of accidents that arise you have no case. We are always told, and with truth, that the proportion of deaths and injuries to the number of persons conveyed by railway is really almost infinitesimal. But what I say is not that these accidents are in a large proportion to the travelling population of the country; but that among those accidents there are a large and serious number which come under the term preventable accidents, and if it can be shown that these may be prevented by the adoption of a proper system of management, they ought not to be called accidents at all. I maintain that, if only one preventable accident happened in a year, it would be 176 a justification for saying that the railway system is not doing its duty, and I should like to lay before the House some facts which I think must convince them that the security of railway travelling is not cared for to the extent that it ought to be. [The hon. Baronet then proceeded to give a minute analysis of the Returns of the Board of Trade relating to railway accidents—of which a summary only can be here given.] It appears that the total number of train accidents (including collisions) were in 1870, accidents 122; collisions 83: 1871, accidents 159; collisions 93: 1872, accidents 221; collisions 161. These were all investigated by the Inspectors of the Board of Trade. The total casualties from railway accidents in 1870, were 286 killed; 1,261 injured: in 1871, 404 killed; 1,239 injured. Of these, sufferers from causes beyond their own control, in 1870, 91 killed; 1,202 injured: 1871, 30 killed; 993 injured. Casualties arising from collisions—in 1870, 51 killed; 1,052 injured: in 1871, 12 killed; 845 injured. Of passengers and railway servants killed from their own carelessness or other than causes beyond their own control, there were in 1870, passengers killed, 24; injured, 10; servants killed, 90; injured, 11; and in 1871 the proportions were about the same. If then, we turn to the valuable Reports which are made to us yearly by the Board of Trade Inspectors, and read the remarks which they make upon individual accidents into which they have inquired and the deductions they draw from them, we may see that in the year 1870, 60 accidents were reported to have occurred from want of adopting the interlocking system, the adoption of which the Inspectors had constantly recommended, 43 were from want of the block system, and 10 from insufficient break power. Here then we have the statement of these gentlemen that had their recommendations been adopted, these accidents in all human probability would not have happened. In 1871, 53 accidents are reported from want of interlocking, 32 from want of the block system, and 6 from insufficiency of break power. And last year 42 are reported from want of interlocking, not less that 55 from want of the block system, and 13 from insufficient break power. It is a curious fact that, with the exception of 11 lines, there is not a line in this country on which one or more 177 accidents have not taken place, and it appears that in 1870 and 1871 there were 11 lines on which no accident happened. Taking the six northern lines on which accidents had happened—namely, the London and North Western, with 1,507 miles of railway; North Eastern, 1,281 miles; Lancashire and Yorkshire, 428 miles; Midland, 972 miles; Great Western, 1,387 miles; Great Northern, 633 miles; total, 6,208 miles—on which accidents had happened, there were, in 1870, train accidents, 76; collisions, 62; 1871, train accidents, 95; collisions, 58; 1872, train accidents, 141; collisions, 95. I have taken these six lines of railway, because they are represented in the Reports of the Inspectors as lines which, for some years continuously, had the most of these accidents, and on which the interlocking and block systems had not been generally adopted. If the House will bear with me, I should like, on the other hand, to compare with these lines five other lines on which the system strongly recommended by the Inspectors—namely, the block system—has been largely, and, in some instances, generally applied—namely, the South Western, 579 miles; London and Brighton, 376 miles; South Eastern, 327 miles; London, Chatham and Dover, 139 miles; North Staffordshire, 182 miles—total, 1,603 miles—there had happened in 1870, train accidents, 6; collisions, 3; 1871, train accidents, 6; collisions, 3; 1872, train accidents, 18; collisions, 10. The Returns further showed the bearing of the gradual introduction of the block system in the former lines in the question of accidents, for in 1870, with 6,118 miles, the block system being applied to 617 miles, the collisions were 62; in 1871, when the block system was applied to 1,484 miles, the collisions were 53. On the five lines on which the block system was largely adopted, with 1,603 miles, of which 1,219 were under the block system and only 384 not, there were only 3 collisions. Now, he could not but think, that if they had nothing better than these Returns of the Inspectors, they would have very strong evidence indeed in favour of the comparative security of working under the block system. For one moment I should like to refer to the Reports for 1870 and 1871 of Captain Tyler, one of the most valuable of the staff Inspectors of the Board of Trade, and give the House the summing up of 178 his "chapter of accidents," so to speak, for these two years. In 1870 I find him saying—Without taking a theoretical or too sanguine a view, it may be asserted that, making full allowance for human fallibility and frailty, and for certain unexpected contingencies during every year, the number of train accidents might thus be reduced from 122, at which they stand for the past year, to a very much smaller number, and even to a fraction of that number, and a proportionate or even greater reduction might be made in the numbers of passengers killed and injured from causes beyond their control.Then in his Report for 1871, I find him saying—Not one of these 159 investigated train accidents can properly be classed as purely accidental. They were all of a nature to be avoided by care, forethought, or the adoption of proper means and appliances. It will never, of course, be possible altogether to prevent mistakes or even negligence on the part of employés, but the number of accidents arising from such mistakes or negligence may be materially reduced by improved means and appliances and better discipline. It is the nature of railway work that it must be done in one way or other. If it cannot be done with strict adherence to regulations, the regulations fall into disuse. If means and appliances for safe modes of working do not exist, it is carried on without them, and it is frequently so carried on for a length of time before the want of further and better appliances is publicly demonstrated by the occurrence of an accident. For every defect which is thus brought to light there are always many others which remain unnoticed or uncorrected, and the accidents above enumerated under different heads point unmistakably not only to the remedies directly required to prevent their recurrence, but further to greater numbers of remedies which should be adopted for the prevention of other accidents.Then the Inspector goes on to say—and this is important for the House to consider—I need not go on this occasion, as I did last year, into further details. It will be sufficient to add that by far the greater number of accidents that occur may be prevented by the adoption of well-known means of safety, and that the most important, most powerful, and most wealthy companies are just those which have too much neglected the application of such means, and frequently in those parts of their districts in which, for the heaviest traffic, they were most needed.This Report, is backed up by the statements of nearly everyone of the Inspectors of Railways in their several Reports, bearing the most absolute and conclusive testimony to the superiority of the "absolute" over the "permissive" block system. Then with regard to the other point, the necessity of interlocking signals and points, we have the recommendation of Captain Tyler on that terrible accident at Kirtle- 179 bridge, on the Caledonian Railway, in which 11 were killed and 15 injured, during last summer. He sums up his Report on the accident by saying—The true moral of the present accident may he expressed in a few words: Station-masters, signal-men, and porters must be expected, in the course of their various duties and their rough work, to make mistakes of this description. A simple means exists of rendering such mistakes impossible or harmless. It is to be hoped that this lamentable lesson will produce its effect throughout the country, in causing this simple means—of interlocking points and signals—to he more speedily applied over the different systems of railways.We have him also, in his Report, making this statement—That of the worst accidents which would have been prevented by interlocking, one was in 1867, one in 1868, three in 1869, 12 in 1870, eight in 1871, and one in 1872, and that these resulted in the death of 18 and injury to 403 persons.I shall be told, perhaps, that I am looking too much to the evidence that comes before us in these annual Reports of the Inspectors, and that if closely tested they hardly represent what is the real state of things. But the evidence in these Reports is not all. If we look into the Report of the Committee of the House of Lords we shall find the evidence of Inspectors and Managers of Railways also. We have the same Inspector, Colonel Yolland, giving his testimony in favour of the block system. In answer to the question whether he approved of that system he said—I hold that unless you have the traffic worked wholly and solely by one engine in steam, the train, staff and ticket system, coupled with the absolute block system is the proper way of working all single lines, and I do not think that any double lines whatever ought to be opened for traffic unless that traffic be worked on the absolute block system. It is not a new thing. It has been long in operation. It is perfectly well known; and what is more it is known by railway superintendents and officers to be the safest mode of working traffic.The next question he is asked is, "You do not think that Railway Companies will adopt it themselves if they are left alone?" And he answers, "I do not think they will." he is asked further—From your experience can you say that where the block system has been in force it has contributed to the safety of the lines?To which he replies—There cannot be a doubt upon the subject; at least I do not think that it admits of a doubt. I do not mean to say that collisions will not occur where the block system is in existence, because human nature is fallible, and men will 180 make mistakes under the block system