HC Deb 19 March 1907 vol 171 cc744-56

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

* MR. MORTON (Sutherland)

asked if the Instruction standing in his name was in Order.†


The Instruction of the hon. Member is not in order for the same reason that I ruled it out of order last year. Any proposal to impose upon railway companies the liability of adding third-class sleeping carriages to their trains should be done †"That it be an Instruction to the Committee to whom the Bill is referred to consider the desirability of inserting a clause requiring the companies to provide sleeping accommodation for third-class passengers in all cases where sleeping accommodation is provided for first-class passengers. by a general Act. Particular companies should not be selected for this purpose, but it should be made applicable to all railway companies in like circumstances.


said that it would be quite impossible for him to get a general Act passed, only the Government could do that; on the other hand he desired to apply his proposal to some of the railways only. But, before the Great Western, the London and North Western and Rhymney Railway Companies were given further powers he thought he had a right to ask that certain grievances should be redressed and that the Companies should act fairly to all classes in exercising monopolies which they could not enjoy without the consent of Parliament. He asked that all classes of railway passengers should be treated alike without any undue preference or favour. In the case of passengers travelling long distances he thought that the third-class passengers should be provided with the same facilities as to sleeping accommodation as the first-class passengers. Last session he was hopeful that that question would be favourably considered by the great railway companies, but he gathered from information which had been supplied by the Board of Trade that the railway companies now refused to consider any redress whatever of that grievance. That being so, there was no other course for him to adopt than to move the rejection of the Bill. It might be a wise policy occasionally to throw out a railway Bill so as to let the railway companies understand that before they could obtain monopolies from Parliament they had to adopt fair regulations, and treat the different classes of passengers somewhat alike. The reply of the companies had generally been that first-class sleeping carriages did not pay. As far as he could ascertain first-class passenger traffic never did pay anywhere in the United Kingdom, and the whole of the profits from passenger traffic came from third-class passengers. Fifty years ago third-class passengers were treated worse than animals, but they were now being treated much better. The companies had found out that the better they treated the third-class passengers the more profit they made. He did not say that sleeping accommodation should be provided except upon proper notice and at reasonable rates, but on trains where there were two sleeping coaches there was no reason why one of them should not be available for third-class passengers. He did not wish to do any harm to decent railway companies; on the contrary, he preferred to give them, all the assistance he could in carrying on their business in the best possible way, but he had no alternative but to take the line he had done. The railway companies might say that they did not care for the hon. Member for Sutherland; he did not care much about that, but the companies might find that just when they wanted assistance they would not get it. He remembered that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham when at the Board of Trade said with regard to railway companies not only that people had the right but that it was their duty on the Second Reading of railway Bills to have their grievances brought forward and to insist as far as they were able upon Parliament seeing fair play done between the companies and the people. He thought the duty of the Board of Trade was to deal fairly with the railway companies, but they should recollect that there was a British public. He hoped they would have the assistance of the Board of Trade in getting this matter settled. They granted railway companies great powers and the public had a right to ask for something in return. He hoped they would not have to proceed so far as to throw out a Bill which, no doubt, had some good points, and he trusted that railway companies would see the advisability of giving reasonable and proper provision in the direction he had indicated. He moved that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.

MR. BRACE (Glamorganshire, S.)

