HC Deb 13 June 1879 vol 246 cc1832-68

, who had on the Paper the following Amendment:— That, in the opinion of this House, it is now the duty of the Government to take such measures as may be necessary to secure, within a fixed and reasonable time, the application to all Railway passenger vehicles in the United Kingdom of Continuous Brakes which comply with the conditions laid down by the Board of Trade as essential to public safety; said: If the House will give me its attention for a short period, I think I shall be able to state a case so strong that if Members were not convinced, the fault must be with the exponent, and him alone. I think it is incumbent upon me to show to the House, in the first place, that the danger to which we are exposed in railway travelling, and from which the use of proper brakes would save us, is of sufficient importance to call for the interference of Parliament. I hold in my hand an analysis of the railway accidents which have taken place during six years. I find that, between 1870 and 1876, there were 1,234 accidents which were of sufficient importance to be inquired into by officials of the Board of Trade; and of these, 952, or nearly four-fifths, might have been prevented, or mitigated, at all events—so the gentlemen say who have looked into the matter—by the use of efficient brakes. The yearly average of accidents investigated was 176. This large number might have been reduced by 136, in the opinion of the officials, by proper brakes having been used. Several of the accidents which have of late occurred have been of a very disastrous character. In one, at Wigan, 44 persons were killed or injured; at Skipton, 103 persons; at Norwich, 130; at Ripton, 72; at Armley Junction, 122; and at Newark, 59. The year 1877, as many hon. Gentlemen will remember, was a year singularly free from railway accidents. During that year 675 passengers and 176 railway servants were killed or injured by accidents to trains; and, applying to this year the proportion of the last six years, I have ascertained that in 1877 nearly 700 persons have sustained injuries by accident which efficient brakes might have prevented. In 1876 the numbers of killed and injured were over 1,300; in 1874 they were nearly 1,600; and the Board of Trade Returns just issued show the numbers killed and injured in 1878 were considerably more than in 1877–1,074 persons being killed or injured last year. I admit at once that these casualties, lamentable as they are, are inconsiderable compared with the enormous number of journeys performed each year—over, I believe, 600,000,000. But the House must keep in mind that the proportion of the public travelling habitually is small; and, therefore, the danger to which they are exposed is confined to a comparatively small number of individuals. I do not for one moment propose to complain of the general management of the railways of this country. On the contrary, when I think of the number of trains continually running, not only in daylight, but in the darkness—running, too, at an enormously high speed—I am filled with admiration at the organization, the skill, and the care which enable us to travel with only those dangers which we do now encounter. But whilst giving the Companies the utmost credit for the degree of safety they have obtained for us, I think the figures I have quoted show conclusively that there are still great dangers to life and limb for which it behoves us to adopt remedial measures. In the second place, it is my duty to show to the House, before inviting Parliament to compel Railway Companies to take such remedial measures, that the Railway Companies have been warned of the state of matters with sufficient urgency, and for a sufficient number of years, to justify the interference of this House. Evidence on this point is very abundant, as the question is no new one. But I will only trouble the House with one or two instances. I have heard hon. Gentlemen say that we have not given the Railway Companies time enough. My answer to that is that as long ago as September, 1858, the Board of Trade issued a Circular, in which they say the amount of brake power then habitually supplied to trains was in most cases insufficient to prevent the occurrence of accidents, and it was essential to the safety of trains going at a high rate of speed that the engine-drivers should have power to stop the trains, having had notice of the obstruction of the line, before they reach the obstructed point. From that day to this, for 20 years, the Board of Trade has been continually knocking at the door of the Railway Companies to give sufficient brake power. I ask hon. Gentlemen do they not read with pain these Returns made every year of the number of casualties, carrying mourning and sorrow into so many homes, seeing that they might have been avoided had proper brakes been adopted? For 20 years the Board of Trade have been warning and remonstrating with the Railway Companies, and one would have thought they would by this time have given up the task in despair, and have called upon Parliament to assist them in enforcing what was required. The tone of remonstrance has now been superseded by one of threatening. This tone culminated in August, 1877, in a very significant intimation—one in which I most cordially approve. Last year was passed an Act which gave warning to Railway Companies that if they did not adopt a proper system of brakes they must be compulsorily interfered with. I have said enough to show that the Companies had warning sufficiently urgent and for sufficiently long a period of time to justify the interference of this House. Now, I am going to lay before the House the manner in which these warnings have been received, and to show the House what has been provided in this essential matter for the public safety. I take, first, the London and North Western Company. They use a brake, regarding which the Board of Trade wrote to the Company in March, 1877, in the following remarkable terms:— The Board of Trade desire me again most seriously to urge upon the Directors the necessity of re-considering their system of brakes. Inquiries and experiments have shown that there are brakes which fulfil the conditions mentioned in the Board of Trade Circular, and should the London and North Western Railway Company, after such experience as that afforded by the present case—an accident near Warrington Station, in which the brake was proved to be quite ineffective—hesitate to adopt an efficient continuous brake, and to issue and enforce such regulations as will insure its proper working, the confidence of the public in the earnest and anxious desire of the Company to do all that lies in their power to secure the safety of railway travellers will be at an end; and in the event of a casualty occurring which an efficient system of brake might have prevented a heavy personal responsibility would rest upon those who are answerable for such neglect. But there is an opposition on the part of the London and North Western Company to give preference to a self-acting brake. At the recent half-yearly meeting, Mr. Moon, the Chairman, stated 'that the directors set their faces against self-acting brakes; and, further, that he did not believe any man in his senses would say they ought to risk their trains with a self-acting brake. That is a policy which has been most consistently followed by that Company. They have fitted 600 brakes since the Circulars of the Board of Trade wore published, every one of which was not in accordance with these conditions. The London and North Western Company not only thought itself powerful enough to treat with absolute contempt and indifference the Circulars of the Board of Trade, but they flew at higher game, and defied the authority of this House. A Royal Commission was appointed in 1874, and reported in 1877 as follows:— We recommend that the Railway Companies should be required by law, under adequate penalties, to supply all trains with sufficient brake power to stop them within 500 yards under all circumstances. Now, this was proposed by men who, according to Mr. Moon, are not in their senses; and he went further, and said Parliament dare not pass such a Resolution. The London and North Western Railway Company carry about one-tenth of the whole passenger traffic of the United Kingdom. The Queen and Royal Family go by it twice a-year to Scotland. Yet on this line they are habitually using a brake so inefficient that the Board of Trade warns the directors that "they incur a personal responsi- bility by continuing to use it." This is a cogent reason for the interference of Parliament. Then, take the Midland Company, they use six different brakes, some of which are in accordance with the conditions of the Board of Trade, and some of which are not; but, surely, they should be uniform. The Midland Company go in for a large variety of brakes which, I believe, in the end will land them in great confusion and enormous expense. The Great Northern Company adopted a continuous brake at an early period, and showed that they were very enlightened in doing so; but, unfortunately, the brake does not conform to the conditions now laid down by the Board of Trade, and I cannot help thinking that it is unfortunate that the directors should go on making brakes which it is absolutely certain must be replaced very shortly. The Caledonian Company, I am sorry to say, as a Scotchman, have been experimenting with brakes for eight years without any result at all. The North Eastern Company intimated a year ago that they had adopted a brake which they meant to apply over all the system; but I do not find that they have succeeded in carrying out this excellent resolution. I have been informed—rightly or wrongly I do not know—that the Companies, believing that the Government intend immediately to legislate in the sense of the Resolution I have laid upon the Table of the House, have stopped the little progress which they have been making in the matter, and are waiting, with folded hands, to be delivered by this House out of a dilemma which is really painful, but from which, I believe, they are perfectly unable to extricate themselves. I think I have shown the little progress which has been made; but the most alarming fact is that this little progress has been in entirely a wrong direction. The larger proportion of the brakes fitted do not conform to the conditions laid down by the Board of Trade as absolutely essential to the public safety, and to the uniformity which is absolutely necessary. The money part of the question is a subject for the shareholders to decide; and it is time they should see that the majority of the Railway Companies are providing brakes which need not be renewed in a few years' time. But we have to deal with the safety of our countrymen and countrywomen, and if the Railway Companies do not conform to the rules and opinions of the Board of Trade it is time that Parliament should interfere. Just look at the position of other countries with regard to the matter. America is the most advanced of all countries in the adoption of these brakes. There is good reason for that, as most railways in the United States are unfenced. About nine or ten years ago, they began to use continuous brakes. So satisfactory did the plan turn out, that now