as under any other system, but there can be no question about the increased safety as regards the prevention of collisions between following trains, or a train running into something that is standing on the line.Captain Tyler also being examined before the Committee, gave conclusive evidence with regard to the interlocking and block system. [The hon. Baronet here read at large, evidence given before the Committee by the managers and traffic officers of nearly all the great lines of railway and by eminent railway engineers, all decisively advocating the interlocking and absolute block system.] I know it may be said that where you have the managers of railways expressing a decided opinion in favour of these improvements for the security of the travelling public you may leave it to the Boards of Directors and the managers who advise them to carry them into effect; and I am prepared to admit that if all railways were conducted with the spirit that some of them are I should be the last person to wish to interfere. But what I say is this—That while such lines as the Midland and Great Northern, and lines of that kind are doing their best to meet requirements which are proved to be essential, and are bringing their main lines as fast as possible under the block system, there are other lines on which the old prejudice against it exists as strong as ever, although the traffic is increasing at a rate which renders it absolutely necessary that these safeguards should be adopted. What I urge upon the Government, therefore, is that in the case of lines of that description, which are hesitating and slow in bringing these improvements to bear upon the working of their traffic, I should like to see powers taken under which the Government would be able to place them in a position similar to that of other lines. And if no other result ensues than the mere discussion of the question in this House, I believe that a great deal of good will have been done. I remember, in 1871, when the discussion upon it took place, one or two directors of railways came to me after that discussion and stated the very discussion had had the effect of strengthening the hands of men who, on Boards of management, had been constantly urging the adoption of this system. They had been urging it, but had been over-ruled by considerations of expense; but that the mere fact of the 181 public attention having been drawn to the subject of safety in railway travelling in this House had produced an effect on many lines in England, which was to be seen in the increasing application of the system to the working of their traffic. It is not always however that, with all the desire expressed by the directors and managers of railways to come up to the requirements of the age that they have done so. Captain Tyler, in his Report on the Nuneaton accident, indicates clearly that the directors of certain railways are not always working in the direction we could wish, and quotes the remarks which were made by the Chairman of the Company at the last half-yearly meeting of the share-holders—He believed that the Board of Trade were its responsible for railway accidents as the Companies were. It was a divided management, with all the responsibility on one side only. The Board of Trade insisted on signals and other works which involved a large expenditure on the Companies.And the story of this accident is a suitable commentary upon these observations. Is the Board of Trade responsible, on the one hand, for an accident occurring from the want of apparatus which it constantly recommends the Company to adopt? Is not the Board of Trade justified, on the other hand, in insisting, as far as it has the power to do so, on the application of appliances necessary for safety, even though they involve a large expenditure on the Companies? Then they had the evidence of Mr. Allport, the Manager of the Midland Company, before a Committee of the House of Commons in 1870, when he said, in answer to a question—A good many questions have been put upon the subject of the interlocking of signals and points. For a long time I dissented, and up to the present moment I entirely dissent from the views of the inspecting officers, and we resisted the interlocking of signals and points; but the Board of Trade refused to allow us to open a line until we had done it. Of course the inspecting officer's duty is to consider the safety of the public.… I have not a word to say against the Board of Trade taking that position, but practically it forces itself upon the Company, however opposed they may be to its introduction.Now, if any deduction is to be drawn from this, it is that the railway manager himself was opposed to the system, though he admits that the Board of Trade forced it upon his Company. The 182 objection to it is on the ground of the expense which it entails on the Companies. But we have even stronger evidence than that, which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade will recollect as having been furnished in the course of last summer. I own I was surprised when I read the report of a meeting of the London and North Western Company, which was held at the Euston Station, and at which the chair was filled by a Mr. Bancroft, in the absence of Mr. Moon. On that occasion Mr. Bancroft stated that while he claimed for the regular and ordinary services of the London and North Western Railway the praises which we may allow to be fairly its due, he charged the Government with having listened, in spite of this experience, to "a lot of clamorous individuals who are not disinterested," and with accepting support "from an ignorant public who do not understand anything about the matter." Now, I venture to think, Mr. Bancroft notwithstanding, that the public do understand the question of safety in railway travelling at any rate, and feel that, where directors show an evident disregard of it, some greater power should be taken with the view of providing for the public safety. But we have yet a stronger assertion than this of Mr. Bancroft's; for we have Sir Edward Watkin at the annual meeting of the South Eastern Railway Company last summer saying this—I know that my friend Mr. Eborall occasionally seems to wince under a certain infliction. We occasionally get insulting strictures from the officers of the Board of Trade that, I assure you, are occasionally almost beyond endurance. What are these gentlemen, these military engineers, who never earned a shilling in their lives by commercial enterprise, and have no notion of working a staff of ten thousand men without military discipline; who are they who teach eminent managers of a railway, like my friend Mr. Eborall, how they ought to conduct their business I think the interference, the insolent interference, of these individuals is becoming almost too much for practical men to bear.That is a speech which comes from a railroad director, and I think it is hardly in accordance with the courtesy which ought to be shown to the officers of the Board of Trade, or with a regard for the safety of the public who travel by the railways; and when an explanation of his language was asked for by the President of the Board of Trade, I must say that Sir Edward Watkin's answer asto- 183 nished me even more than his accusation; for, after having stated that he was perfectly willing to quote publicly from Reports of Inspecting Officers in justification of his meaning, he answered the right hon. Gentleman that he "declined to report against any particular officer or any particular Report." The truth is that he was unable to justify his statements or establish his accusation against the Inspectors of the Board of Trade. But, after all, the real practical objection of the Railway Companies is that of the expense. Well, I should like to place before the House what this question of expense really means. Now a Return has been made to us of the Compensation for Accidents which the Railway Companies have had to pay during the last few years, and I find that the total amount of that Return for personal injury to passengers and damage to goods in five years is £2,348,568. But I should point out that this sum, large as it is, does not represent the total amount of the actual loss which has to be borne by the companies in consequence of these accidents. This Return refers simply to the question of compensation for injury to passengers and damage to goods, and if we took into account the loss arising from the damage to rolling stock through accidents of this kind, the total would be an infinitely larger sum, though being mixed up with the other damage to material it is impossible to work it out. If we take the principal lines that have had the most accidents we shall find that the London and North Western, the North Eastern, the Lancashire and Yorkshire, the Midland, the Great Western, and the Great Northern, had to pay among them, in 1870, a total compensation for damage to persons and goods amounting to £297,879, and in 1871, £312,512; while five other lines, the South Western, Brighton, South Eastern, London Chatham and Dover, and North Staffordshire, had to pay £56,217 in 1870, and only £22,720 in 1871. Thus the unblocked lines had to pay in 1871 £312,512, as against the blocked lines, which paid £22,720. With regard to the expense of establishing the block system, the evidence of managers themselves proves that the expense is not so very serious in reality. We have Mr. Allport, of the Midland Railway, appearing before the Committee and giving them the results of his experience with 184 regard to the expense, and I find that, after deducting from the 972 miles of that railway the 422 which are already under the block system, his calculation would come to £66,000 for the first establishment of that system on the remainder of the line, with an additional sum of £55,550 annually for maintenance. Now the interest on £66,000 at 5 per cent would be £3,300, and this added to the £55,550 for the maintenance annually would make a total of £58,850; but as the compensation for accidents in 1871 amounted to £46,670 the balance against the company in that year would only have been £12,180. But Mr. Johnson, the engineer of the Great Northern, makes the cost less. He puts the total at £74,000, of which £30,000 is already done, leaving for present outlay £44,000, while he puts maintenance at £28 per mile, which on 633 miles on that railway would give £17,724 for maintenance annually. Now in this case the compensation paid in 1871 amounted to £24,190; 5 per cent on £44,000, the cost of establishing the block system, comes to £2,200 and this added to £17,724 for annual maintenance would make the annual charge £19,924 as against the £24,190 of compensation in 1871. Consequently the cost would have been below the compensation paid in that year, and the company would have been gainers to that extent.
