HC Deb 11 February 1897 vol 46 cc159-62
MR. J. L. CAREW (Dublin, College Green)

On behalf of the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. VESEY KNOX), I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster General, whether any proposal was placed before the London and North Western Railway Company by the Post Office for a night mail from Euston to Dublin, leaving at 8.20 and arriving in Dublin 25 minutes sooner than now proposed; whether he is aware that the usefulness of the largely increased expenditure on the service, so far as the Irish provincial towns are concerned, will be greatly lessened by the fact that the mail will leave London 25 minutes later than hitherto, a change for which there has been no public demand; and, whether, if the main obstacle in the way of the dispatch of the mails at 8.20 is the want of adequate sorting facilities at the Post Office, such facilities will be provided?


No such proposal as that suggested by the hon. Member was placed before the Railway Company. Though the Irish Mail nominally leaves Euston at 8.20 p.m., it is necessarily detained at Crewe till after the arrival of the Special Post Office Train which carries the letters which it is impossible to dispatch from Euston at 8.20. Though, therefore, the Irish Mail Train leaves Euston at 8.20, a large part of the Irish Mail is not even now dispatched till 8.30 p.m. As the Special Post Office Train leaves Euston at 8.30 p.m., it is impossible to start the Irish Mail until after a sufficient interval for safety, and the London and North Western Railway Company consider that the interval should not be less than 15 minutes. Unless the hours of posting in London are modified, the latest dispatch with extra fee is 7.45 p.m. for the Eastern Central District and about 7.0 p.m. for the rest of London. No addition to the Sorting Force would admit of an earlier dispatch than 8.30.


I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster General, whether, under the contract made in 1860 for the conveyance of the Irish day mails between London and Holyhead, the Government took power to limit the use of those trains to the conveyance of mails and first and second class passengers to and from Ireland; is he aware that the London and North Western Railway Company use those trains for the carriage of third class passengers to and from London to Scotland, viâ Crewe, and from Chester and intermediate stations to London, and was the consent of the Post Office authorities asked and obtained by the Company to this practice; and, if so, at what date; whether the Post Office, authorities have powers under the old mail contract and the new contract now being arranged to prohibit the London and North Western Railway Company using the Irish mail trains for the carriage of third class passengers other than passengers to and from Ireland; and, if so, will they in the new contract compel the Company either to afford Irish passengers facilities for travelling third class on the Irish mail trains between London and Holyhead or else discontinue the carriage of third class passengers altogether on those trains; and, whether, before giving final sanction to the new mail time table, he will reconsider the question with the view of meeting the wishes of the Irish people who are most concerned?


The Government took no power in the contract of 1859, which is, I presume, the one to which the hon. Member refers, to exclude third class passengers from or to convey them in the trains referred to between London and Holyhead. It is understood that the London and North Western Railway Company use the down day mail train for the conveyance of third class passengers for Scotland between London and Crewe, and the up day mail train for third class passengers for London from Chester and certain intermediate stations. It was not necessary for the Company to obtain the consent of the Post Office to this practice, and they did not apply for it. The Postmaster General's statutory powers for dealing with railway companies are confined to making arrangements for the conveyance of mails, and do not extend to making provision for the carriage of any particular class of passengers. In these circumstances, it is not expedient to attempt to introduce any provision into the new contract binding the Company in the manner suggested. The new mail time table, which has already been laid before the House, was drawn up with the view of meeting, as far as possible, the wishes of the Irish people, and it is regretted that the concession now asked is not practicable.


I beg to ask the Secretary to the Treasury, as representing the Postmaster General, whether his attention has been called to a Resolution, proposed by Mr. Stubbs, D.L., and seconded by Mr. R. Sweeny, J.P., unanimously passed at a public meeting held in the Court House, Ballyshannon, on the 3rd of February, Mr. John Daly, Chairman of the Town Commissioners, presiding, complaining of the inconvenience accruing to the inhabitants of Ballyshanuon and the surrounding districts from the inadequate mail service, and urging that the present system of transmission of the mails by car between Bundoran Junction and Ballyshannon, a distance of upwards of forty miles is wholly inadequate; whether he is aware that letters for the night mail must be posted in Ballyshannon before 4.25 p.m., whereas the residents of other towns of minor importance can post letters up to 6 p.m., and 6.30 p.m. in some cases; and, whether regard being had to the fact that the agitation for an improved postal service in this district has been made the subject of repeated complaints to the postal authorities, and that the recent establishment by the Government of a rifle range and military camp for 2,000 men in the immediate locality will increase the mails, the Postmaster General will be able to take any steps for the establishment of a postal service by rail between Bundoran Junction and Ballyshannon?


The Postmaster General has received a copy of the Resolution referred to. It is the case that, under existing arrangements, the latest hour of posting in Ballyshannon for the night mail is 4.25 p.m. The question of establishing a night mail service by railway to Ballyshannon has been considered more than once, but it has been found that the expense would be altogether disproportionate to the revenue available. The matter, however, is again being inquired into.