HC Deb 19 October 1909 vol 12 cc123-4

asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies whether a thoroughly responsible British contracting firm, at the initiation of the Uganda Railway Company, offered to construct it efficiently in accordance with specifications for £3,800 per mile, or £2,500,000 for the whole; whether its construction under the control of the Crown Agents had cost £9,504 per mile, being £6,250,000 for the whole; and whether the Crown Agents have any explanation of this cost other than a comparison with other railways constructed under their own control on the same departmental system?

Colonel SEELY

In 1891–2 a reconnaissance survey for the Uganda Railway was made for the Government by four officers of the Royal Engineers; and the estimated cost of the line, based on this preliminary survey, was given as £2,240,000. In a letter dated the 8th of April, 1895, Messrs. Pauling offered to construct and equip the line against a cash payment of £2,240,000, but this offer was declined, as its acceptance would have involved the complete surrender by Government of all control in regard to either materials or construction. The railway was not constructed under the control of the Crown Agents, but of a Committee consisting of representatives of the Foreign Office, Treasury, and the Crown Agents, and of a former Political Agent and Consul-General at Zanzibar, with two retired Indian officials as managing member and consulting engineer respectively. The total cost of the railway has been about £5,500,000. The increased cost was due to the facts that the character of the line was entirely altered from that originally proposed, that the original estimate was only based on a reconnaissance survey, and that various unexpected difficulties, to which reference is made in Cd. 2164, arose during construction.

Mr. J. D. REES

May I ask whether in creases in estimates of this character have not been usual in railway enterprise in Africa?

Colonel SEELY

There have been several cases of the kind, no doubt.


May I ask whether £9,504 per mile is not exclusive of interest on capital?

Colonel SEELY

I cannot say without notice.