But there is another point to which I attach more or almost more importance than to any of those on which I have dwelt. I refer to the application of a sufficient proportion of break power to trains as a means of avoiding or preventing accidents. In this respect I maintain that our railways are far behind those of foreign countries. We have no code which prescribes or in any way lays down rules as to the proportion of break power which is to be employed in conducting railway traffic in this country. We find instances in which a luggage train runs into a passenger train with one guard van only attached to it; and we have evidence without end in these Reports of the Inspectors of the Board of Trade on railway accidents, of the momentum of a train going at the rate of 40 miles an hour not being stopped in less than 550 yards after the danger had been discovered, while on the foreign lines, where greater break power is used, 185 200 and 220 yards is the maximum distance required for stopping a train. Go to the guards and engine drivers in England who have been concerned in these accidents, and they will tell you that they were unable to reduce the speed in a less distance than I have stated. I have taken a little trouble to ascertain what are the rules or regulations on this point upon foreign railways. I am not referring to or advocating the use of any particular system of break power; but I cannot help mentioning one that has been put in operation on the Bavarian lines, as to which, its power of stopping a train, and the safety derived from its use, the evidence is to my mind almost overwhelming. I have here not only the Report of the officials of the Bavarian Government who examined into the merits of this break power, but a copy of the ministerial order adopting the "Heberlein Break" on the Bavarian States railways, and I find that it was applied in the first instance to what is called the Royal train the other day. But foreign railways go further than this; and I find that all the German railways have regulations for the application of break power in proportion to the gradients on different portions of their lines. I have here a copy of the rules respecting the building and traffic arrangements of railways as agreed upon by the association of managers and directors of the German railways. That is an association which comprises 99 railways, with a central office in Berlin; and it includes not only the Prussian but the Austrian and Netherlands railways. The system it has adopted is this—There must be in every train, besides the engine and tender breaks, so many powerful working break-mechanisms provided and attended, that with falling gradients of any considerable length on the line the proportion of axles here given shall be acted upon by breaks.These are the proportions laid down: With passenger trains on a gradient of 1 in 500 proportion of axles to be acted upon one-eighth; 1 in 300 one-sixth; 1 in 200 one-fifth; 1 in 100 one-fourth; 1 in 80 one-third; and 1 in 40 one-half. Therefore, taking a train of 18 six-wheel carriages, such as forms an ordinary mail or express train on the London and North Western Railway, this would necessitate on a line with gradients of 1 in 100, four break carriages, while a 186 goods train of 50 four-wheel waggons would have seven break waggons. Now, that system is universally practised throughout the railroads of Germany; and I have here also a list of the railways in France, on which they adopt a very similar proportion. On the Great Luxembourg Railway the rules are that no passenger train may be composed of more than 30 four-wheeled vehicles, and that the minimum number of breaks for each train shall be in the case of passenger trains composed of from one to eight vehicles, two breaks, one in front and the other' in rear; trains composed of 9 to 16 vehicles three breaks, one in front, one in the rear, and the third in the last quarter of the train; trains composed of 16 to 25 vehicles, five breaks, one in front, one in the rear, and the others at intervals of five carriages; and trains composed of 25 to 30 vehicles, six breaks, arranged as in the last mentioned case. There is another point in favour of the adoption of a universal system of this kind, and it ought not to be overlooked when we are engaged in considering this question. Here, as I have stated, you have an association of 99 railroads working under this system of rules; and there is this advantage attaching to it, and which would attach to the universal adoption in this country of similar rules for the application of break power—namely, that the servants of the Railway Companies having once been instructed in their duty, if they change their situations and go into the employment of another Railway Company, do so with a full knowledge of the work that they have to perform. On many railroads there is already a similarity of management which has proved of great advantage in this respect. I am afraid that I have been wearying the House by going into these particulars at such a length; but there are yet other points which enter largely into the question. For example, there is the question which has been so ably dealt with by my hon. Friend the senior Member for Derby (Mr. M. T. Bass), I mean the long hours which are enforced upon railway servants. I am aware that a great deal has been done to correct that evil, but Returns and Reports upon the subject show that it is not entirely remedied. We have it stated in several of the Reports of the Railway Inspectors of the Board of Trade during the past 187 year that from 13 to 15 hours' continuous work was no uncommon thing, and that a that when men are expected to continue on duty during such a number of hours it is not unlikely, even with the best mechanical appliances, that accidents will occur. There is another point which I should like the House to consider as well as this question of the safety of the travelling public, and that is the state of the law with regard to accidents to these servants. The proportion of accidents to them can hardly be estimated, because the Act of Parliament which was passed in 1871 did not come into operation until 1872, and enforced Returns for the months of November and December only in that year; but those Returns showed that 197 deaths in those two months and 167 injuries were to the servants of Railway Companies. Now, under the existing law, these persons have no right to compensation, and I maintain that, considering the danger which is attendant on the discharge of their duties by persons conducting the railway traffic, the State would be justifled in altering the present law of master and servant in that particular, and making it possible to give compensation for accidents to railway servants. By taking that course I believe we should be doing much to bring about the adoption of those securities for railway travelling that I am now advocating, be cause it would have the effect of increasing the compensation now allowed, so frightfully, that directors throughout the country would be driven in their own interest to adopt those securities readily and freely. I confess, also, that I should like to see a greater amount of responsibility thrown upon directors. I think that it is a very grave question at this moment whether, when an accident takes place, the right man is always put in the dock. The engine-driver and the stoker probably are arrested and put on their trial, but it is proved that they were unable by the appliances at their command to prevent the accident. Now I cannot help thinking that so long as directors are allowed to shift the responsibility from their own shoulders to those of their servants we shall not see much improvement.
Now, Sir, I have endeavoured, though very imperfectly I know, to show that both the block and the interlocking systems are valuable appliances for the se- 188 curity of life in railway traveling. I have also endeavoured to show that a larger amount of break power is necessary, so that trains might be stopped within two or three hundred yards. I have also stated that I should like to see a greater and more direct responsibility thrown upon directors, and that the law should be altered with regard to accidents sustained by railway servants who occupy and position where there is risk, and that they should be protected by compensation for any injuries they incur while engaged in the service of the company. If the precautions I have suggested were generally adopted, they would tend, I believe, to rectify another great complaint which the public make, and that is railway unpunctuality. I admit that the Board of Trade have done much in interfering with this great monopoly by their Bill of this year, but I would wish to urge upon them that still more remains for them to do, and that the safety of life in travelling on our railway is quite as important a branch of railway policy as the arrangement of fares and the convenience of the travelling public in that respect. I would also point out to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade that what I ask is not a hard and fast line for the application of the block and interlocking systems throughout the country, but that powers should be taken by his Department to enforce that system whenever it is found to be necessary, and that the responsibility of not putting it into operation should be thrown upon the Boards of Directors after it has been ordered to be done. The Board of Trade have already, in one particular instance, shown that they have power to interfere with railway management; for, when a new line has to be opened, they will not sanction it unless it has all its points and signals interlocked; and if the Board of Trade and their officers believe that on new lines this is so necessary that they will not sanction their opening without, surely they must see the necessity of providing such securities on the existing lines. I should be the last person, however, to make a proposal for throwing additional responsibility upon the Government officials; but, by adopting the Resolution I now submit to the House, the Government would not assume any more responsibility than 189 they now have in the case of newly-opened lines. All my Resolution points to is the application of the block system, the provision of the security which is supplied by means of interlocking points and signals, and the employment of a greater proportion of break power.
In conclusion, I will only say a word or two with regard to the Amendment of which Notice has been given by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lea). He asks me to change my Resolution into a proposal for the purchase of railways by the State; and I confess that, if the system of constant accident is to continue, I should be as strong an advocate of the proposition as the hon. Member himself; but it is because I see enormous difficulties in the way of carrying it out—difficulties of a financial character, and difficulties connected with the working of the system—that I would urge upon the Board of Trade the duty of providing for the public safety without attempting such a gigantic operation. I thank the House very much for the patience with which it has heard me, and I beg to move the Resolution of which I have given Notice.
§ MR. SERJEANT SHERLOCK,
in seconding the Resolution, said, the question raised was one of immense importance, as might be seen by the fact that on the 31st of December, 1871, there were, in round numbers, 15,400 miles of railway open in this country, and the number of travellers, including season-ticket holders and others, was 400,000,000. It might, no doubt be said that considering the enormous number of travellers, there were very few accidents; but, on the other hand, an examination of the official Returns showed that the great majority of these accidents might be avoided by proper precautions. In August, 1872, Captain Tyler, one of the Government Inspectors, reported that, in 1871, 171 accidents had been officially investigated, of which 93 arose from collisions, a great number of which might have been avoided by the use of the block and interlocking system. That system had been adopted on certain lines, had been partly adopted on some lines, and was strenuously opposed on other lines; and if the Board of Trade—believing it to be a good and necessary system—had not the power of enforcing its adoption, Parliament ought to supply the deficiency. Another class of accident 190 arose from defective axles, or tires of wheels, or from defects in the permanent way or rolling stock. Within the last week they had a serious accident at Shrewsbury, and the evidence which was taken at the coroner's inquest showed that the sleepers were to a great extent rotten—an unpardonable defect. There should be not only an inquiry after railway accidents, but the means of enforcing the recommendations of officers who were intrusted with the duty of inquiring. As to the railway servants, the state of the law was disgraceful, and nothing but the prejudice of lawyers could have so long prevented these persons from obtaining compensation if they suffered injury. He had been furnished with a statement—the accuracy of which could be verified—to the effect that within a radius of 20 miles from Manchester no fewer than 60 children had been left orphans since the 1st of January last through their fathers having been killed while in the discharge of their duty as railway servants; and that in nearly every case the companies had refused assistance. In the present state of the law neither the widows nor the children of Railway Companies' servants could enforce any claim for compensation, and he asked the House whether that was a state of the law which in common justice ought not to be amended? A stronger evidence of neglect could not be presented than the fact that Railway Companies should be experimenting up to the last moment. Last week, when the train which was to convey the Queen to Scotland was proceeding from Euston to Paddington, an experiment was tried on that occasion with Clark's brake, and it was found that the train could be stopped in 30 seconds. He submitted that that was not the time for an experiment, and the only legitimate explanation of the statement in the newspapers in reference to it was to suppose that it had been done for an advertisement. A considerable proportion of the accidents occurring on railways arose from the ignorance of railway servants. Captain Tyler, in his Report for 1872, mentioned one instance in which passengers were injured owing to the fact that the guard in charge of the train was not aware of the nature and amount of the break power at his disposal, and many such cases could he referred to. In his opinion, the respon- 191 sibility of railway directors was the only mode through which security for the public could be obtained. The officers of the Board of Trade stated that accidents occurring to the servants of Railway Companies were very seldom reported. The penalty of £20 imposed by the Act of 1871 for omission to report such accidents was altogether insufficient to secure the performance of that duty, and it ought therefore, to be increased. It would, too, be found that many accidents were occasioned by the fact that neglect on the part of railway officials was overlooked until they became indifferent to its consequences. He submitted that until the law, in cases of negligence punished not merely the servants who were immediately guilty, but those who were in authority and who had condoned previous acts of negligence, they would not have sufficient security for the travelling public. Without entering into the larger subject suggested by the Amendment to the Motion of the hon. Baronet, he could not help thinking that the management of any line of railway, the permanent way of which was out of order, or the rolling stock defective, should be taken by the State out of the hands of the Company which mismanaged it. He begged to second the Motion.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, in the opinion of this House, the time is come when the Government should take powers to enforce the adoption, where necessary, on Railway Companies, of additional securities for the safety of the public."—(Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson.)