three-fourths of the passenger vehicles in the United States are so fitted, and the question is being discussed whether they should be applied to goods trains. It is believed in. the United States that in two or three years continuous brakes pay for themselves in preventing loss to property and life; and it is a remarkable fact that the Railway Companies find it utterly impossible to get engineers, stokers, or guards to take charge of any train which is not fitted with an efficient brake. I was told the other day, on good authority, that employés of railways in this country—engine-drivers, stokers, and guards—are unanimous in favour of the measure I now propose. In Canada these brakes are in use over half the railways. In Belgium the Government have adopted a brake which is now in use over all the Belgium State Railways. The facts with regard to France are very remarkable. France was very slow to take up this question. A year ago, scarcely a single train in France was fitted with a continuous brake; but now there are as many trains so fitted in France as in the United Kingdom, and they are proceeding at such a rate that they will outdistance us very soon. I will not trouble the House with facts concerning Germany, Austria, and some other countries. All are taking up the question with great interest. Our Australian Colonies and India are also discussing the question; and since I entered this House, I have been informed that the Board of Trade of Holland had recommended the Chambers to compel the Railway Companies of that country to adopt before the 15th of May, 1880, a continuous brake answering, in all respects, to the conditions laid down by the Board of Trade. England does not shine much in this matter, considering the time since we started railways and the wealth we have. What is the explanation of so disappointing and unfortunate a result? I do not think anyone who has watched the progress of this question believes for one moment that Railway Companies have really set to work in earnest to meet the requirements of the Board of Trade in this respect, or the question would have been settled long ago. The jealousy of experts is very well known. Some of them have brakes of their own, and others are interested in brakes which have been invented by their friends. Every Member who is connected with railways, who hears me, knows that this is the fact, and so does the Board of Trade; because in August, 1877, they invited the Railway Companies to consider this matter, and pointed out to them that their officers had not exerted themselves to satisfy the requirements of the public. Well, these differences do exist, and they exist to such an extent, and in such force, that I believe the interference of this House is absolutely necessary. I have no connection whatever with any Railway Company, and I have no connection whatever with any of those Companies which have invented continuous brakes. I never saw one of them, and I do not understand the matter in a mechanical point of view at all. But I do not think that it is necessary that we in the House of Commons should have any such knowledge, because we have a very wise counsellor in the Board of Trade. In looking through the Correspondence which has taken place with the Board of Trade with regard to this matter, I am very much struck with the wisdom which has been shown by that Department. I do not believe that there exists, either in this country or any other country, a Department of a Government which is actuated by so strong a desire to promote the public interests. It would be ridiculous in me to cite authorities in favour of this view; but I must thoroughly endorse a single sentence in a Report recently presented by Mr. Harrison, a Member of the Royal Commission on Railway Accidents, to the North Eastern Railway Company, which is to the following effect:— It is hardly necessary to repeat to you what I have recently said, that I entirely agree with the Board of Trade in the conditions laid down by them as being necessary. Now, what is the condition of affairs? For 20 years the Board of Trade has been pressing on the Railway Companies the necessity of adopting proper continuous brakes. We find that the Board of Trade, through the Royal Commission, did insist upon certain rules for the guidance of the Railway Companies. We find, further, that in 1877, the Board of Trade laid down the conditions which made up an adequate brake; and we find that in 1878, the Board of Trade, anxious to avoid, if possible, the use of compulsory measures, obtained an Act requiring Railway Companies to make semi-annual Returns of the use of the brakes. What has been the result of all their warnings? Why, we have got into a deadlock—a muddle, if I may so call it—which I believe to be hopeless, and which we shall never get out of by voluntary arrangements. The Board of Trade has done all that it could do in this matter, and done it well. The Railway Companies, it is confessed, are all at sixes and sevens. They have done nothing, or very little, and the little they have done has been so badly done that it will have to be done over again. In these circumstances, I think that Parliament is bound to step in and strengthen the hands of Her Majesty's Government by taking the course recommended in the Resolution which I have placed upon the Table, but which, I am afraid, I am not now able to move—namely, That, in the opinion of this House, it is now the duty of the Government to take such measures as may he necessary to secure, within a fixed and reasonable time, the application to all Railway passenger vehicles in the United Kingdom of Continuous Brakes which comply with the conditions laid down by the Board of Trade as essential to public safety.


The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Baxter) seemed to assume throughout his remarks that the Railway Companies are anxious to avoid taking the responsibility of accepting these brakes, forgetting that the Companies must, more than anybody else, benefit by getting the best that can be devised. It is true that the Board of Trade have laid down conditions which must be fulfilled; but they have not indicated which of the brakes, in their opinion, best complies with these conditions. We have four or five brakes in the market, all of which claim to fulfil, and some of which, undoubtedly, do fulfil, the conditions brought under our notice. The Companies naturally endeavour to find out, by comparison, which of them is the best for their purpose. To do that, of course, requires a considerable amount of time; but there is another difficulty which the right hon. Gentleman does not recognize, and that is the difficulty the Companies have of getting brakes when they require them. The Company with which I am connected has had in order, for a long time, one of the automatic continuous brakes, and we find it absolutely impossible to get the machinery delivered. It is not a question of cost at all, for the simplest and best brake will, in the end, be the cheapest; and it is for the interest of the travelling public, as well as of the Companies, that we should, before finally adopting a general brake for our railway systems, find out which is the best and which is the most simple. Of course, if the right hon. Gentleman had been able to move his Resolution, and the House had thought fit to carry it, one effect would have been immediately to cause that difficulty to which I have alluded to be very greatly increased. The patentees of those brakes would naturally have said—"Now that the Government are going to force you to adopt these brakes, we will double the price of them, and we will make a very good market out of your difficulty." That I think would be the first result of any such action on the part of Parliament. Then there is another consideration. All the brakes hitherto invented, although they do comply, as far as experiments have gone, with the conditions laid down by the Board of Trade, are more or less imperfect. Even those most highly in favour occasionally fail, and we have had failures even of the Westinghouse brake which might have had very serious consequences. Not only engineers and officials, but drivers and guards who use the brakes, are very much divided in opinion as to which are the best. Then the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman covers the whole ground of our passenger system; and it must be obvious to all acquainted with railway work that it is not necessary to have the same kind of brake for fast and slow trains. For one class of train, you may require a more perfect automatic brake than for the other. There are trains which run over branch and loop lines, which are composed not of passenger carriages only, but of milk vans, horse boxes, and other vehicles, which are detached at various points on the road. For such a train, which is broken up from time to time on its journey, the continuous automatic brake, with its special applications of pipes and valves, would be quite unnecessary; and I should think the House would not desire to impose on the Companies, in trains of this class, the obligation of placing that sort of brake on the whole of the passenger vehicles. Although the right hon. Gentleman says he has nothing to do with the cost, that is a very serious matter when it comes to be considered. The cost of an automatic brake, exclusive of fitting, for engines alone, is about £60, and from £27 to £30 for every other vehicle. The cost of fitting mounts up to a large sum; and, in fact, in the railway to which I have alluded, it would cost from £75,000, to £80,000 to put this brake on all our vehicles. In addition to that, there would be an annual charge for maintenance and repair of some £5,000 or £6,000 a-year more. The directors would not shrink for one moment, even from that large expenditure, if they were certain that they had the best and most efficient brake, and that they would not have to undo their work. The right hon. Gentleman dwelt very properly and forcibly on the folly of spending money on brakes that might hereafter turn out to be inefficient, and I can assure him that it is not the intention of the Companies to adopt any such course. If they have various types of brakes, it is simply because they wish to see by actual experiment which is the best for their purpose. I think it would be a very great pity if this question were pushed on by means of a Resolution of this House; and I am rather glad that, by the Forms of the House, it is impossible that such a thing can be done to-night. I do not complain of the right hon. Gentleman for raising the question, or for the way in which he has treated it, except that I think he spoke with a certain amount of harshness of the Railway Companies, which probably arose more from ignorance than any wish to deal unfairly with them. Having called the attention of the House and Government to this subject, I wish he would press the matter one step further, and ask the Board of Trade, when next they issue a Circular on this subject, to indicate a little more closely which brake they wish the Railway Companies to adopt. They will then relieve us from a considerable amount of em- barrassment. They will be accepting a serious amount of responsibility; but we shall know exactly to do what we ought to do.