, in seconding the Amendment, said the promoters had not done him justice when they declared that his reason for opposing the Bill was that he happened to be in favour of the Barry Railway Bill. He happened to be resident in the district affected and he was the representative of the workers who resided there. He wished to explain to the House that this scheme was simply on a par with many other schemes on a par with many other which had been produced previously to tap the Sirhowy and Rhondda Valleys. The present joint scheme of the Great Western, London and North Western, and Rhymney Railway Companies covered practically the ground of a railway scheme which was promoted from time to time by various promoters in the years 1882, 1884, 1885, 1886, 1887, and 1888. In 1888 a Bill was promoted by the Taff Vale Railway Company to connect Cardiff with the Sirhowy and Monmouthshire valleys. In the same year the Great Western Railway Company had a Bill to connect their system with another railway at Cogan. By agreement of 14th March, 1888, both schemes were withdrawn, and the Taff Vale and Great Western Companies agreed never again to promote similar schemes. The Rhymney Railway Company in the same year obtained the sanction of Parliament for a scheme connecting their railway with the Sirhowy Valley, but the Great Western Railway Company made arrangements with the Rhymney Railway Company not to construct the railway, one of the features of the arrangement being that the Rhymney Railway should receive a payment of something like £10,000 a year, and the Rhymney Railway Company accordingly abandoned the scheme. That was a serious statement to make, and he would be glad to hear what the promoters of the Bill had to say upon it. If a railway company failed to exercise its Parliamentary powers in consideration of a monetary payment by another railway company, that was a reason why Parliament should not again entrust it with such powers. In 1890 the Cardiff Railway Company obtained powers to construct the railways authorised in 1888, should the Rhymney Railway Company not do so, but for some reason or other they allowed the powers to lapse, and the district had been without improved railway accommodation ever since. In 1905 the Barry Railway Company promoted a Bill to serve the same objects as the dropped scheme of 1888, but that Bill was rejected on the oppo- sition of the Great Western and Rhymney Railway Companies, who said that the line was not required. If the line was not required then, upon what ground did the company say that the line was required now because they happened to be the promoters? His main reason for opposing the Bill was that the monopoly enjoyed by the Rhymney Railway Company in their respective valleys, and by the Great Western Railway Company, had been in a marked degree used to the disadvantage of the public. So much did the public of the western valleys of Monmouth object to the treatment which had been meted out to them by the railway companies that they had formed a council of gentlemen from county councils, chambers of commerce, and other public bodies, representing altogether upwards of 100,000 people, to consider the subject of railway facilities with the view to their improvement. He asked the House to pay attention to that fact, because if the railway companies had used their powers properly there would have been no necessity for those public bodies to form a railway council for the purpose of bringing pressure to bear on the Great Western Railway Company to do what was right. So far as the valley line was concerned, it was one of the best paying bits of railway which any company could have. The mineral and iron and steel traffic amounted to 6,000,000 tons a year, to say nothing of passengers. He himself resided seventeen miles from Newport, and the journey on the Great Western Railway occupied substantially over an hour. The journey to Nantyglo on the same railway, a distance of twenty-one miles, took an hour and a half when the trains were up to time, but they were frequently late. He understood that one of the arguments which would be used was that the Great Western Company had put on an improved service. It was true that the trains had been altered, but the service was still inferior to what the travelling public might fairly expect. The speed of the trains was what it was about thirty years ago. Although the Great Western Railway Company had obtained powers, they had done very little to provide better train connections up the valley. The majority of the stations were just as they were forty years ago. It was because of the monopoly which the companies enjoyed that the public were left helpless and entirely at their mercy. He thought he was entitled to ask the House to reject the Bill altogether on account of the manner in which the railway companies had treated the public. He wished to refer to another side of the question. Not only was the local passenger service bad, but the connections for trains to the north were so arranged that travellers had to start an hour or an hour and a half earlier than would be necessary if greater consideration were given to the convenience of the public. Parliament, as the custodian of the public interest, ought not to give a monopoly to any company which in the past had misused its powers in the way the Great Western Company had done. The Chairman of the Great Western Railway Company, at the half-yearly meeting in February this year, said— I think I told you—I am sure I told you—six months ago that we should not move again in South Wales unless our interests were distinctly threatened. We all hoped that when the wisdom of Parliament decided that the Great Western and Rhymney Joint Bill, and no other Bill, was necessary, the question might have slumbered, at any rate, for a short time; but the action of the Barry Company obliged us to put forward a Bill for the protection of our own interests, and I think the shareholders will, at any rate, be glad to see this—that we are in partnership at this time, not alone with the Rhymney Railway Company, but with our good friends who were our opponents last year—the London and North Western Railway. We are working together with a view, of course, to minimise the expense, and to increase the advantages to the shareholders. If that was why this company came to the House, he hoped that the House would not lend itself to such a policy. Alter all, the public had rights, and no railway company which had abused their monopoly powers should come to Parliament and ask for an extension of those powers. As to the position of workmen who had to travel by rail to get to their work, it was true that there were workmen's trains morning and evening, but if the men travelled during the day they were put into workmen's carriages and made to pay the full ordinary fare. Moreover, no attempt was made to heat the trains, and many of the carriages were quite open. Taking all these things into consideration, and because the Rhymney Company had received a payment of something like £10,000 a year from the Great Western Railway for abandoning a scheme which Parliament had authorised them to construct, he asked the House to reject the Bill as a warning to all railway companies that Parliament would not be trifled with by parties who had been given monopoly powers and who had abused them at the expense of the public.

Amendment proposed— To leave out the word 'now,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'upon this day six months.' "—(Mr. Morton.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