§ MR. LEA,
in rising to move, as an Amendment, to leave out after "when," and insert—"the railways of the United Kingdom should become the property, and be under the control and management of the State," said: Sir, I should have preferred to have brought this forward as a simple substantive Motion, but the difficulty of obtaining a day, and the opportunity that was afforded by the hon. Baronet, who has distinctly raised the question in his proposal to the House, have made me choose the present occasion. The hon. Baronet desires to control further, by powers I presume to be conferred on the Board of Trade, the working of railways. Now this is a course with which I am not inclined to concur, and I will 192 refer in a few minutes to the reasons which I think we should consider before we further interfere with the working and management of railways, when by so doing we take away the responsibility from the present managers. It may be thought that this Amendment is not necessary, after the debate upon the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Tyrone (Lord Claud Hamilton), for the purchase of the Irish railways; but I would respectfully submit to the House that the case of the English railways rests on very different ground from that of the Irish, and it seems all the more important to me, that if we are to take any steps as suggested by the Prime Minister for the assistance of the Irish Railway Companies to render them more akin to our English railways, we ought most carefully to consider whether our own system is one that we should foster and encourage in the other parts of the United Kingdom. For this reason I believe a clear understanding of the policy to be pursued towards our English railways is most necessary at the present time. The Amendment I have to move is one, I admit, which affects interests of the greatest magnitude; but it appears to me that in this case the magnitude has been mistaken for difficulties, and that it will be found that the possibility of snaking this great change is much easier than at first appears when we simply look at the size of the question. And I would also say that I have not undertaken this from any antagonism to Railway Companies, for I acknowledge with gratitude the immense benefit they have been to the country in the past; and although railways have been most extravagantly and wastefully made, yet we perhaps owe to the pluck and skill of the first promoters of railways a greater extension of the system than we probably should have had, if any other method had been adopted for their introduction. Neither is it my intention to refer to the working of any particular railways, but it is evident that the immense difference that has prevailed in their management and consequent convenience to the public arising there-from, would help to prove that by unity of management all railways might be brought up to one, and that one the most efficient standard. Nor is it sufficient to say our railways are worked safely and well, and up to the working of those 193 of other countries; the question is, if they are as well managed as they might be, and if, under the present system, they are at all likely to approach such a much improved and economical standard as I think they should be brought to. I also wish to avoid the details of working of the present Railway Companies, unless I am forced for the sake of example; but I bring forward this Amendment solely upon the general principles that the present method of railway construction and working does not conduce to economy, safety, or convenience; though the chief objection I have lies in the fact—and it is a fact—that, whether we are now disposed to admit it or not, we are rapidly coming by amalgamation under the sanction of Parliament, or by combinations and working agreements without that sanction, to a complete monopoly, by which the whole traffic of the country shall be at the mercy of a few private companies, instead of its being, as I think it ought to be, in the hands of persons responsible wholly to the nation, and that the means of locomotion should be used solely for the benefit of the people. This is the conclusion I draw from the evidence, and the facts that are before this House; and which have been elicited through various Committees and Commissions for several years past, but more especially by the evidence and Report of the Select Joint Committee of last year. Now, Sir, I dislike as much as any man interfering with private enterprise, but we are already doing it in what seems to me the worst possible way; we are interfering and attempting to control the working of railways without undertaking the responsibility. We have done it to some extent already this Session, by passing the Railway and Canal Traffic Bill. I admit that under the present system some such action as that contained in that Bill may be worth trying; but I must confess I do not expect very much good will arise from it to the public, though it may be of benefit to Railway Companies in facilitating working arrangements among themselves. However, this Bill may probably be productive of some trifling use in the carriage of goods; but the hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) proposes to tread on much more dangerous ground—to enforce rules and regulations upon Railway Companies by law that will either be only a ridiculous and imprac- 194 ticable course of legislation, and which will lie as dead as so many Acts of Parliament have already clone, or else it will be the commencement of a plan of a divided management that will undoubtedly have the effect of separating control from responsibility. Nothing seems so dangerous to my mind as this, and I feel sure that few things would be more unsatisfactory to the British public than that of being unable, after some unfortunate accident, to decide if the fault lay in the control of the Board of Trade or in the management of the Company; and it would seem to me most unfair to Railway Companies to mulct them in heavy damage for compensation, when you force upon them your own rules for the management of their lines. But I should like to quote the opinion of one or two gentlemen upon this point, which corroborates what I have said upon the subject, and I only quote them as examples of the opinions of a great many others; and doubtless the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Board of Trade will repeat such an opinion this evening. Upon the second reading of the Railway Companies' Bill in 1871—a Bill brought in by the right hon. Gentleman—the President of the Board of Trade, said—It was essential that the power should remain with the managing body of these great enterprizes, and interference by a Government Department in the manner provided by the Bill would have the effect of separating responsibility from power."—[3 Hansard, ccv. 27.]And then before a Committee of this House, Mr. S. Laing said—If the Board of Trade can see their way to take the responsibility of what shall be done, and therefore assume the responsibility for the safety of the public on railways, I, as a director, should not object.…. I should be very glad indeed if the Board of Trade would pronounce authoritative decision, I should feel was free from responsibility if I obeyed.Before the Select Committee of last year, Mr. Cawkwell, the manager of the London and North Western, was asked by the Marquess of Salisbury if he could be responsible for human life, if anyone but themselves arranged the time table, and he answered distinctly "No." I do not wish to give further quotations; but anyone who has studied the evidence given before the Select Committee of last year, will be able to see how much it tends against this sort of interference without responsibility, that, as Captain Tyler says— 195Dual management would be destructive of efficiency, and would only tend to constant difficulty and dissatisfaction.And this would make us consider how far the Railway Companies could be forced to allow interference in their working, and if we look at the power Railway Companies have always had in the past, and the power they now exercise, is it likely we shall be able to force upon them rules and regulations that can at all be called arbitrary or inquisitorial? I think not, and when we look at this power which they have always exercised, I cannot imagine we should be able to force upon them Board of Trade Regulations, even if such interference were desirable. And, also, how would this affect the plan of compensation for death and injury? If you force your rules for the working of railways upon the Companies, should you be able to enforce the £300,000 or £400,000 you now annually make the Companies pay for the death or the injuries of travellers? I imagine, in justice, we should certainly have to give up this claim upon Railway Companies. And I would leave the idea of whether it is desirable to interfere with the internal arrangement of Railway Companies, and see how far such attempts to grapple with the difficulties Lave succeeded, and how far we have been able to control Railway Companies with legislative interference by this House. I do not want to drag the House through all the Committees and Commissions that have attempted to manage Railway Companies, nor to discuss all the Bills that have been before this House with similar intentions; but I must mention a few of more recent times, because it is partly owing to our experience of the past, that I have such little hope of any alteration in the future. The hon. Member having pointed out that the Acts obtained from 1801 to 1821 appeared to have been for a kind of tramway used for carrying goods and heavy