HC Deb 16 March 1896 vol 38 cc989-92

On the Order for the Second Reading of this Bill,

MR. J. G. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)

said, he should not have stood in the way of this Bill for a moment, but he found that no provision whatever had been made for the ventilation of the tunnels. He was surprised that any company or promoters should venture to come to that House and apply for powers to construct a new underground railway after the observations which had fallen at various times from the President of the Board of Trade, who as much as anyone realised that the tunnels of the underground railways were in a very bad condition. Of course, they all knew that promoters were bold men who would bring forward any scheme if they thought they could carry it through, so long as they got their handsome fees out of the public; but it was for this House to protect the health and the lives of the public. This company got an Act in 1893, and on page 8, sub-section 9, there was some reference to the ventilation, but the shafts mentioned in the sub-section were not ventilating shafts. They were simply stairs alongside the lifts, so that in the event of the lifts getting out of order the public would be able to use the stairs. There were no means of drawing out the foul air, and they must remember that these tunnels were from 60 to 80 feet down. No effectual provision was made for the foul air to be taken out of the tunnels. It might be said that as electric traction was to be used the ventilation would not be so objectionable as it was on the Underground Railway. He had been referred by the engineer of this proposed railway to the South London Railway as a model ventilated railway. He had travelled over that line, and considered it most unsatisfactory. He sought an independent opinion, and arranged with a well-known London expert in ventilation to examine and report. That gentleman did so last Saturday, and he would read a few extracts from that Report:— 1. These tunnels—being so far below the surface, and in no way influenced, by difference of temperature—ought to be ventilated quite independently from the mere running of the trains, which only circulate the air throughout the tunnels without properly changing it, i.e., the atmosphere in the tunnels ought at all times to be positively changed, or changing, whether the trains be running or not. 2. Though the most perfect plan of ventilating the tunnels would be the placing of a special shaft equidistant between each two stations, carrying it to the surface and above the roofs of the houses, and placing an electrically-driven fan of proper dimensions towards the upper part of it in each case, for the extraction of the vitiated air, allowing the fresh air free entry down through the stations; it is quite possible to give good ventilation on the same principle, by arranging to place on some of the special air shafts provided in the Act similar fans, say, a fan to be arranged in every other air shaft at every other station, allowing the air shafts remaining at the other stations to act as fresh air inlets. 3. Although the visible impurities, such as smoke, steam, etc., existing, say, in the Underground Metropolitan Railways, are entirely wanting on these electrically-worked underground railways, the last-named have the disadvantage—from a ventilating point of view—of being about four times the depth under the surface that the Metropolitan Rail ways are, and, also, of not being at all appreciably benefited by difference of temperature and the action of the wind. A part from the nuisance caused by the products of combustion from the locomotives, the Metropolitan and District Underground Railways in London are entirely free from the musty and close smell which prevails in all parts of the South London Electric Railway, where the atmosphere can under existing circumstances, and under the most favourable conditions, be only completely changed at long intervals, and where the air is fouled by stale tobacco-smoke, and by the breaths, etc., of a vast number of people almost constantly passing through the stations and tunnels during the day. The two tunnels of the electric railways being again connected together at the stations, and by cross shafts at very frequent intervals between the stations, can only be looked upon as one system so far as the ventilation of the whole is concerned. It is imperative, therefore, that the vitiated and heavy air formed or left in even these electrically-worked railway tunnels should be constantly drawn off or extracted to the surface, as in mines, in order that fresh air should as constantly take its place. This can only, however, be satisfactorily accomplished by the proper use of positive and special appliances already indicated; most certainly the mere running of the trains through the tunnels at these great depths will never give anything like perfect ventilation, or the desired results. As regards the proposed Baker Street and Waterloo Railway, I can only say it would be a great improvement on the South London Electric Railway if this ventilation question was tackled properly, as it ought to be, and I feel that what I have stated has only to be pointed out to Mr. Greathead to be put right, when the ultimate results will redound more than ever to his credit. There is no reason either why the ventilation of the South London Railway should not be put right to the undoubted advantage of the passengers using it and the company, when it should then be the sweetest and most comfortable place to travel in in London at the present time. It should be noted the 'separate shafts for ventilation,' mentioned on page 8, Section 7, and in Clause 9 of the 1893 Act, should really be separate shafts for ventilation purposes solely, and should not be used as stairways. If the Bill passed in its present form——

Mr. SPEAKER (interposing)

pointed out that this was practically only a Bill for the extension of time.


observed that there was a long list of other purposes over and above that relating to the extension of time. It was true that the Bill was passed in 1893, but no steps were then taken to deal with this question of underground ventilation. He had no desire to stand in the way of any railway being constructed in London, for the more that were made the better it would be as tending to relieve the congestion in the streets. If the promoters would agree to accept an Instruction requiring them to make proper provision for ventilation purposes, he should not on this occasion move the rejection of the Bill. He should place the Instruction on the Paper to-morrow or Thursday, and he hoped it would be accepted.

MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)

observed that it was really a great pity the time of the House was wasted in this way. This was simply a private Bill for an extension of time in regard to a railway. The Bill was passed in 1893 and was identical with the one now on the Paper, except that the latter provided for an extension of time with a slight additional length of line. In 1893 particular attention was paid to the very point to which the hon. Member had referred, and a special clause was inserted in the Bill to provide for its being properly carried out. ["Hear, hear!"] Inasmuch as that had been done, it seemed quite absurd to stop the Bill from immediately going to the Committee. ["Hear, hear!"]

Bill read 2a, and committed.