said, he was confident that the Board of Trade would be very glad that the House should express a strong opinion on this important subject, as it would enable them to take up a stronger position towards the Railway Companies than they had heretofore been able to assume. It was remarkable to observe that in the past six years, while accidents from unsuitable or inadequate brake power had increased considerably, other accidents, from defective arrangements of points and signals, had decreased very largely. The conclusion he drew from this comparison was that there were accidents over which there was vast control if they wished to exercise it, and that accidents could be prevented. The hon. and gallant Gentleman, when he was sitting down, said he hoped the House would not be hurried into premature action; but no one could complain of too rapid action on this question. The rate was 3 per cent for the adoption of this system for the engines during the last six months for which the Returns were complete, and 4 per cent for the carriages. The progress had been very slow, indeed, and meantime accidents were occurring and lives were being lost. If there was one thing more monotonous than another in the Blue Books relating to this subject, it was the reiterated complaint of the Railway Inspectors—"If continuous brakes had been in use on this line, the accident would not have occurred," or "the effects of this collision would have been greatly modified." Reference had been made to expense. He had read that the cost of fitting the brake to an engine would be £100, and to a carriage £35; but he would ask the House to remember the expense the Railway Companies had gone to in applying different systems, simply from the absence of agreement among themselves to adopt one which excelled the others. The Americans had adopted the system of continuous brakes, and they found that the expense had been amply repaid by the increased safety of the traffic. Nobody supposed that one general system of continuous brakes could be established for all time. That was not what was asked. What was asked was this—that each Railway Company should adopt for itself a system of continuous brakes, which complied with conditions founded on just and true experience. The system of through trains now running on the Great Northern, North Eastern, and North British, showed that there was no difficulty in regard to traffic passing over several lines. Reference had been made by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baxter) to what was doing in foreign countries; and he showed that France in a short time would have all its railways supplied with efficient brakes, while the English Companies were wrangling with the Board of Trade. It was strange that the Chairman of the London and North Western Railway Company could have said what he had, with the recollection of an accident which occurred on his own line in 1877, which was of a peculiar character, and forcibly illustrated the necessity for continuous brakes. There was a gap in the line, 30 yards having been taken up, and of this there was 1,500 yards' notice to the driver of a train approaching at the rate of 40 miles an hour. It plunged into the gap at the rate of six miles an hour. An immediate examination showed that some tires were cold, some lukewarm, and some hot, showing that the brakes, under the management of four men, had been applied at four different times. Could anything more strongly illustrate the necessity of having a continuous brake system worked by one man from the engine and on his own responsibility? He (Mr. peel) was unwilling that attention should be called to this subject by any director being killed, on whichever side of the House he might sit. But he thought they would have had continuous brakes before this if a director had been in the position of a guard on an Irish railway, who, in the year 1878, was in a carriage, two wheels of which were off the line, and who had to go for three miles in that perilous position before the train could be stopped. There was no difficulty in pulling up and stopping a train of 100 or 200 tons while travelling at 40 miles an hour, within a distance of 200 yards; that difficulty had been got over; the important point was that there should be automatic action of the brake, and that information should be given to the man in charge the moment the brake ceased to be in perfect working order. To say that men would rely too much on a magnificent instrument was an odd argument against giving it to them for the protection of life. The failures that had occurred with continuous brakes furnished no argument against the principle of them, though they might tell against the mechanism of some particular application. Any system they could devise would fail, just as the energies of the human mind fail, or the physical powers of the human body would fail. The interlocking and block systems and other improvements occasionally failed; but that was no argument against their general utility. But the time had come when the Board of Trade ought to say to the Companies that they must agree among themselves upon some system or systems to be generally available over their lines. Of course, on small branch lines, where trains did not attain more than 25 miles an hour, it would not be necessary to provide the same brake power as for trains of a higher speed. He did not advocate compulsion or uniformity, for he objected to the State management of railways; and it would be only in the event of the Companies proceeding at too slow a pace that the State should interfere with their independent action.