merchandize, said that the series of Acts relating to steam power for drawing passenger trains commenced in 1823; and proceeded to trace the history and recommendations of the various Commissions and Committees appointed to consider the question which resulted in the Railway and Canal Traffic Bill of 1854; and the Commission of 1865–7, and then proceeded. And now, Sir, I must call attention to the proceedings of the Select 196 Joint Committee of last year, and it is from the Report and proceedings of that Committee that I am led to the conclusion that it is most important we should consider, and that thoroughly, the position we are getting into with our present railway system. It is universally admitted that this Committee was a most able one, that it took immense pains to arrive at a full consideration of our railway system; that it issued a most important Report; but that, appalled by the size of the question, it dared not face the only actual logical conclusion to arrive at, and hence the recommendations and results that are to be obtained will be utterly unworthy of the work and ability of that Committee. I will not detain the House by referring at any length to that Report, but I must make a short reference to its conclusions. It appears that after carefully hearing most important witnesses, and affording the public a vast amount of information, one conclusion they came to was that competition by sea existed and should be preserved. Well, I admit some competition by sea does exist, and if we only keep free ports such competition will exist, and without any necessity for the interference of Parliament at all. But what has this sea competition to do with the bulk of the passengers and goods traffic of this country? Then the Report refers to canal competition. I admit there is a small amount of this sort of competition, but it is miserably small, and though the Select Committee say it is advisable for us to keep this, I think it must be evident that by degrees the few canals which are not in the hands of Railway Companies, will, either by amalgamation, combination, or agreements, soon cease to be practically available for competition with railways, as they are now quite useless for all travelling purposes. Then the Report refers to some things which are impracticable, others that are undesirable, and goes on to recommend the establishment of the Commission, as has been done by this year's Railway and Canal Traffic Bill. I can only repeat what I said just now, that I believe when this Bill is found to contain so small a benefit to the public, and to accomplish so little for them, this Commission will probably share the same fate that befell that appointed in 1845. But if the recommendations that have been made by the members of last 197 year's Committee are miserably small, they have, at all events, ended by proving pretty clearly that they have comprehended the great difficulties of our present railway system. They conclude their Report with these ominous words—If the above recommendations are adopted by Parliament, they will not have the effect of preventing the growth of railway monopoly, or of securing that the public shall share, by a reduction of rates and fares, in any increased profits which the railway companies may make.Whatever doubts we may thus have about the smallness of the Committee's recommendations, no one who looks at these words and the rest of their Report can come to any other conclusion but that they have apprehended, if they have not expressed, the future of railways. I have referred to some of the Committees and Commissions that have been sitting upon railway matters, and I would ask—What do they all mean; and what is the result? At first railways were only intended or expected to be a sort of improved high roads, free to anyone. That proved impossible; then for more than 30 years Parliament has believed that competition would be the means of controlling railways, as it does ordinary trade matters. This has also failed, for competition by sea and canal is not of any practical value as compared with railway traffic, and the competition among Railway Companies has ceased with the amalgamations, and combinations, and agreements which exist among Railway Companies. We have, unfortunately, found it so far from our own experience; but the Select Joint Committee have put the whole fact so plainly before us that I must trouble the House with one more quotation from their Report—
I do not imagine that anyone would dispute the rate at which amalgamations have been going on; but one thing is rather noticeable—that while in 1845 an Act was passed prohibiting all such amalgamation without a special Act of Parliament, the London and North-Western Railway Company has attained since then to its present size by no less than 61 amalgamations, thus showing how little power we have had, because, while the Reports of the Committees of 1844 and 1815 tend to discourage amalgamations, yet in 1816 there were actually nine amalgamations of the North-Western, and the year following there were seven more. This is the history from first to last, so that although Parliament has been very jealous of these amalgamations, they have proceeded so quickly that more than two-thirds of the Railway Companies have disappeared. Since, then, it cannot be disputed that these amalgamations must and will take place, it is well for us to look the fact fairly in the face; and I fully believe amalgamation has very much improved the accommodation given to the public, and if it could be safely relied upon should be aided rather than prevented, though I am bound to say I do not agree with the proposition of the Prime Minister, made during the discussion on the Purchase of the Irish Railways. He was inclined to offer inducement to the Irish railways to amalgamate by—after such amalgamation had taken place—advancing loans upon moderato rates of interest. Upon my view of the question, it seems as though by thus encouraging amalgamations we should simply be helping them to obtain a better bargain eventually from the State, and bring the Irish railways into the same state of difficulty that is now the case with our English railways. And since it is pretty clear that this system of amalgamation must and will go on, I would ask—what are our railways coming to in the future? And the answer is that before many years are gone the country will be mapped out into a few great districts, each district being in the hands of some monopolist Company, and the Railway Companies generally agreed not to invade or trespass upon each 199 other's district. And this is no distant state of things; there are plans put forward by which the number of Railway Companies shall be reduced to four, each having a district of its own; and while by this plan we shall have all the evils of a divided management, we shall have these few companies quite combined to defend themselves from any attacks by the public, and thus to all intents and purposes as strong and selfish as one single company. Are we prepared to allow the whole traffic and travelling of this country to be in the hands and at the mercy of a Board of private individuals responsible not to the public for the public good, but only to a body of shareholders for the largest possible dividend? And what else could we expect of directors elected by the shareholders of railways? When the Railway and Canal Traffic Bill was under discussion some weeks ago, the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. Denison), who avowed himself a railway director, said plainly "His duty was to protect the rights and interests of a great body of shareholders." If the hon. Member in this House thinks that to be his duty, how could we expect him or any other director when at Board meetings to remember the rights and interests of the public? And what said the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid) when he moved the Amendment to the Motion of the noble Lord (Lord Claud Hamilton) for the purchase of Irish railways? He said, that at one time the directors ate up all the earnings, but the shareholders stepped in and said "You shall do what is best for us." Well, Sir, where are the interests of the public, when the interests of the shareholders have to be considered? On this point a question strikes me at once. If the motive for good management of railways now is their self-interest, where are we likely to be now that dividends are reaching generally so high a per centage? The single motive for the good management of railways will be gone, and the shareholders, not investigating the accounts of their Company, will allow the directors to waste or job away any amount they please, to the benefit of neither public nor shareholders. I think it is pretty certain we may say that the interests of the public are only to a very limited extent the interests of the shareholders, for it is obvious that it is cheaper for a 200 Railway Company to carry one passenger for a sovereign rather than two passengers at the rate of ten shillings each. And if we have much communication with Railway Companies, we are bound to see that they know they have a monopoly, and that the public are entirely at their mercy. When the hon. Member for Orkney (Mr. Laing) moved for the remission of the Taxes on Locomotion, he said—
- "1. That Committees and Commissions carefully chosen have for the last 30 years clung to one form of competition after another; that it has, nevertheless, become more and more evident that competition must fail to do for railways what it does for ordinary trade, and that no means have yet been devised by which competition can be permanently maintained.
- "2. That in spite of the recommendations of these authorities, combination and amalgamation have proceeded at the instance of the companies without check, and almost without regulation. United systems now exist, constituting by their magnitude and by their exclusive possession of whole districts monopolies to which the earlier authorities would have been most strongly opposed. Nor is there any reason to suppose that the progress of combination has ceased, or that it will cease until Great Britain is divided between a small number of great companies. It is,
198 therefore, of the utmost importance that the actual facts should be clearly recognized, so that the public may become acquainted with the real alternatives which he before them."Railway Companies were no lovers of strikes; but if they refused some day to convey third-class passengers from London to Scotland, in 24 hours except on account of this Government duty, no Government could withstand such a pressure as would be put upon them."—[3 Hansard, ccxv. 437.]These words of the hon. Member I am not wishful to take as a threat, but the only inference I can draw from them is, that not only can they put the public to inconvenience, but that if the Railway Companies believe they have a grievance against the Government, it is in their power to act upon it through that public inconvenience, so that the Government of this country shall bow to their opinion, and lay their financial proposals at the feet of the Railway Companies. And then, a short time ago, another example of this railway rule was brought under my notice. The Railway Companies last autumn advanced their rates for the carriage of goods on some articles as much as twenty, thirty, or forty per cent. The manufacturers of one town, I am told, met and objected to such an advance, requesting an interview. What was the reply of the Railway Company? That they would be happy to meet the manufacturers, but they could hold out no hope of any abatement of the increased rate. And what could the manufacturers do? Why, they could only submit to the decree of the Railway Company, who have perfect arbitrary power to levy what they think is best for their own interests, without respect to the trade of the country; and if we want another instance, we have it at our very doors, for though it may have been to the interest of the Metropolitan District Railway to raise its fares on the first of this month, it cannot be said it was to the interest of the public. If, then, I look forward with great dread to the pretty certain system of arbitrary power that will exist in the hands of a body of private individuals, trading for 201 their own self-interest. I cannot omit to mention other reasons for objections to the present system of railway management and control. If we look at the way Acts of Parliament are obtained, we can only come to the conclusion that there is an immense waste of time and money in obtaining those Acts. And then, when they are obtained, look at the expense in maintaining the position and monopoly of a Railway Company. There are numbers of counsel and solicitors engaged, and numbers of witnesses for and against the Bill, some to prove that the line is wanted by the public nominally, but really generally that it is wanted by some rival Railway Company to obtain possession of the district of another Company. Hon. Members who have sat upon Railway Private Bill Committees know pretty well what a waste there is, when, year after year, the same Bills for the promotion of new lines are brought before this House, and after an immense cost to both parties, are thrown out. The legal and Parliamentary expenses for the railways of the United Kingdom in the Return of 1871 amount to £250,000, but this must represent only a portion of the expenses, because numerous officers of the Companies, with immense staffs of assistants and clerks, are engaged in this Parliamentary warfare, and their expenses are paid out of other details of expenditure; and I should like to know how much of the time of Boards of Directors and general managers is spent in attending to the safe and economical working of their line, and how much to the relations of the one Company with another? Last year, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Sussex (Mr. Dodson) made a vigorous attempt to amend the Private Bill legislation of the House. That attempt has not at present been successful, and one reason apparently has been that the great Railway Companies have obtained their Acts pretty satisfactorily and expensively, and they do not wish to see Acts of Parliament made cheap and easy for any new Companies that may arise. Then look at the number of competing lines that have been made all over the country, and the number of competing trains that are running—not running in a fair competition, because that is all stopped by combinations, and agreements among the Companies, but running in such a way that, while it is wasteful to the Company, 202 does not give the full facilities to the public. And all these nominally competing trains and lines mean a great number of extra stations and a most unnecessary staff of officers to check the accounts, and work and manage the business of each Company; instead of carefully working only for public facilities, they have to follow the example of the hon. Member for Yorkshire, and work for the separate interests of the Company in which they are primarily interested. If anybody has any doubt about this, he should read the evidence before the Joint Select Committee. It is evident that while the Railway Companies are persuading Parliament of the many advantages to be gained both to themselves and the public, they are practically proving the greater gain that would result from a complete unity of management altogether. Mr. Cawkwell, in proving the advantage of the amalgamation of the London and North Western with the Lancashire and Yorkshire, referring to central management, says—We have, I think, eight joint committees for the management of joint lines and joint properties in one way or another; amalgamation would do away with that.Then he adds after—There would be a considerable saving, be cause the whole property would be used for the best advantage of the whole amalgamated concern.And then Mr. Cawkwell goes on to show how much better it would be at the various stations of the Companies; and he instances Preston and Huddersfield, and the Victoria Station at Manchester, upon which his evidence is rather too long to read to the House. Then, take the expense caused by the immense quantity of empty rolling stock that has to be taken all over the country, impeding the traffic, causing extra risk through the increase in sire and number of trains and the consequent useless wear and tear always going on. It is very difficult to estimate the actual amount of superabundant rolling stock always in motion; but Mr. Cawkwell says—We could work the stock better. I explained before about the better fitting of the trains, and by working the waggons and carriages and the different rolling-stock ns one, we should not have so much running of empty waggons to and fro, because we should use each other's stock to the best advantage.I have heard of one general manager representing that his estimate of the 203 saving in this moving rolling stock would be one-third; and from conversation with the district managers of Railway Companies, I am told that it would be impossible to estimate the advantage that would accrue, because only those who have to arrange the intercommunication of various Companies, can tell the waste of power that goes on; and one remarkable fact is, that although general managers and Boards of Directors may wish to keep things as they are, yet the other responsible officers of Railway Companies I have met with, confess the immense advantage that would result from unity of management under Government. And, when we consider the waste of energy there is in the unnecessary number of servants at each junction of line, I cannot forget the huge system of the Railway Clearing House. I do not know the number of persons there employed, but I am told there must be about 1,000 or 1,500 clerks, whose business is to classify the amount due to each separate Company. Well, of course, if there were were but one management there would be no occasion for all this work, and the Railway Clearing House officials would be removed to a more legitimate sphere—that of working the railways directly for the public, and the saving effected by the abolition of the chief duties of the Clearing House would not be a small one. I have only mentioned a few of the wasteful results of the present system; had time permitted, I would have gone through more, especially referring to the system of compensation which I hold to be at present a vicious necessity, and could be met much more fairly by a species of insurance, but the hon. Baronet has referred so completely to the evils connected with accidents, that I need not and will not trouble the House further, as it is only in the conclusion he draws that I differ from him in a great deal of what he has said. We are often told the shareholders pay for all these frequent railway errors and mistakes: this is quite a fallacy; the shareholders nominally suffer, but the real loss falls on the public. We are beginning now to see that all the waste and bad management of railway directors affect each one of us as much as the shareholders, for we pay for all this in the fares for passenger traffic and the rates for goods. I have no doubt that most of us in travelling on the Con- 204 tinent have noticed the difference of fares between England and the Continental States; but I do not expect it is generally known that of all the countries of Europe, our own is the dearest for travelling on railways. I do not think the figures are quite the same now as they were some time ago, and it is possible, that taking the bulk of the English railways, they may be rather lower now than in 1866, but Mr. Gatt put a statement before the Royal Commission of 1866 which showed that while you could travel in Belgium for 100 miles first-class for 6s. 6d., and in Prussia for 13s., in the United Kingdom it would cost 18s. 9d.; and now, according to the lowest first-class fares on the English railway you would have to pay 16s. 8d. I take these countries, because in Belgium the state has always owned so much of the railway system, and so well has it answered, that, before long it seems probable that all the lines of that country will belong to and be managed by the State; while in Prussia, about half belong to the State, and the other half to private companies. Then I will venture to give another statement taken from a book that we all of us consult pretty often, and Bradshaw tells us that we can travel in Belgium for about 1d. per mile against 2d. per mile in England first-class; four-fifths of a 1d. against 1½d. for second-class; and a ½d. per mile against 1d. for third-class. And I would here make one comparison; the railways of Belgium have been greatly made and controlled by the State, and the charge is about one-half of what it is in England; the average price of telegraphic messages in the time of companies was a little over 2s. per message. Now the Government is in possession of the telegraphs, telegraphic messages can be sent for half the price, that is, 1s., and I do not think anyone will complain that the service is worse performed. If the fares for passenger traffic on our railways are dear, what is to be said about the rates for our goods traffic? There is some difficulty in obtaining an accurate idea of what the charge for goods traffic may be; it is guided by no method, it is very unintelligible and it is impossible to guess what may be considered a fair rate, and what a most unreasonable one; but I think I may safely say, they are dearer in proportion, and very con- 205 siderably dearer than our passenger fares. A new tariff has been made for the Belgian State lines during the last few years, which rather modifies the one of 1862 for long distances, but as the tariff for 1862 was laid before the Irish Commission of 1868, and has been verified, and the alterations are not very great, I have taken that as a basis, until we can have an authentic table of present rates put before the House; and I am not surprised when I look at those tables that the Irish people bitterly complain of the charge on their railways. We find there that for the six classes of goods the charge is for Irish 10 miles, 2s. 6d., 3s. 3d., 3s. 9d., 5s. 6d., 8s. 9d., and 13s. 6d. Belgian 10 miles, 1s. 4d., 1s. 10d., 2s. 1d., 2s. 1d., 2s. 1d., 2s. 1d.; and a comparison of the charges for various description of goods on the English and Belgians lines shows a difference of 16s. 8d. and 10s. 1d. bar iron for 145 miles, and for silk goods insured of 65s. and 12s. 1d. for 94 miles. But I am told that, badly as our railways compare with those on the Continent for cost of freight, the anomalies on our own lines are far greater and more scandalous, and the way that small traders and those connected with the retail trade of the country are pillaged is inconceivable, and I will give one instance; for one class of goods the rate granted as a special rate to large manufacturers is 24s. while for small traders on the same line, from a station six miles nearer it is 40s. It will then be seen that while large manufacturers are paying nearly double the rate of Belgium, the small general trader of the country will be paying three or four times the Belgian rate. A short time ago the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) gave us rather a gloomy picture of the commercial prospects of the country. Well, Sir, when we know what Continental competition we have to contend with, and how much the item of carriage enters into cost of manufactures in this country, are we not putting a heavy load upon the private enterprise of this country? And though attempts will be made to disprove the figures I have laid before the House, I am convinced the great difference that exists between the English and Continental rates will sooner or later draw forth the angry protests of our English manufacturers. I hope I have shown to the House 206 that the present system of