HC Deb 05 July 1904 vol 137 cc636-8

I beg to ask the Financial Secretary to the War Office whether he is aware that a military railway to connect Fort Durland, near Chatham, with Chatham Barracks, planned to run through War Department land for the greater part of its length, had been constructed till it reached, in the immediate vicinity of Fort Durland, a strip of land belonging to the Naval authorities, who had not been consulted in the construction of the railway, and that the refusal of the consent of these authorities to the building of the line on their land has led to the suspension of the work; that near the Chatham end of the railway portions of a bridge were erected at a great cost, with massive piers, to take the line over the main road, when it was discovered that a company had rights to run an electric tramway on the overhead system along this road, so that it was impossible to raise the bridge sufficiently high to clear the wires without altering the level of the railway for hundreds of yards, the result being that the portions of the bridge already erected have been destroyed, and the work on that side brought to a standstill; and will he state what is the sum which it is calculated has been lost by these mistakes, and under what Vote in the Estimates will it come; and whether the War Office has any, and, if so, what explanation of this waste of public money.


I am informed that the work in question was not suspended on account of any non-agreement with the Naval authorities, but for reasons which were stated in reply to a Question on the 11th June, 1903.† The construction of the line, which was partly undertaken for the purpose of the instruction of the Railway Companies and other Royal Engineer units, was suspended on the introduction of an improved scheme of decentralised training, which rendered the line unnecessary. There was no difficulty connected with an electric tramway running under the line. The whole cost of the work done was comparatively small, as military labour of men under instruction was utilised, and the materials will to a very great extent be made use of elsewhere. The sum may be stated approximately at £2,000, and was included in the amount voted under Vote X. on page 70 of the † See (4) Debates, cxxiii., 635. Estimates for the years 1901–2, 1902–3, 1903–4, under the item "Chatham. Acquisition of land and erection of torpedo factory, etc."