said, that as a railway director he was exceedingly glad that this question had been brought forward. A discussion had taken place, and the views of hon. Members on the question could not fail to prove impressive, and they would be quite as effectual as the passage of an Act of Parliament, or even an Order made by the Board of Trade. He thought the time had arrived when some further pressure should be put upon railways in this direction. For the last four or five years experiments had been going on—experiments of every sort and every description of brake, whether steam, air, water, or any kind of mechanical contrivance. But although many of the brakes now in use complied with several of the requirements of the Board of Trade, yet he thought everyone must admit that no perfect brake had yet been found; and until that perfect brake, or one answering every requisite for the safety of the travelling public, was found, it would be most unwise to put power in the hands of any Department to insist upon the universal adoption of any particular brake. There were, he believed, some 40 or 50 different descriptions of brakes that had been applied on different lines. Two or throe of them, perhaps, would answer most of the requirements of the Board of Trade; and he believed there was one which might be said to answer almost all of the requirements, but even that was, in some respects, imperfect; but until it was known which particular brake was to be the brake of the future, he thought it would be most unwise to interfere by any compulsory action. The Railway Companies had not been so inactive in the matter as some hon. Members thought. Upon no fewer than 70 of our railway systems continuous brakes had been in operation during the last few years; and from the last Return of the Board of Trade it would be found that nearly 800 locomotive engines, and over 8,000 passenger carriages, had been fitted with a continuous brake. This, at a moderate cost, must have cost upwards of £250,000. As, however, there were nearly 4,000 locomotives and upwards of 30,000 passenger carriages used on the various railways of the United Kingdom, it might be said this was not a large proportion, and that there was ample scope for further experiments until this great deficiency was supplied. It would, of course, be invidious to call attention to particular railways; yet, as might be seen from the Return, there were many Companies that had done little or nothing in the way of adopting continuous brakes, while others had fitted up the greater portion of their rolling stock with them. There was need for pressure; and he, for one, should certainly maintain that the only question was how, and by what means, and to what extent, should that pressure be applied. It was now almost universally admitted that the modern appliances which had of late years been introduced into our railway system, such as the communication between drivers and guards, continuous foot boards, block signals, interlocking apparatus, and other minor improvements, had contributed largely to the diminishing of accidents; consequently those appliances, although expensive, had done; good. And, setting aside the saving of life and limb, they had been an improvement even in a pecuniary point of view. Therefore, it was to the interest of the Companies, considering the matter on the lowest basis, to adopt every such improvement. These appliances, introduced of late years, were at first looked upon with disfavour by the Companies, and with indifference by the public; and it was only fair to say that their adoption was mainly brought about: through the instrumentality of the Board of Trade. It was only due to the Board of Trade that this should be publicly stated, because they had no direct power to enforce the adoption of any of those improvements to which he had referred, but by the pressure they had continuously applied they had been able to effect these desirable objects; and he could not help thinking that even in this case, after the expression of opinion of this House, and after the expression of public opinion, which, no doubt, would immediately follow, that they would be able without any special Act to bring about a general adoption of continuous brakes. At all events, until it had been seen that they had failed to accomplish this, he thought it would be unwise to interfere compulsorily. There was, he believed, only one instance on record where direct legislative action had been brought to bear upon the application of any appliance upon our railway system. The Act of 1868 directed that some such efficient means of communication should be provided between drivers, guards, and passengers of trains as met with the approval of the Board of Trade. The Board of Trade signified their approval of a particular form of communication, and that form of communication was adopted by the railways; but for some reason or other the approval of the Board of Trade was soon withdrawn, and the Act of Parliament, therefore, became a dead letter. Assuming that the same course would be pursued in this case as was in that of communication between driver and guard, and it were provided that some specific continuous brake power should be applied to every train, it might so happen that the Board of Trade would specify a brake which, within a very short time, might be found not to be the best brake, and the consequence would be that the regulation would be disregarded, and the Act itself rendered worse than useless. That, he thought, would not be a very nice state of things to bring about; and he, therefore, objected to any direct Parliamen- tary interference until it had been shown what was the best sort of brake to be used. It would be desirable, before the Board of Trade issued any further notices of this kind to Railway Companies, that they should satisfy themselves more fully as to the requirements of railways. He himself would have suggested that there should have been some public trial, under the supervision of the Board of Trade, of every system of brake that was known to be in use on the various lines in the Kingdom, and that the trial should take place before a competent, and unprejudiced, and unbiassed body of men; because he quite agreed that there was a great deal of jealousy and partizanship on the part of the locomotive engineers and railway officials, which certainly had not tended to produce, so far, the best results. Engineers seemed to make up their minds in favour of one or other particular form of brake or principle, and they devoted all their energies, not towards improvement of continuous brake power in general, but towards the improvement of some particular principle they approved of, even to the exclusion of other systems. Such a trial, properly conducted, would conduce to the best solution of the difficulty, and they would thus have a reliable and unbiassed opinion as to which brake answered all the requirements most fully and effectually, and whether the brake selected might not still further be improved by the adoption and combination of some part or principle taken from another brake. He could not but think that Railway Companies would avail themselves of a brake which answered all the best requirements; because it was too manifestly to their interest, indirectly as competitors for traffic, and directly in the saving of life, that even if improvement generally considered efficient should be adopted in the system of railway brakes. The Board of Trade, no doubt, possessed the power of instituting this trial with the concurrence of the various Railway Companies, and that would be freely accorded; but, for the reasons he had stated, lie should deprecate any action by the House to clothe the Board of Trade with imperative power to enforce the adoption of a particular brake. He certainly, however, was very glad that the subject had been brought under discussion. He wished to make a few remarks in reply to the right hon. Mem- ber for Montrose (Mr. Baxter). He thought he was rather severe in his strictures on some railways. Speaking for the line with which he himself was connected, he could say that they had introduced a number of improvements, and he believed it was among the foremost to introduce the continuous brake; but the right hon. Member took exception to the introduction of a brake that did not comply with the requirements of the Board. He was not prepared to say that the brake they had in use did comply with the requirements of the Board; but he was happy to think that, at a comparatively light cost, it might either be altered to suit the particular brake which the Board of Trade desired to introduce, and he believed the brake itself might be made automatic. But one condition laid down by the Board of Trade appeared to him to be a condition that could not possibly be complied with. The words were—"In case of accident to be instantaneously self-acting." He could not conceive it possible that any brake could be instantaneously self-acting in every accident. A fruitful source of accident was the breaking or failure of axle, or tires, or wheels, or working. An accident might not affect the mechanism of the brake. It might be possible to apply the brake, and this showed the danger of laying down general principles of such a nature as this; and such specific definitions, on the other hand, would be laying upon the Board of Trade the responsibility which was now thrown upon the Railway Companies. He, for one, speaking quite apart from railway interests, should be exceedingly sorry to see that responsibility impaired or diminished, for he was perfectly certain that it was the best safeguard they had. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baxter) had referred to America; but it must not be forgotten that in America they had not the block signals which were in operation in this country, and that alone did away, in a great measure, with the necessity of continuous brakes. He did not at all mean to say that continuous brakes were not an additional protection. He believed they were, and that the time would come when they would be universally in use. But it was scarcely fair to institute a comparison with America unless the circumstances were similar. He had only to say, in conclusion, that he should be exceedingly glad if any means could be devised by which the Board of Trade should be clothed with additional powers to bring further pressure to bear upon the Railway Companies. But whatever action was taken he hoped the responsibility would not be transferred from the Companies to the Board of Trade, for if that were done one of the best safeguards to the travelling public would disappear.


thought the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) had done good service in calling attention to this very important and interesting, though complicated, subject. It was a very easy matter for the Board of Trade to compel the adoption of some particular system of brake; but very difficult for Railway Companies with enormous rolling stock to apply it. The London and North Western Company, for instance, upon which a severe attack had been made, possessed a rolling stock of 2,000 locomotives, 5,000 carriages, besides a very large number of trucks, cattle waggons, and other vehicles, and to such a Company it would be extremely difficult to adopt brakes which any crotchety person might introduce. He used this word, because, in reality, there were a good many crotchety people who invented brakes which wore never brought to perfection. The majority of the inventions generally went smoothly on trial; but when they came to be put into practice they very frequently resulted in absolute failure. He could speak on behalf of the London and North Western Railway Company in this matter, and he had no hesitation in saying that they, as well as other Companies, were fully alive to the fact that it was to the interest of the shareholders to adopt the best practical means which would conduce to the safety of the public. They had, he might say, the fullest confidence in their engineer, who was, he believed, more competent for the performance of the duties which he had to perform than anybody connected with the Board of Trade. Little or no allusion had been made in the course of the debate to the block system. He attached a great deal more importance to the block system than to the continuous brakes. That system conduced more to the safety of the public than continuous brakes would; and if the system were only thoroughly applied in every instance, little would be heard about such brakes as it was now desired the Board of Trade should enforce. He was inclined to ask if people were quite sure that continuous brakes would prevent accidents, because he had heard very different opinions expressed on the subject. He had heard good engineers and most ingenious people say that when the block system was properly applied, and men did their duty, the public were safer and better without the continuous brake than. with it. Continuous brakes were, no doubt suited to the peculiar circumstances of American railways; but in regard to England, trains were signalled from station to station, and the permanent way properly fenced in and free from obstacles. He agreed with those people who had doubts as to the wisdom of adopting continuous brakes on our railways. The Railway Companies wore in no way ceasing in their efforts; but were unanimous in their desire to do ail they could to protect the public; and, immense as was the traffic now, the accidents were far less than those in 1856. He asked in conclusion, whether, during the "battle of the brakes," which was still going on, it would not be preferable for the Board of Trade, as the guardians of the public, and also for the public themselves, that these things should be matured by the railways themselves, and by the ingenious gentlemen who were trying all sorts of experiments, rather than that the Government should insist upon any kind of brake, or upon what should be done at the present moment, and thus take upon itself the responsibility of that matter? He did not think the Government would do that, but that they would leave the responsibility on the shoulders of those upon whom it now rested.