railway management is growing into a complete monopoly amongst a few Companies, managed by men not responsible to the public; that Parliamentary interference has not been productive of any benefit, and that nothing can prevent the whole traffic of the country being at the mercy of railway directors; that this system has been most extravagant both in construction and working of railways, and the hon. Baronet who preceded me has fully shown that it is not especially conducive to the safety either of officials or of travellers generally. And it will be also observed that this country, the cradle of railways, is not the first in the world, either for safety or economy of working. And the question arises, shall we be satisfied with things as they are, and if not, what course shall we pursue? I only know of three courses open to us. The first is—to leave Railway Companies alone, and let them arrange the traffic as they please, and amalgamate and. combine until they are the authoritative rulers of all inland traffic, thus trusting to the public spirit and insight of directors to act as leniently as they think fit. Does the past give us much hope that this is likely to be satisfactory to the country? I think not. The next course is—that you would try how far it is possible to control Railway Companies by Board of Trade Inspectors, or by rules and regulations that you may put upon them. The Report of the Joint Select Committee plainly shows that no attempts at control—less than that of taking the whole control—will end in anything but the entire triumphs of the railway interests, because you cannot separate power from responsibility. And. then, the only other course left open for us to follow is the one I suggest—namely, for the Government to take the railways into their own possession and manage them itself, on behalf of the country. By this course you have all the benefits that would arise both in facilities and economy from unity of management—the Board with whom this power would he having no interest to serve except that of the country. We should obtain lower fares and rates, thus helping the free communication with all classes, and materially assisting the trade of the country in its competition with that of other nations; we should enable the Post Office to further increase its 207 beneficial operations, and, though I am not inclined to fall in with the opinion that the taxes of the country should be raised by maintaining anything like present rates and fares, yet I believe we should generally have a balance of a million or two at the end of each financial year, that would go to reduce the National Debt. There are many other advantages that I could have mentioned, but I would rather occupy the time of the House in referring to the objections that are and will be raised against this proposal. I believe all the objections may be summed up in one word, and that word is "fears." I think I may safely say that every argument that has been used against the purchase of the railways by the State, has been urged before against the Post Office, the commencement of the Post Office Savings Banks, and lastly, the purchase of the Telegraphs; and yet, would anyone wish to see the conveyance and delivery of our letters in the hands of half-a-dozen private companies? Or, does anyone wish to return to the days of private telegraph companies? And so, when the great change may have been made in our railway management, people will wonder how it was we were so contented with the wasteful monopolies of the present day. Well, then, what are the objections that are urged? First and foremost is the one of the amount of patronage it would place in the hands of the Government of the day. I have heard a good deal of the evils of Government patronage; but all I can say is, I cannot imagine where such patronage would exist. The filling up the various offices would he with the Central Board, or with certain district powers, who for their credit in working the railways would fill up such vacancies with the best men they could select, and I say they are as likely to make as good appointments as are made by present Boards of Railway Directors; and reference is made to the effect upon elections with some 300,000 railway employés; that seems to me an argument that will not bear inspection; how many constituencies are there at the present time where 2 per cent of the population would be employed by the Government upon railways, and even granting that there were a large number in a few constituencies, is it a benefit or not to any Government at an election time? The 208 Government of hon. Gentlemen opposite was in power at the last General Election, but I cannot see that it was the slightest service to them in dockyard towns, where, far more than can ever occur by railways, Government control could be used; and has it ever been said that the Post Office, with 50,000 employés, has ever had anything to do with deciding an election? And if those influences have not acted before the introduction of secret voting, are they likely to act at all now? I cannot believe for a moment that vicious political patronage could exist; and at the first idea of anything of the kind the public, who keep so jealous an eye upon everything, would soon prevent it. And we must recollect that it is more likely that public opinion would be too vigilant—everybody almost travels upon railways, and everybody, more or less, understands somewhat of the advantages of the management of railways—and instead of there being any possibility of slurring over mistakes, the public will be more likely to be too exacting if any mistakes or errors are made. It seems to me that any of the evils that may arise from patronage are more likely to arise under the management of Boards of Directors than under that of a responsible Government. Then conies the argument of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, who says it is the duty of the Government to govern and not to trade; but he says very truly that this is an argument which should not be pressed when a great public advantage, amounting almost to a necessity, would be obtained. The right hon. Gentleman acquiesced in the purchase of the telegraphs. If an equal public advantage would be obtained by the purchase of the railways, how could he refuse? And is there any reason why our telegraphic messages and our letters should be carried more economically or safer than our bodies? I fully agree with the idea that a Government should not interfere further than is necessary with the action and enterprise of the people; but I believe there is as great a principle on the other side of this question, and that is that the roads which have become by the advance of science and engineering the great highways of this and future generations, should be as open and free to all classes amongst us as it is in the power of man to make them. Then, 209 another fear that people express is, that railways could not be managed and worked by the State. Why not? Why could not the best railway managers and directors form a sort of Board, responsible only to Parliament and the country, for the well working of railways? Cannot we believe that the skill and attention that distinguish some of our best railway managers would be given equally to the State, as are now given to railway shareholders? And why should not the various district managers be able to arrange and work the traffic in their various districts as well, and a great deal better too, when they have only to study the arrangements with a view to the public convenience, rather than, as they have to do now, to arrange it with a view of meeting, or not meeting the trains of other Companies lines? I maintain that, under such circumstances, the working of railways might be much more easily and better performed. Then, my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid) referred to the difficulties of controlling the operatives, and talked of gigantic unions and strikes. I say we have as much and more fear of that at the present time. And who is there so proper to deal with that as the Government, who would be compelled to see that justice was done to the employés as well as the public, and who would have the power of controlling such organization as might exist? But what are the facts of the case? We have had strikes amongst engine-drivers and porters; but when have we ever had a strike amongst dockyard men or any other Government servants? I do not pretend the Government can make it smooth and easy sailing for every class of their servants; but I believe they can be the best judges of what is due to their servants, and what is due to the public, because they know that erring on either side will only bring upon them public reprobation. And there have been complaints amongst Railway Companies' servants of long hours of work and underpay that my hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. M. T. Bass) has constantly been investigating, and which all of us must admit are, unfortunately, too often true. Another objection that has been raised to this proposal is this one—that if a new line is required it may become a hustings question, or it may prevent any new lines being made. There is no 210 doubt that it would prevent a number of nominally competing but really useless lines; we have now too many of such lines, because the public encourages the making of them with the vain hope of obtaining competition, but it really ends in a combination with the other Companies; and then the rates and fares have to bear the cost of the construction of these new lines, when the old ones were ample for the traffic. It seems to me a simple question, because there would be a special committee of the Central Board to consider all applications for new lines; and the only two things that would have to be proved would be that the line was really desired by the inhabitants of the district, and that it would pay the expense of construction and working, and the interest of money expended upon it. I do not imagine there would be much difficulty raised to the making of a new line, if the local authorities or some responsible persons would guarantee the safety of the expenditure, if reasonable proof could not be given of the probability of the new line paying expenses. The only other difficulty of any importance raised against this proposal is what may be called the financial one. If I do not state to the House how I believe this question may be met, it is only because there is very great difficulty in dealing with figures in a speech—especially such enormous totals as are contained in the value and income of Railway Companies. One of the first questions which is asked I find to be—Will it pay? I am bound to admit that a great deal more information will be required before a correct idea of the value of the present railways can be stated. I believe the Government did obtain accurate and proper information of the value of the Irish Railways, and there need be no difficulty in obtaining the value of the English and Scotch ones, I wish to avoid all figures, or I would have shown the absurdity of some of the calculations that have been put forward by some gentlemen connected with Railway Companies, put forward, I presume with the idea of obtaining a better price when the time arrives for the bargain to be made. I believe, however, there can be no doubt that the purchase of the lines by the State would be a remunerative transaction; and there are two essential reasons, putting aside the 211 question that Government could, under a watchful public, be more likely to manage the railways well and economically than a private company. I say one great advantage for economy will be found in unity of management. The late Mr. Graves, the respected Member for Liverpool, who was no theorist, but a cautious, prudent man, stated it as his opinion that with unity of management the working of railways would result in a saving of 25 per cent from the working expenses. From conversation with railway officials I am inclined to think that after a few years trial, 25 per cent would be rather under than over the estimate, but Mr. Graves' estimate would result in a saving of no less than about £6,000,000 a-year. I believe the other essential reason would be that, granted we had arrived at a fair amount of the value of railway property, the money would be had at a lower rate of interest by the security of the State, rather than by the security of a Railway Company. I believe, from these two sources so large a gain would be obtained, that a large reduction in the rates and fares would take place, and this would act as a stimulus to the trade and the travelling capabilities of the public to so great an extent, that the receipts would soon amount to the total before the reduction had taken place, when fresh reductions would be made. This is a tendency which we see over and over again in the revenue of the country, and it will undoubtedly follow in the railway management. I feel that I have said only a very small fraction of what might be urged in favour of so great a change. The railways of our country have been laid out without method or arrangement; they are dear beyond precedent, and precautions for safety are not readily adopted; also, the power that will lie in the hands of a few combined Railway Companies is opposed to the principle of a free and responsible Government, and must be a source of irritation and danger in coming years. What is to be our policy in the future? Are we to attempt to resist a policy of amalgamation, when such an attempt will fail, and is opposed to the interests of the country? Are we to follow the desires of the hon. Baronet and further control the working of railways, when we know that control without responsibility has always failed, and must always fail? Or, are we to take 212 the only logical course, and face the difficulty by taking upon ourselves the control and responsibility? We have already delayed this question too long, and I would appeal to the Government boldly to take a course which I believe is inevitable, and one which, the sooner it is undertaken the better it will be for the welfare and the prosperity of the country. The hon. gentleman concluded by moving the Amendment of which he had given Notice.
