HC Deb 06 March 1885 vol 295 cc285-7

asked the Secretary of State for War, If he can state what are Lord Wolseley's proposals, of which he spoke on Tuesday, with regard to the continuance of the Nile Railroad, and whether Her Majesty's Government have yet made up their minds on the subject; whether it is the fact that the making of about 220 miles of Railway, in different sections, along certain parts of the Nile between Wady Haifa and the south end of the Hanneth cataract, would afford the means of continuous communication either by rail or by water, navigable for steamboats or other large boats, the whole of the way from Siout to Ambukol at all seasons of the year; was such a railroad commenced by the ex-Khedive of Egypt, and were large quantities of rails and other materials transported beyond Wady Haifa, and deposited on the banks of the Nile for its construction; can he say whether there is any of that material left on the Nile, and still available for that purpose; has the whole of the route necessary for such a railroad along the banks of the Nile, and again from Ambukol across the Desert to Khartoum, been already thoroughly surveyed by a competent engineer, and are the facilities for making it infinitely greater than for making a Railway from Suakin to Berber; were the Government advised by Lord Wolseley to make any part or parts of the railroad along the Nile for purposes of transport last year; and, can he say when it is proposed to de- spatch the reinforcements, asked for by Lord Wolseley, to Korti?


Lord Wolseley originally proposed to continue the Wady Haifa Railway—which was completed when we commenced operations from Angash to Sarras—to a more southerly terminus at Absarat. Later he has restricted his proposals to an extension from Sarras to Ferket, about 62 miles to the southward, and above the Dal rapids. Of this extension 15 miles have been already constructed. He also requires light tramways to be laid at Fatmeh and Kaibar, where there are cataracts. It is believed that with this assistance there will be a practicable route by rail and water available at all seasons as far as Korti. The ex-Khedive commenced the Wady Haifa Railway, and laid the rails as far as Sarras, leaving at Wady Haifa 16 miles of rails. These have been utilized in the extension of 15 miles to which I allude above, and no other materials remain available on the spot. The route has been surveyed for the purpose of a permanent railway, involving heavy rock cuttings, possibly some tunnels, and one or more bridges across the Nile. The line required by Lord Wolseley is a surface railway, and the facilities for its construction—the presence of an enemy in the neighbourhood excepted—are probably less than those for the construction of the line from Suakin to Berber. Last summer Lord Wolseley recommended the extension of the railway towards Ambukol, which was sanctioned; but the work was stopped by him on the 28th of October in consequence of the dearth of native labour. Subsequently operations were resumed, with the result I have already mentioned. Lord Wolseley does not wish to have reinforcements on the Upper Nile before the autumn. We have been in almost daily communication with Lord Wolseley on the subject; but have only just received the information necessary for coming to a decision, which will be arrived at without delay.


Will the cost of this railway be a charge on the taxpayers of this country, or on the finances of Egypt?


I am afraid it will be a charge on the taxpayers of this country.



asked the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War a Question arising out of that put by him just now with reference to the Nile Railway. He understood the noble Marquess to say that facilities for making a permanent railroad along the Nile would be less than the facilities from Suakin to Berber. What he wished to know was, Whether that observation applied to the making of a purely military line along the Nile?


Yes, Sir; I think so; but it is only a matter of opinion. I adhere to that opinion. At Suakin we have abase on the sea to which all our necessary plant can be forwarded without any great difficulty. At Wady Haifa the base is a considerable distance inland; and it is necessary to forward the plant first to Cairo, then from Cairo to Assiout, and finally by water transport a considerable distance to Wady Haifa.