The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Knowles) has expressed views with which I must say I cannot agree. He has stated them very broadly, and I assume that they embrace the views of the whole of the directorate and of the engineer of the London and North Western Railway. Those views are opposed to the principle of continuous brakes; and he gives us that statement as a reason against the indictment of the right hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) that the North Western continue to adopt a system of brake power which is not adopted on any other railway in the immediate neighbourhood, or, so far as I am aware, throughout the country. The hon. Gentleman told us also that his Board had a very confident opinion of the excellent qualities of their engineer. Well, Sir, other Companies have got engineers, and they do not, at all events, in the immediate neighbourhood of the London and North Western, agree with the engineer of the London and North Western. Let me say that the gentleman to whom the right hon. Member for Montrose referred at the outset of this debate, Mr. Harrison, a man whose experience, at all events, has not been exceeded by any other engineer of this country, who has probably made more railways and public works than most men, who has been as well acquainted with the working of the railways in the North of England, and who, in the first instance, entertained very considerable doubt as to the precise principle and system to be adopted with regard to brakes, has come to an entirely opposite opinion to that expressed by the hon. Member who has just spoken, and that of the engineer of the London and North. Western Railway. My right hon. Friend quoted the opinion expressed by Mr. Harrison on this subject some months ago. Sir, I hold in my hand the views entertained by Mr. Harrison, though there are parts of this communication which I shall not read, for I think it would be a great pity if we were to allow ourselves to enter into a consideration of the relative merits of different systems of brakes. I think some hon. Gentleman spoke of there being 70 systems of brakes in competition. Well, I have only heard of eight. There are only eight spoken of in the Report of the Parliamentary Commission, which lay claim to having been considerably experimented upon. But I had thought that, on the simple question of principle, all these experiments had led up to a result which the Commissioners who sat upon the Bill came to, and came to unanimously—namely, that the principle of continuous and systematic brakes was that which was required for the public safety. Well, Sir, as I have said, these Gentlemen having heard all the evidence, Mr. Harrison, who was a practical member of that Commission, joined in that Report, and in a letter which he wrote to me, as Chairman of the North Eastern Railway, he said— The question of brake power is one of such great importance, and so many different views and opinions are held about it, that I have thought it right to put in writing, for your information, my own views and the couclusions I have arrived at after most careful consideration of the whole subject. I will refer briefly to the circumstances which led the Railway Accidents Commissioners to make the recommendations they did in their Report. The evidence given by guards, engine-drivers, and others, soon showed that they had no accurate means of ascertaining the distance within which a train, at any given speed and with a given amount of brake power, could be brought to a state of rest; in fact, the distances, they stated, were more guesses. A series of experiments were undertaken, and they showed that in the normal condition of express trains, as then running on the principal lines in the Kingdom, it required a distance of from 800 to 1,200 yards to bring them to a state of rest when travelling at 45-to 48J miles an hour, this being much below the ordinary travelling speed of the fastest express train. Railway officials were not prepared for this result, and the necessity for a great deal more brake power was at once admitted. The Commissioners, after hearing a great deal of evidence, both before and alter the experiments, recommended, in their Report, that sufficient brake power should be applied to every train to bring it to an absolute stop in 500 yards; and you will see at once that though some of the general managers thought there was no difficulty in doing this in 200 or 400 yards, the Commissioners, in fixing 500 yards, looked at all the varying circumstances of bad weather, slippery rails, and bad gradients. I would hero call your attention to the fact that all the engine-men and guards examined gave evidence as to the necessity of having the control of the brake power primarily in the hands of the engine-men, but that the guards should also have a given amount of brake power. I now come to an officer of the Board of Trade, and one, at the time I quote, exclusively their officer. What did he say, in 1874? I am confining myself, at this moment, to the question of principle—namely, whether the continuous automatic brake, or whether that to which the London and North Western, or one of those to which some other large railways hold, is the right one. The Commissioners quote Captain Tyler's Report of 1874— That the brake should be applied at the will of the engine-drivers, and available in each part in the event of the train becoming suddenly divided. This means that the brake should be automatic, and the inspecting officers of the Board of Trade frequently refer to this point in their Reports on accidents, and express the opinion that in several cases the serious effects of accidents have been, and in others would have been, diminished by the action of the automatic brake. Mr Harrison goes on— My own opinion is strong that a really efficient brake should he continuous; that it should be primarily under the control of the engine driver; that when necessary, in emergencies, the guard should have the power of applying it, and that it should be automatic in its action, in case of a train dividing from any cause, and that it should be, as nearly as possible, instantaneous in its action. Now that, I repeat, is the opinion of as practical a man as any in the Kingdom. Well, the Board of Trade, holding the same views, sent to the Railway Companies, and urged upon them that they should take into consideration the views which had been expressed by the Railway Commission, of which Mr. Harrison was a Member, in the Report, and which I do not think I need refer to further, but upon which the Board of Trade have been asking that the different railways should adopt the principle of instantaneous automatic action. That is the requirement which has been made to all the railways in the Kingdom, not the adoption of any specific brake. Acting upon that requirement, the North Eastern Company at once set to work and adopted a system of brake fulfilling those requirements on their own railway. But there is no doubt that what has been said by the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Tennant) is quite true. There is the greatest possible difficulty in the case of half-a-dozen railways going into one another's lines. The brake of the North Western system, of which the House has heard, comes upon the North Eastern system at Leeds and Normanton. See the difficulty which arises. No doubt, it is a practical difficulty; and the Board of Trade will tell you to-night, as they have told you on former occasions, that they will not take the responsibility of determining these difficulties. They are as cautious as possible; but in regard to the question of uniformity of brake, they feel the difficulty of determining which is the best. There is one principle, however, which stands prominently forward, that of the brake being continuous and automatic, on which they are fortified by the opinions expressed by the Commissioners, but be- yond that they do not go. When the responsibility is left to the Railway Companies themselves, one Company cannot determine what brake shall be adopted by the other Railway Companies. Expense has been talked of; but I do not believe the Railway Companies would allow expense in this matter of brakes, any more than in the block system, to stand in the way. Whatever will increase the safety of the public on the lines of railway will, I believe, in the long run, bring to the Railway Companies a diminution of cost in that ugly item of compensation. That the principle of continuous and automatic brakes is the safest that could be adopted was the unanimous conviction of the North Eastern Company, and as soon as we were satisfied of this, we communicated it to the Board of Trade. Well, Sir, I am not sorry that this discussion has taken place, for I hope it will show the public that these matters are being very carefully considered. I do not know what the noble Viscount the President of the Board will do; but this I will say—that I should be very sorry if it wore supposed for a moment that directors do not reflect on what is best for the safety of our passengers. You have heard that the Great Northern Railway Company have considered the best mode of carrying their traffic; and, although theirs is a different brake to ours, the North Eastern at present carries on the traffic that comes from London to York forward to Edinburgh and the whole of Scotland. Persons should not be alarmed at the idea of carriages being pulled up within 500 yards. A great many experiments have been tried in different parts of the country, and the result of those experiments has been to show clearly that we can do what was supposed years ago to be utterly impracticable. The following is the result of experiments made by the Commission itself, and must be taken, therefore, as bonâ fide—it is the Report of men who are uninfluenced in any way in favour of any particular brake—namely, the Commissioners themselves, presided over by a most practical man in the Duke of Buckingham. Upon the experiments made for the use of the Commission, they say— On the whole, therefore, we think that if it be desirable to give to Railway Companies a rule for the future, the only plan will be to lay down the distances within which trains travelling on level ground at given speeds might tie brought to rest in cases of emergency, and these we should base on a stoppage similar to that before-mentioned—namely, that of 275 yards for a speed of 50 miles an hour, making a correction for speeds up to 60 and down to 30 miles an hour, in proportion to the squares of the rapidity, nearly as follows:—Running at 60 miles per hour, to pull up in 400 yards; 55 miles, 340 yards; 50 miles, 275 yards; 45 miles, 220 yards; 40 miles, 180 yards; 35 miles, 135 yards; 30 miles, 100 yards. Now, the maximum required by the Royal Commission is 500 yards. The Board of Trade, however, say that brakes must be instantaneous in their application. But to show the importance of coming to a right comparison between one system and another, it should be borne in mind, as stated by Mr. Harrison, that a loss of one second in getting the brakes in full action means a loss of 30 yards in distance; of two seconds, 60 yards; and of three seconds, 90 yards. When you consider this, the importance of the word "instantaneous" is appreciated. I must ask the House, in considering the question brought before it, to bear in mind the various circumstances to which I have adverted.


said, that the House was engaged in a discussion of a highly technical character, and he was somewhat surprised that so abstruse a mechanical point as the working of an automatic instantaneous continuous brake should have been made the subject of a positive Resolution by a Member of that House who had had no actual experience of the superiority of one kind of brake over another. he hoped, however, that they would not be dragged into the discussion of the merits of any particular kind of brake. Railway directors did not object to, but would, on the contrary, accept with gladness, the authority of the Board of Trade, wherever that authority was intelligently and wisely exercised. But a difference arose as to the principle of automatic and instantaneous action. It was very difficult to understand that difference, and he should despair of making it intelligible to gentlemen who had not had the means of informing themselves as to the arose of its working. It was one thing to get a brake on to the wheels, and quite another to get it off again. Without expressing any opinion as to the merits of any particular invention, he might say that at this moment there was not one in existence that was not subject to sudden derangement or accident in the regular working of trains. He might give an instance of an accident which came under his personal knowledge. It was the breaking of an axle on a Scotch express. The whole train was fitted with continuous and automatic brakes, and what was the result? The train stopped to a certain degree; but it was not thoroughly stopped. Some of the carriages dragged and got off the line, and the engine-driver saw that the only safety for himself and those under his charge was by making the train taut and bringing it quietly up to a stop. The brake in this instance had been applied; but by the swaying of the carriages the connecting tube was broken, but the engine-driver was thus enabled to avert a very serious accident. He would be sorry if the Board of Trade should make itself the patron, exponent, or advertiser of the mechanical invention of any particular patentee. That was not what was desired in a great Department of Government. Let all the inventions stand upon their own merits. The House had heard from the hon. Member for York (Mr. Leeman) what was Mr. Harrison's opinion. The opinion of that gentleman was entitled to the greatest respect; but all the most able with the least able were liable to a bias in one direction or another. The hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Tennant) had suggested that the Board of Trade should have a compulsory trial of all the continuous automatic brakes now competing for public favour. But he had one objection to that—and this had been in a measure anticipated by the hon. Member for Wigan—that was, that all experiments made under what might be called fair weather conditions, with a train prepared with guards, officials, directors, and patentees all present to insure the success of the experiment, was not the sort of success to stand the wear and tear of every-day work. That was one difficulty in the way of an authoritative trial; and another objection was that every month of the year, and almost every week of the month, brought nearer and nearer a solution of the question. There were inventions coming up every day, and it would be a grave misfortune if, by the premature action of that House or of the Board of Trade, the travelling public and the railway interest were to be deprived of the best invention. He was not at all opposed to pressure of a gentle and proper kind being brought to bear on the companies, to ensure that they did not go to sleep, and to show that the public would not submit to an indefinite retardation of the subject; but it was also of the utmost importance that the companies should not get into a wrong groove, from which there would be no return. With these remarks he would quit the question; and, speaking for the board of which he was a member, they would hail with the greatest satisfaction any invention fulfilling the conditions all must admit were essential to the public safety.


said, this question did not affect Railway Companies merely, or the public who travelled by fast trains. It affected in a very special manner working men employed on trains carrying heavy material, which were liable to many and grievous accidents. He hoped that when the question should be brought up again, it would be dealt with in relation to trains carrying heavy material. He trusted that the wisdom which had guided the Board of Trade hitherto would prevent it from giving a preference to any particular brake, but would content itself with laying down certain requisite conditions to be complied with, leaving to Railway Companies to choose any one brake which complied with these conditions; otherwise, when an accident happened, the railway companies would say that they had carried out the will of the Department, and the result was the accident which had occurred.


said, the subject was one of very great interest and importance, and he, and every hon. Member present, would appreciate the motives which had induced the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) to bring it forward; but he could not agree with the right hon. Gentleman's views when he laid so much stress upon the want of brake-power as the cause of so many accidents. he (Mr. Hick, admitted that there were many accidents due to this cause, but no! nearly so many as the right hon. Gentleman attributed to it. The right hon. Gentleman was rather severe on the London and North Western Railway, of which he (Mr. Hick) had the honour of being a director; but he felt quite sure that no body of directors in the country paid more attention to securing the safe working of the line than did the London and North Western. For a considerable number of years they had been making experiments to find the best kind of brake, and he quite agreed that it was of paramount importance to have a continuous effective brake. He must say a few words in reference to a remark attributed to Mr. Moon by the right hon. Member for Montrose. Mr. Moon was said to have expressed an opinion "that a man must be out of his senses to trust his safety to an automatic brake." Mr. Moon must have referred only to such brakes as railways had before them, and in that he (Mr. Hick) quite agreed. He would be sorry to trust to any automatic brake he knew, for they were very uncertain in their action, and, so far from preventing accidents, some day they would lead to an accident. Speaking from a long mechanical experience, he regarded all automatic machinery with distrust. You could not depend on your material to such an extent but that there might be some flaw, and he would much rather trust machinery and its application where the watchful eye of a skilful and careful man was necessary. He argued, also, that it would be a bad policy for the Board of Trade to interfere and support any particular brake. It would be a dangerous step. It would remove all responsibility from the Railway Companies, and there would be a check to all improvements and new inventions. He was quite sure that all connected with railways were agreed that anything calculated to prevent accidents should be adopted. The London and North Western Company had not been slow in trying experiments with brakes of various kinds. Something like £100,000 they had spent already; but cost was not an element in their consideration. A good deal had been said about the company taking up an invention of one of their officers; but why should they not, if the inventor was—as the company believed he was—one of the cleverest engineers to be found? He (Mr. Hick) fully believed their engineer was one of the ablest railway engineers in England. he had, in connection with another gentleman, been fortunate enough to invent a brake that the company, after careful experiments, had adopted. The invention was now under- going alteration. Experiments and improvements were being made upon it, and only to-day orders had been given for the application of certain improvements of the greatest consequence. He did not know any better brake than the Clark and Webb brake used by the London and North Western Railway; and he believed, when it was made as perfect as it could be made, no brake in the country would equal it, and, certainly, there was no brake in the country under which he should consider himself so safe from accident. He would only further say he regretted such strong remarks should have been made in regard to the North Western, because he was sure that if the directors knew of a brake, invented by anyone and better than their own, they would not hesitate to adopt it at any cost. In conclusion, he would say that if they were actuated by no other motive than that of self-interest they should do all in their power to adopt means for the prevention of accidents, but he trusted they had far higher inducements. Could it be thought that they cared nothing for mutilated limbs? Nothing for the painful and sometimes sudden deaths, or that they had no sympathy with the sufferings and sorrows of the bereaved? He could assure the House that they, and all who had anything to do with the management and the working of railways, felt these things deeply, and should not relax in their exertions until they had devised and adopted means which should render the occurrence of these accidents—as far as was practicable—impossible.


said, this question had been before the directors of the London and North Western Company for the last 20 years. Clarke's brake was, after very great consideration, adopted by that company. It was improved by Mr. Webb, their engineer, then second in command, and it had since been called Clarke and Webb's brake, but it was not originally invented by an officer of the company. Modifications were being made in it, and there would be little doubt it was the brake most likely, with improvements, to fulfil all the conditions required by the Board of Trade. He would not have ventured to mention this brake, in contradistinction to all others, if the London and North Western Company had not been so particularly alluded to in the course of the evening. The directors of that company were fully alive to the importance of continuous brakes, but there was a little fashion in these matters. At one time the salvation of passengers was to be the interlocking system, at another time communication between passengers and guard, and then again continuous brakes were to bring about the result they all wished for. The directors of the London and North Western Company believed that in the prevention of accidents much was due to the management and discipline of the whole line in case of the momentary failure of any individual part of the machinery. Reference had been made to the readiness with which continuous brakes were adopted in America; but he wished to point out that there, owing to the greater length of the carriages, there were much fewer couplings and joinings. He did not join in the recommendation of his hon. Friend the Member for Leeds (Mr. Tennant) that the Board of Trade should institute any authoritative trials of brakes, as they already had the result of the Newark trials, which showed all that could be done; nor did he join ill the other recommendation, that the Board of Trade should force any particular brake upon Railway Companies. He believed such a course would defeat its own object and effect no good. What was desired was a brake that could be depended upon at all times. The present discussion had shown that railway directors were alive to the necessities of the case, and he honestly believed that they were only anxious to secure the best form of brake that could be attained. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose had stated that France had gone farther ahead than England in the matter of railway brakes; but if he inquired into the facts, he would find that the Northern of France had adopted one of the brakes in the second category of the Board of Trade, which did not carry out all the requirements.


Sir, I feel confident that the House will agree with me that the course of this debate has fully justified the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Baxter) in bringing this subject forward. Not a single hon. Member has got up who has not expressed gratitude to him for having raised the subject, and I think with them that that gratitude is justly due. We were much interested in the very careful and temperate speech which he made, and we are much indebted to him for bringing this subject prominently before the public. My hon. Friend the Member for Warwick (Mr. Arthur Peel), the Seconder of the Motion, who also has a large acquaintance with these matters, no less deserves our gratitude, as he has contributed to the discussion the result of experience which he gained during the time of his connection, as a Member of the Government, with the Board of Trade. Further than this, I am willing to agree heartily with my right hon. Friend opposite in his opening remarks—that is to say, I join with him most cordially in expressing the pride which we all must feel with respect to the generally very able management of our great railway lines. My right hon. Friend bore ungrudging testimony on that point, and I think there is no one living in these Three Kingdoms who does not feel that he has a right to be proud both of the high character and the devotion to business of the directors, and of the great scientific acquirements and equally high character of that noble class of railway officers who control and manage the marvellous means of communication which we now enjoy. Whether you look at those men of high genius, capacity, and skill, who are the working heads of these immense undertakings, or whether you look to those whose hands carry on this complicated traffic, we have every reason to be proud of the way in which our railway system is managed. But, having said so much, I must venture to remind those who have spoken on behalf of the railway interest, and who have claimed for themselves, I cannot but think somewhat too strongly, the credit for doing and having done all that the public safety and convenience require, that a great number of the improvements that have been made have been the result of very considerable pressure from public opinion, from Parliament, and, I may also venture to say, from the Board of Trade, as representing the general public opinion of the country. I cannot forget all that has taken place of late years respecting the interlocking of signals and points, the block system, and other matters. Although I am willing to bear the strongest testimony, as far as I can properly do so, to the high merits of those who work the railway system, yet I must remind them that a good deal of their success in providing for the safety and comfort of the public has, after all, been owing to the pressure from out-of-doors. This, I think, is a matter of history which we should always remember when these subjects are discussed. Now, we must be very ignorant of human nature if we overlook the fact that, however honestly desirous the managers of these vast concerns may be to meet the requirements of the public, for a manager or engineer, or any of the great heads of departments in the railroads, to go before the board of directors, asking them, except under the pressure of a terrible accident, or with very good cause, to spend vast sums of money, in altering their plant, machinery, or anything else, is not a very agreeable thing for these gentlemen to do. Nor, again, can it be very agreeable to the directors themselves of these great concerns to go before a shareholders' meeting, and to say we are obliged to diminish your dividend, already, perhaps, not over large owing to bad times, because we want to spend, say £80,000, upon fitting brakes to all our engines and carriages, to use the figure which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for South Essex (Colonel Makins) informed us would be the cost of the introduction of continuous brakes on his line. That £80,000 would represent a great lump, out of the earnings of the shareholders; so it is only human nature that people responsible to those who embark their money in these concerns should be a little shy of undertaking these large improvements, however favourable in the abstract they may be to public safety, unless great pressure is put upon them from outside. For that reason, we ought to be grateful to hon. Members who from time to time bring these matters of public safety and convenience before us in Parliament; and if I needed justification for this remark, I should be well content to rest it upon the tone which has been adopted by all railway directors to-night. There is hardly a director of high position connected with a leading line, who has spoken, that has not said that, on the whole, he is glad this pressure was put upon them. This is quite a sufficient reward for my right hon. Friend opposite, and quite a suffi- cient justification for a Motion of this kind. I have been asked, whether or not I should be inclined to encourage legislation on these specific points? I would ask hon. Members to consider carefully how we got the great results respecting interlocking, the block system, and other leading improvements, the importance of which is now generally acknowledged? We did not get these results by legislation. We got them in a different way; a way more in accord with the habits, feelings, and best traditions of the country. These improvements have not been ordered by Parliament, nor by the Board of Trade; but you have got them by throwing the strong light of publicity upon the action of the Companies as to these proceedings. You obliged them to make periodical Returns, so that the Companies felt that all they did in these matters would be widely known and widely discussed. Well, surely, after such successes, it would be a very rash thing on our part to depart from the long usage of the Board of Trade in this matter, which has led to such results, unless under pressure of some overwhelming necessity. Not only have we required these Returns, but, of course, a large part of our later system has been to establish a careful examination into all railway accidents, and a careful classification of the causes which we believe have led to these accidents. To sum up, our system has been to rely for bringing about improvements in the management and apparatus of our railways, upon careful examination into accidents by experts, under the direction of the State, upon the publicity of the results of such inquiries, and upon the publication by the railways of the course which they adopt as to the leading mechanical inventions, upon which experience has shown that the public safety chiefly depends. Now, I, for one, would never consent, for one moment, to stereotype by legislation, continuous brakes, or any part of the railway apparatus. It seems to me that that would be a most fatal course to take. No one will, I imagine, deny that the continuous brake of to-day, of which we may all be proud and may think the most perfect and scientific concern, may, and probably will, become antiquated in the year 1890, so that for Parliament to stereotype these inventions would be to strike a most terrible blow at the ad- vancement of the country. But I would go even further than this, and I say that it would be very rash for us, unless absolutely driven to it by the inaction of those responsible for the Companies, and by the requirements of the public safety, to lay down, by