To leave out from the word "when" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the Railways of the United Kingdom should become the property, and be under the control and management of the State,"—(Mr. Lea,)
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, he hoped that the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lea) would excuse him if he declined to follow him over the wide field he had traversed on the subject of his Amendment. The question of the purchase of the railways by the State was of too vast importance to be tacked on to a Motion neither intended nor calculated to raise it. In respect to the real question raised by the hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson), he entirely concurred with what he had said at the outset. Whatever conclusions might be ultimately arrived at, he believed that such discussions as the one initiated by the hon. Baronet tended to produce great good, and to effect that object which they had all equally at heart—namely, to render more secure the lives and property of those who travelled by our railways. He had every reason to believe that the hon. Baronet had already conferred much benefit on the community at large by his previous efforts in the same direction. Without, however, meaning to lessen the importance of this discussion, or to weaken the attempts of the hon. Baronet, or any other Member, to improve the existing state of things, he thought it his duty to mention a few facts and figures in connection with this subject of railway accidents. The large increase in the number of accidents returned on our railways during the past year referred to by the 213 hon. Baronet was more apparent than real, and was due to the more accurate and searching character of the Returns, and not to an actual increase in the number of casualties. Since the year 1865 the number of accidents annually reported had continually decreased until last year, when they suddenly increased again; but it was a singular fact, and one which would afford a clue to the real state of things, that whereas the number of passengers killed in 1865 was 22, only 20 were killed in 1872. In 1850 the proportion of passengers killed to the total number of passengers was 1 in 4,500,000, whereas in 1872 the proportion was 1 in 19,000,000. In 1858 there were 139,000,000 passengers conveyed over the lines of the kingdom, and in 1871 that number had increased to 375,000,000. The number of locomotives in 1858 was 5,445, and in 1871 they amounted to 10,490; vehicles other than locomotives in 1858 were 175,000, and in 1871 they had increased to 311,000. It could not be said there was proof of such a formidable increase of accidents or of a railway carelessness and recklessness as to justify them in taking immediate action on the subject. He had no intention of deprecating the necessity of inquiries, the only question being whether the time had arrived for compulsory legislation. For his own part, he saw no reason why they need be contented with the present state of 1kings, or why they should tolerate the negligence of Railway Companies in not adopting those means of safety which were shown to be necessary. With all that had been said by the hon. Baronet on that point he was able to agree; but he must observe that this subject had not been neglected during the present Session, because great attention had been paid to it in the other House of Parliament. No one could fairly judge whether or not legislation on this subject was at the present moment necessary without having made himself master of the evidence taken before the Lords' Committee upon the Bill introduced by Lord Buckhurst. The hon. Baronet thought he had greatly improved the position of the question by not taking the course taken by Lord Buckhurst in the other House. He (Mr. Chichester Fortescue) was not able to agree with the hon. Baronet on the point. The hon. Baronet appeared to 214 think he was doing a kindness to the Board of Trade by not drawing a hard-and-fast line; but the hon. Baronet, if he (Mr. Chichester Fortescue) understood the Motion aright, proposed to impose on the Board of Trade an amount of power and discretion which no Department of the Government would be inclined to exercise, or the public to tolerate. Lord Buckhurst did not do that. He introduced a Bill which said in so many words that Railway Companies should supply two well-ascertained improvements—the block system and the system of interlocked signals. In the course of the inquiry on his Bill he was driven out of that absolute method of legislation, and proposed a provision which would afford time to certain railways to introduce these two systems, and made other exceptions. If there was to be any Bill of that kind, he (Mr. Chichester Fortescue) thought Lord Buckhurst's was the sort of Bill we must have. But the Committee obtained information which greatly affected their judgment. They found that the before-mentioned improvements were being introduced on the South-Eastern, the Bristol and Exeter, Midland, Lancashire and Yorkshire, Metropolitan, Caledonian, North Eastern, Great Northern, London and North Western, London and South Western, North British, and Highland Railways. Under these circumstances, the Committee recommended that the Bill should not be proceeded with during the present Session. They recommended however, that the Board of Trade should call for such information as might enable the Inspectors in their annual Reports to state the progress made in the adoption on all passenger lines of these improvements. Parliament would then be in a condition to decide whether more should be done to compel the adoption of them. It was evident that these improvements could not be produced in a day. The Committee recommended that Parliament should at least wait and see whether Railway Companies continued to introduce these improvements and fulfilled these large promises which they made to the Committee before resorting to compulsory legislation, which might be necessary, but which ought certainly to be avoided if possible. Of course, if every Railway Company was to be compelled under penalty to provide these 215 appliances, a very considerable time must necessarily elapse before they could make it compulsory. He quite agreed, however, with the Committee of the House of Lords in the belief that nothing was lost by their not resorting to compulsory legislation. If that had not been his belief, it would have been his duty to have brought in a Bill on the subject, and he should not have waited for the Resolution of the hon. Baronet. Considering, therefore, the difficulties of the subject, he did not consider its present position unsatisfactory, and he believed that the attention which had been bestowed upon it by the House of Lords and the House of Commons would have a powerful effect. With regard to the Returns from the Railway Companies, he proposed to bring in a Bill upon the subject before the close of the present Session, requiring them to furnish Returns of the extent to which they are introducing the block system and interlocking signals. With these explanations he trusted the hon. Baronet would rest satisfied.
regretted that the right hon. Gentleman should have risen so soon, because, as the House was in a few minutes to be subjected to the Parliamentary process known as "a count," independent Members had no opportunity of speaking, and the only result of the debate would be an official expression of opinion. He maintained that the figures adduced by the hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) were exceedingly misleading; indeed, in that respect they were only surpassed by the inaccurate figures of the hon. Member (Mr. Lea) who had moved the Amendment, which was by no means relevant to the question. He (Mr. Goldsmid) would be perfectly ready to meet the hon. Member for Kidderminster on the question he had raised; but as it had nothing to do with the Motion of the hon. Baronet, he did not propose to answer him now. The hon. Baronet recommended the use of the block system and interlocking as the universal panacea against railway accidents, and had quoted in support of it the authority of Captain Tyler. But what was Captain Tyler's own practice, where he could make his wishes respected? Why, Captain Tyler was an active Director of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada, on which line the system was totally 216 unknown. Now, on the subject of accidents, he (Mr. Goldsmid) desired to point out that for several years there had been a continuous decrease in the number of accidents on the railways of the United Kingdom, so that one of the safest places out of a house for an Englishman was in a railway carriage. There were more people killed in the streets of London every year than by the railways in five years. In 1847–8 one person was killed out of every 4,700,000 carried on the railways; while last year only one person out of every 31,000,000 carried was killed. Nor was this all, for there was yearly an enormous increase in the number of passengers carried, as well as in the number of miles travelled. The number of passengers carried in 1871 was more than 375,000,000, besides season ticket holders, whose number was over 188,000, and whose journeys were not counted. Moreover, the amount of compensation for railway accidents was decreasing every year, and the management of our railways would now compare most favourably with that of Continental lines. In France, where the railways were to a modified extent under Government control, all possible means were taken to conceal railway accidents, and the public had less security than if the lines were absolutely under the management of directors responsible to the shareholders and the public. Though he had no connection with any railway directors, he was certain that it must be their desire, as reasonable men, in their own interests, to lessen the number of accidents as far as possible. In the coaching days accidents were constantly occurring, but they were not noticed by the public. Again, railway servants who lost their lives frequently did so in consequence of their disregard of rules and regulations laid down for their special guidance and protection. How, then, could it be said that the directors were responsible for those accidents?
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
resuming, said, he had pointed out that the number of passengers carried was largely increasing, but it must be also remembered that besides this increase, there had also been an enormous increase in the carriage of goods, which complicated the 217 traffic; and that, notwithstanding this, the safety with which passengers were carried had increased. In 1871 more than 67,000,000 tons of general merchandize were carried by Railway Companies in the United Kingdom, and 102,000,000 tons of minerals in the same year, besides luggage, horses, stock, carriages, parcels, mails, &c., &c.; and yet the proportion of fatal accidents on the railroads with so enormous a traffic was only as 1 to 31,000,000. No other country could show figures so favourable, and as no sufficient reason had in any view been shown for the adoption of the Motion, he hoped the House would not agree to it.
§ MR. MONTAGU CHAMBERS
expressed his astonishment at the remark of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Goldsmid) to the effect that the safest place out-of-doors was in a railway carriage. If he (Mr. Chambers) walked through his park, then, it would be dangerous, and he had better go to the next railway station and get into a third-class carriage. If he happened to walk along a country lane or anything of the sort, it would be dangerous, and he had better walk to the railway station forthwith and get into an express train or an excursion train. That was the proper thing to do in order to be perfectly safe.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members not being present,
§ House adjourned at a quarter after Eight o'clock.