* MR. BALDWIN (Worcestershire, Bewdley)

said that the object of the Bill was a very simple one. It was to make a line eight and a half miles long from Cross Keys to Newport to connect with the Western Valleys Railway, and the Sirhowy Railway of the London and North Western Company with the Rhymney Railway at Caerphilly, making a new route between the Western Valleys and Cardiff, Penarth and Barry, which would be nearly five miles shorter than the existing route. It would be a business and not a pleasure line. There were a large number of collieries served by the Great Western Railway; and if the line was made it would help to develop the district. The Great Western Railway now carried over 3,500,000 tons of coal to Newport, and 1,750,000 tons to Cardiff. The eight and a half miles between Newport and Cross Keys was the most congested part of the Great Western Railway traffic, and from 40 to 50 per cent. of the overtime worked on the Great Western Railway was worked on that 1ength. The directors of the Great Western Railway Company believed that the making of the line would greatly facilitate the traffic. Remarks had been made about the passenger traffic. The Western Valleys Railway was twenty-one miles long, and there were on it twelve stations. The new line would give a direct route to Cardiff, instead of going through Newport, so that the people in the Western Valleys would profit to that extent. What occurred last year was that three Bills were before the House—the Great Western and Rhymney Railway Bill, the London and North Western Railway Bill, and the Barry Railway Bill. The London and North Western Bill and the Barry Bill were both rejected before the holidays; and the Great Western and Rhymney Bill was also rejected, chiefly on the opposition of Lord Tredegar, because if that Bill had passed he would stand to lose on his Park Mile, which now produced above £13,000 a year. The hon. Member for South Glamorganshire had complained about the slow trains. In 1902 and the early part of 1903 the Great Western Company tried the experiment of running trains without stopping at all the stations; but the result was such an uproar in the Western Valleys that the company had to revert to the old system of stopping at all the stations. A deputation from Newport and the Western Valleys waited lately on the chiefs of the department, and asked, not for express trains, but for additional stopping trains; and on 1st March, the company met their views, and put on two new trains each way. Inquiry was made as to the through passenger traffic from Paddington, and it was found that in twelve days there were only three through passengers by the 6.10 p.m. fast train from Paddington to the Western Valleys. He wished he could say something to ease the mind of the hon. Member for Sutherland as to sleeping accommodation. During January on the Fishguard route, in the one train which carried a sleeping carriage the average was one passenger per day, and on the other line on which sleepers were run the average was two passengers per day. In spite of what the hon. Members had said, he claimed that the Great Western Railway Company had for many years never been unmindful of the comfort of the general public. It seemed to him that the fair course to pursue was to send this Bill and the Barry scheme upstairs when an impartial Committee would decide upon their merits.

MR. GUEST (Cardiff District)

said that the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down was lucid and clear and showed very important interests which were involved in the consideration of the Bill. It was nothing less than a mineral Bill, a proposal to connect the port of Cardiff, with the Western Valleys and the other Monmouthshire valleys; to give, in short, an outlet to the port of Cardiff. Its object was to get an outlet at the port of Cardiff for the coal raised in the Western Valleys, and the other question which had been raised that evening had very little to do with the matter. The authorities for the great shipping port of Cardiff regarded the Bill as one which would very materially add to the interests of the port, and the people there would feel deeply aggrieved if hon. Members, in order to avenge a wrong, real or fancied, were to reject it. He had no doubt that the hon. Member for South Glamorgan had ground for complaint and had a real grievance. It must be remembered, however, that the object of a railway company was to connect not only the up train but the down train, and if in one particular instance a train was retarded by the desire of the inhabitants of the western valleys their interest must be considered as well as that of an hon. Gentleman who was coming to London. He thought the hon. Member for Bewdley had made it clear that the Great Western Railway did their best to meet the desires and wishes of those whom they existed to serve. The local authorities he believed supported the measure, and he did not think the attention of the House ought to be distracted from the main issue by the side issue which had been introduced. He had put down a notice in opposition to the Barry Bill with a view to securing that this Bill and the Barry Bill should both go before the Select Committee, and he hoped that that object would be attained. If a joint line was established he believed that the interest of the community would be best served, and he hoped the House would assent to that arrangement.

MR. JENKINS (Chatham)

supported the Bill. During this session and last session the President of the Board of Trade had been appealed to to do something to get rid of the overtime in consequence of which many accidents were caused on railways. About 5,750,000 tons of coal were brought from the western valleys down to Newport and there was great delay at that point. There was indeed greater delay at the Newport siding than on any other part of the Great Western Company's system. He was sure that his hon. friend, after considering the facts that railwaymen had to work so many hours and that this Bill would do something to do away with excessive overtime, would withdraw his opposition. As a Member of the Cardiff Corporation he wanted to see the trade of that city revived and more work given to a larger number of men. He appealed to hon. Members who had blocked the Bill to allow it to pass.