legislation, the conditions which the railroads should adopt with regard to what I may term this or any other article of their apparatus. I believe that if Parliament was to enact that certain conditions were necessary with regard to their brakes, we should run a very great danger of shaking the whole responsibility of the railway directors. Our policy, as a Government, is certainly not that of substituting State or central control for that of the individual or the locality: its aim is not to diminish, but rather to increase, the responsibility of all who manage the great industrial concerns of the country. And besides this, if we once lay down a Government minimum as to any requirements of this kind, we know as well as possible, by experience, that the Government minimum, in a very short time, becomes the maximum which is adopted by all those who are concerned in the matter; so that, if we were to say that all were to have a break which would draw up within 500 yards, you would find that the Railway Companies will never think of getting a brake which will draw up within 100yards; whereas, with the progress of invention, this end will pretty surely be attained, as we may be confident that if we do not stereotype the public opinion of the day the Companies will be compelled, under the present system of publicity, to aim at the highest possible perfection in these matters. Further, if you adopt the plan of laying down by legislation the conditions which the Companies must adopt as to brakes or any other such matters, I see, with alarm, looming in the distance a whole army of new Government Inspectors. If you say, by Act of Parliament, that such and such conditions must be fulfilled by the Companies, you must have somebedy to look out and see that the Railway Companies do fulfil these conditions; and, therefore, I say, I see looming before me an increasing army of Government Inspectors, with all the Continental system of minute Government interference and of State responsibility, which I should be very sorry to face, or in any way to encourage. Let us bear in mind that we have only to turn to the debates which have taken place on this subject in either House of Parliament, to assure ourselves that both sides in politics seem to be equally anxious to avoid unnecessary interference with railways. But, on the other hand, having said that much against State interference, I must beg the special attention of the House to one fact to which we must not shut our eyes, and that is this—that when the Board of Trade inquired carefully into this matter in 1877, they found that, on considering a term of years, three-fourths of the accidents might, according to the opinion of their skilled Inspectors, have been avoided if continuous brakes had been used. This is a thing which we cannot get over; it is a great fact, and one deserving most careful consideration. We surely, then, are bound to take steps to see that these evils are dealt with. What, then, are the steps upon which the Government at present rely? The means may appear to be small; but after what I said at the beginning as to the success of such measures, it is not small. I allude to the Act of Parliament which was passed last year, which obliges the Railway Companies to send a half-yearly Return as to continuous brakes, the carriages and engines fitted with them, and as to all the details connected with this subject as affecting their rolling stock. This may seem, perhaps, a small matter; but I need only refer to the interlocking of signals and points, and the block system, and remind hon. Gentlemen of what was the effect of that very same treatment as regards these important matters. I allude, of course, to the Act which obliged the Railway Companies to send annual Returns to the Board of Trade with regard to interlocking and the block system, for the purpose of their being laid before Parliament. I need only give two or three figures. With regard to the interlocking of points and signals, in 1870, 10 of the principal Companies, with a mileage of 8,000 miles, had from 27 to 40 per cent of their points interlocked. The Bill is passed, and what do we find at the end of 1878? The same Companies at the end of 1878, with 9,000 and odd miles, have from 44 to 56 per cent of their points interlocked. The fact is very remarkable and very satisfactory. In the same way with regard to the block system; while, in 1873, the same 10 Companies worked on the absolute block system from 16 to 77 per cent, at the end of 1878 they worked from 67 to 94 per cent, showing again a very remarkable result from the system of presenting Returns to Parliament. I cannot, therefore, but suppose that all will agree that we have good cause, from experience of the past, to look with confidence to the result of the Act of last year with respect to Returns of continuous brakes: and that the House will feel that I am not wrong when I say that the means which we have adopted to meet these deficiencies, which we lament and acknowledge, are not trifling or likely to be ineffectual. But, be that as it may, as far as I am concerned, owing to the great evils which I see in further Government interference, I must decline to take any further step at the present moment, until I see more of the operation of the Act of last year. It must not be forgotten that it has only been in operation for one year, and the Railway Companies may fairly say—"What you are bidding us to do is a very difficult and expensive undertaking. We confess we have taken a good deal of time about it, but then we did not think you were in earnest in the matter; we have each our peculiar difficulties connected with it, and we dallied, perhaps, with the subject somewhat; but now we see you and the public mean that the thing should be done, we have for some time past put our heads together for the purpose of consulting on improvements, and, therefore, we trust we shall be permitted without interference to carry on our undertaking, provided that we do so within a reasonable time." I would venture to remind my noble Friend the Member for Flintshire (Lord Richard Grosvenor), that it is not a mere question of fashion, as he suggested, with regard to continuous brakes or interlocking, or any such matters connected with our safety on railways. The fact of the public taking up this this matter or that arises from a much more serious reason. They watch the Reports of the Railway Inspectors who have gone into the causes of accidents. They observe that the lack of interlocking, or the lack of the block system, or of continuous brakes, has led to great loss of life; and they naturally feel that pressure must be put upon the Companies to adopt those improvements on their railways, which skilled Inspectors have said would save lives and have prevented terrible accidents. It is not that the fashion has passed, allow me to observe, with regard to the block system and interlocking, that makes it no longer necessary to make any fuss about them. The reason is a very simple one: the Act which necessitated Returns as to these matters being laid annually before Parliament has been successful; the victory of the public has been won, and this necessary apparatus has generally been adopted. A new issue has now arisen with reference to this serious matter of continuous brakes, owing to the same reason which led to the feeling as to interlocking, &c. I am willing to give every credit to the directors of Companies for their desire to do all they can; but I own that what has passed amongst them to-night would make me feel some little difficulty as to expecting agreement among them, unless subjected to some little pressure. Anyhow, the matter is far too serious to allow either Parliament or Government to wait indefinitely while the "battle of the brakes," as my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton (Mr. Hick) called it, is being fought out. Other countries are coming to a decision. The evidence on that point is very clear. Germany, France, and other countries, are rapidly settling what continuous brakes they will adopt; and there is no reason why the high sentiment and public spirit of our English directors should not also come to a decision, and soon put us in the forefront of all others. I trust, then, that they will take a wise and sensible view of the position; and I shall conclude by expressing the confident hope of soon being able to congratulate them upon the battle of the brakes being over, upon peace being established, and the public security largely enhanced.


said, he could not endorse the view taken by the noble Lord, who appeared to be inclined to wait for accidents to happen, and then trust to a sense of shame to prevent their recurrence. That was but the policy of shutting the door after the horse was stolen. The noble Lord's objection to the Motion, on the ground that it would tie the companies down to one specified improvement, might be used as a plea against any kind of Parliamentary interference with the Railway Companies. The fact was too much overlooked that nine out of ten of the railway accidents which happened could be prevented by proper legislation. The real cause of the great number of accidents was the excessive speed at which railway trains were allowed to run. The immediate cause was, no doubt, irregularity; but the speed rendered regularity impossible. Some years ago, the risk as between trains running at 60 miles and those running at 30 miles an hour was calculated, and it was found that where the speed of 60 miles an hour was resorted to, it became 100 to 1 that the passenger instead of arriving at his destination a little later with sound limbs would have terminated his journey on a shutter, as against the chances of accidents, at the speed of 30 miles an hour. It was said the travelling public would object to a diminution of the speed; but it was the duty of Parliament to interfere for the protection of lunatics, and the man who would risk his life in a rapid train was little better than a lunatic. He, therefore, hoped the Government would at once undertake the responsibility of initiating legislation to prevent the further sacrifice of human life.