§ SIR JOHN LENG (Dundee)
I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster General, whether any acceleration of time in the conveyance of the mails is contemplated in the new postal contract for India and the far East; and, if so, what will be the minimum speed at sea of the steamers carrying the mails; whether his attention has been called to the slow movement and numerous stoppages of the mail trains between Brindisi and Modane; 541 and whether, in view of the fact that the mails could arrive as soon in England, if landed at Marseilles, without the steamer calling at Brindisi, an option will be reserved to the Post Office to make Marseilles the port both for the embarkation and debarkation of the mails for the United Kingdom?
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. R. W. HANBURY,) Preston
Although it cannot be known what tenders will be received for the new postal contract for India and the far East, it may be said that the advertisement for tenders contemplates acceleration when the present contracts expire on January 31st, 1898, seeing that no tender is invited for as low a speed as the minimum required by the present contract. The lowest speeds for which tenders have been asked are 13½ knots to and from Bombay, 13¼ knots to and from Adelaide via Colombo, and 11½ knots between Colombo and Shanghai; but tenders may be sent in for any speed, higher or lower. It is the fact that in Italy, the special train service for these mails is performed at a lower rate and with a greater aggregate time for stops than in France. The hon. Member is doubtless aware that a considerable part of the Italian railway is a single line. The European port to be used in the service of the future is not specified in the advertisement for tenders. It will be open to parties tendering to select Marseilles; and, if an offer based upon the embarkation and landing of mails at Marseilles showed better results than an offer based on Brindisi or any other port, the Postmaster General would be free to choose the service via Marseilles.