hoped that the Bill would be allowed to go to a Select Committee. He did not intend to criticise either the merits or the demerits of the measure, but he drew attention to the lack of connection between local trains and main line trains in South Wales referred to by the hon. Member for South Glamorgan. In these and other cases of which complaint had been made to the Board of Trade the scheduled time for the local trains was so fixed that they missed the connection with the main line express trains by a few minutes. The railway companies would do well to see whether they could not reduce to the lowest possible margin the grievance thus arising. As regards the question of third-class sleeping accommodation he, last year, had given certain pledges as to the action of the Board of Trade on the ground that it was thought, judging by the growing feeling in the House, that something should be done by the companies. This grievance had been placed before the representative of the railway companies in the House and an opportunity had been taken to see the general managers of the two lines whose Bills were then before the house. The general managers of the various railway companies had communicated their decision to the Board of Trade on the 3rd October, wherein it was said that, after fully considering the suggestion mentioned by the hon. Member, the heavy pecuniary loss that would be incurred induced the companies to come to the conclusion that they would not be justified in providing the suggested accommodation. Had the third-class passengers a fair claim to consideration in the matter? In the opinion of the Board of Trade their claim was undeniable. The railway returns for 1905 showed that the passenger receipts were £36,000,000, of which the third-class contributed 80 per cent. or £29,500,000. Railway companies and managers objected to third-class sleepers, because they said that they would not be profitable, but he thought they ought to take into account how profitable the third-class traffic was to them. The opinion of the Board of Trade was that the railway companies in their own interests ought to take a larger and broader view. They had submitted no data to the Board of Trade which showed that the traffic would be unremunerative. Provided that the demand existed there could be no question whatever that third-class sleepers would be profitable investments for the railway companies. He had estimates and plans which showed that. One first-class sleeping car accommodated ten passengers. So that, taking a journey from London to Glasgow, in one sleeping car there would be ten passengers each paying 58s. for his fare. The earning capacity of that sleeping car was altogether about £33. Then let them take a third class sleeping car of the same size. Nobody would doubt that that coach would comfortably accommodate, with, of course, overhead sleeping arrangements, twenty passengers. No third-class passenger would object to pay 5s. for that accommodation for the journey. There would, therefore, be twenty passengers in one sleeping car at 5s. each and the fare to Glasgow would be 33s. So that the earnings of the third-class sleeping car would amount to £38 as against £33 earned by the first-class sleeping car. The Board of Trade had not the opportunity of helping the hon. Gentleman that night in his desire to obtain that accommodation save by expressing their sympathy. The instruction which his hon. friend wished to move was out of order. If it had been in order the Board of Trade would have accepted it. He now suggested to his hon. friend that he would benefit the cause which he had at heart if he withdrew his Motion and allowed the Bill to have its Second Reading. He hoped he would take cognisance of the fact that the Board of Trade would press to have the experiment tried in order to see if it was as they thought it was, a paying proposition. That was not an unfair proposal. Although they were sometimes charged with making expensive changes on railways they had not done so, and he would not advocate the third-class sleeping car experiment if he was not absolutely convinced that it would open to the company not a losing but a profitable trade. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman representing the North Western Railway would believe him when he said that he had only spoken in the way he had because he thought the railway company in this matter were standing in their own light.

* MR. WEIR (Ross and Cromarty)

aid that on the last occasion when this question was before the House, they had a promise from the right hon. Member for Epping that he would have this matter considered by the railway companies and would give them the result of those considerations. But he had not done so. He would therefore like to know what the railway companies intended to do. He was glad his hon. friend the Member for Sutherlandshire had the sympathy of the Board of Trade with regard to third-class sleeping accommodation. It appeared to him that the railway companies of this country would do nothing whatever for the third-class passengers in this direction until they were compelled. Therefore he hoped the Board of Trade would continue to press this matter until the railway companies did what was required. The hon. Gentleman the Secreary to the Board of Trade had to-day given the House some interesting information. He had pointed out that a third-class sleeping car would earn £38 odd as against £32 odd earned by the first-class sleeping car. He was sometimes inclined to ask himself when he travelled on the tube railways why it was that railway companies did not sweep away first-class carriages altogether. Third-class carriages were generally full, whilst the first class were usually empty or almost so. This was a very real grievance. His hon. friend the Member for Sutherlandshire had to travel to and from his constituency several times a year, and he was not at all surprised that the hon. Member was anxious to have third-class sleeping carriages, not only for himself, but for the thousands of other passengers and specially commercial travellers, who frequently travelled long journeys at night sitting in cramped and uncomfortable positions in third-class carriages unable to take any rest and who had to attend to their business the next morning. It was all very well for passengers who could command the first-class fare. It was not uncommon to find first-class carriages occupied by only one or two passengers while many first-class were absolutely empty. The hon. Member for Worcester had stated that he was unable to answer his hon. friend with regard to the question of sleeping cars because on his line the question was so small a question. If it was so very small he was surprised that the hon. Member was not able to answer so moderate a request. He would again urge this question upon the railway companies and the right hon. Gentleman, who promised on the last occasion to do his best to give them some information. Now was the opportunity and that was the time for him to tell them all about it. They had had a statement from the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade and they now wanted one one from the directors of the company. He was glad to hear from the hon. Member the Secretary to the Board of Trade that this matter would not be allowed to rest where it was.

Question "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed.