HC Deb 21 March 1927 vol 204 cc133-69

Order for Second Reading read.

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


I beg to move, to leave out the word "now" and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."

Last year we had to bring a similar Motion before the House in connection with a similar Bill for the purpose of calling attention to the traffic facilities which this company provides in the East End of London and in South Essex generally. One regrets that in a Measure of this description local matters should have to be intruded on the main purpose of the Bill, but this is the only opportunity we have of voicing considerable grievances to which I hope the company will on this occasion give due consideration. This company serves one of the most thickly populated areas of London including the East End and part of South-Eastern Essex down to the coast. The population of the area is increasing by leaps and bounds. Indeed, during the post-War period in all these districts the population has increased tremendously. Just beyond Barking, where the electric service of the District Railway which has running powers over the London, Midland and Scottish line, now ends, the London County Council are making another new estate, and unless the London, Midland and Scottish Company carry out their legitimate obligations in this area, the traffic problem in that part of London will be made more chaotic than ever. Even when we pass beyond the London County Council area we find West Ham with a population of 350,000, the borough of East Ham with a population of 150,000, Barking, Becontree, Purfleet and so on down to Southend.

When the London, Midland and Scottish Company took over the old London, Tilbury and Southend Company they gave various undertakings to this House. I do not intend, however, to deal with that part of the problem to-night because I understand the railway company have intimated future plans to the local authorities concerned which more or less meet the requirements of those bodies. Therefore, I wish to direct the attention of the House to the service of this company in the parts of East London nearer to Central London. The population which is served is purely industrial. Their wages are comparatively low, and most of them are compelled to go into the City or West End to earn their livelihood. As I have said, the District Rail-way runs an electric service from Bow Road to Barking over the London, Midland and Scottish line, and the fares on this section are on a higher level than that which prevails in London competitive traffic as a whole. I understand the company's case is that the rates are fixed by the Rates Tribunal, and I wish to address a question to the Minister of Transport on that point. Are we to understand that the purpose of the Rates Tribunal is to keep the fares above the general competitive level in London? If an individual gets on an omnibus or tram at East Ham Town Hall and travels by omnibus or tram to Aldgate, and then takes the District Railway from Aldgate to Charing Cross or Westminster, there is a net saving to the passenger of 3d. on that journey. That is because on that particular section of the line, the London, Midland and Scottish insist upon main line fares for the crowded traffic on the District Railway. I wish the Minister to indicate clearly, whether that is the purpose of the Rates Tribunal or whether the company have not power, if they so will, to reduce the charges on that section of the line and bring them into conformity with the rates prevalent elsewhere in London.

Again, because of the practice of the L.M.S., workmen's fares on this section are still just over 100 per cent. more than they were in 1914. That is an anomaly which ought to be rectified, and if the Minister has any power he ought to exercise it in the interests of the tens of thousands of poorly-paid people who are compelled to use that part of our railway system. May I now turn to the travelling conditions on this part of the line? While we all recognise that travelling generally in London is somewhat of a problem, and has become very uncomfortable for the mass of the people who have to get from the outer areas of London to the centre, I venture to assert that the travelling conditions from the East End of London to the centre are a disgrace and are almost unbearable. I experienced that discomfort personally many years ago, when I used to travel by workmen's train, but in the intervening period that difficulty has become worse, and this company is not providing the facilities for the growing population that is there. I have seen young girls using all their physical power in their efforts to get into these trains, and yet these trains repeatedly pass out of the station leaving hundreds behind, it being physically impossible to squeeze in an additional person. It is intolerable that young girls and boys should have to go to their employment under travelling conditions of that description. All the alertness and vigour of which they are capable are very often taken out of them in the early morning by that journey alone.

The more this company extends outwards and the more the area develops in population, so at the stations nearer to London, like East Ham, Upton Park, and Plaistow, the facilities for obtaining a seat or travelling in comfort become less and less. The company have in a tentative way attempted to meet the difficulty by running occasional trains starting from East Ham and from Plaistow, but I wish to urge that they should develop that system much more in the future. I do not see that it is impossible, from a traffic point of view, to start empty intervening or alternative trains from each of these stations, so that facilities are open to persons in all parts of the area at least to get a seat occasionally in travelling to their work. Used as they are in a very overcrowded way, when these trains complete their journey at the end of any particular system or at a junction station some effort should be made, even if in a hurried sense, to fumigate and cleanse them. I do not think that is an unreasonable request, and it is no reflection at all on the people who use the trains —I must use them as frequently as anyone else—but it is obvious that if you have a carriage carrying treble its normal seating capacity, the wear and tear are unduly heavy, and I think the company ought to adopt some method at least of hurriedly sweeping these trains before starting them back on their return journey.

I must apologise for mentioning these detailed complaints, but we must not overlook the fact that it is these daily inconveniences that matter so much to the travelling public. It is very nice in Parliament to talk about problems in a broad and general way, but if Parliament cannot give some attention to the mass of the people of this country, whose time is occupied in the daily routine work that goes to make up the commercial supremacy and greatness of this country, I think it is not doing its duty. I wish we had not to bring these matters before Parliament, but as this is the only opportunity on which criticisms can be levelled against the railway companies to try to bring the pressure of public opinion to bear upon them to improve their service to the community, the difficulty is not with the Member who stands up here, but with the system which makes it necessary.

Another point that I wish to bring to the notice of the company is the position of people who live in areas like Pitsea and Laindon, further down the line. I have constituents who have removed from my particular division to Laindon and Pitsea, who have work in the docks, in the riverside area, and those early morning shifts start at 6 or 6.30 a.m. I know of numerous cases where men have taken their families down to places like Laindon and Pitsea, to give their children the opportunity of fresher air than we get in the East End of London, and yet they are in the unfortunate position of having themselves to reside nearer to their work, in the Borough of East Ham or West Ham, five nights in the week, because there is no train that leaves Pitsea or Laindon, or intermediate stations, to get them to East Ham or Plaistow in sufficient time for them to start work at the proper hour. I understand that a train leaves Southend at 4.20, but it does not stop at these intermediate stations, and I would press upon the railway company to meet a very important domestic matter for a good many families by stopping that train, or possibly sending it off a little earlier. I admit that the railway company are in a difficulty and that it might mean five or 10 minutes earlier for the people at Southend, but in matters of this sort I think the convenience of people all down the line should be considered, even if it meads a slightly earlier rising time for the people at the extreme end.

I sincerely trust that the representatives of the railway company will realise that this particular company holds the key to the traffic problem in the East End of London. If the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company does not extend its service in all parts of East London and South Essex, that traffic problem will grow steadily worse, and while recognising the general difficulties of ralway administration to-day, I do not think they will overcome those difficulties by piling up dissatisfaction among the travelling public.


They are not.


I would ask the hon. Member to consider this fact, that for the last 14 years this company has been under the obligation to extend its facilities in this area. I have lived in that district all my life, and have had daily experience of the problem of the travelling public in the East End of London, and I have no hesitation in saying, while admitting all the difficulties, that that problem has become steadily worse as the years have gone by. It is not because the people are disinclined to use that system. As a matter of fact, the difference of 3d. on the fare from Upton Park to the centre gives the situation in a nutshell. The mass of the people in that area must study a factor like 3d. on a single journey to the West End of London, and tens of thousands of people are being pushed on to the roads, on to omnibuses and tramcars, who, from the standpoint of convenience, would prefer to travel on the Underground, if its system were extended from Barking and if the service were more complete.

We are repeatedly hearing complaints from the railway companies that motor traffic is undermining their position. I say that if that be true, it is because the railway companies are not meeting the modern problem of suburban traffic. I know from practical experience that thousands of people want to travel on the District Railway, but the fares are so high in comparison with other forms of traffic, and the conditions are so uncomfortable, that they are compelled to go on omnibuses and tramcars, and the more we use road vehicles the more congestion we have in the Commercial Road, the East India Dock Road and in the City generally. I ask the Railway Company to take this problem seriously in hand in the East End of London otherwise we shall have to stiffen our attitude.


I beg to second the Amendment.

My hon. Friend adduced some very weighty reasons in moving the rejection of the Bill, and I should like to place before the House some other reasons for the attitude which those of us who are opposing the Bill are taking up. I go back to February, 1924, when this railway company had a Bill before the House. The Noble Lord the Member for Southend (Viscount Elveden) at that time read a letter from the general manager of the railway company, and my hon. Friend the Member for Moseley (Mr. Hannon) made a very optimistic speech. The speeches delivered on that occasion led us to believe that an immediate panacea was forthcoming, and that the overcrowding and unsatisfactory service would be remedied, but, I regret to say that no very great improvement has taken place. I should like to divide the few remarks I propose to address to the House into two portions. Both portions have one thing in common, and that is the very general reluctance on the part of the inhabitants of the districts concerned to agree to any postponement, however brief that may be.

First, I should like to deal with the Corporation of Southend. There did appear at one moment upon the Order Paper of the House an Instruction that the Corporation of Southend should be allowed to submit a case to the Committee before which the Bill will come, if it obtains a Second Reading. Upon that Instruction appearing on the Paper, the railway company and the corporation got into touch. Some of us have acted as intermediaries and negotiators betwen the two contending parties, and I am very glad to say that the railway company have now submitted certain proposals to Southend which have led them to withdraw their opposition from the Bill for the time being. In order that there may be a public record of what has transpired, I would like to read the House an extract from a letter written to my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Looker) setting forth the proposals of the company. The letter is written by the president of the executive of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company, and I would here say, if I may, how much we appreciate his courtesy and kindness in seeing us, and, I think I may say, his very evident desire to deal with the problems which he has inherited, and which, possibly, are not of his making. This is from the letter, which was written on the 11th March: I am, however, prepared to undertake on behalf of my Company that within two years from the present date, alternative proposals of a really comprehensive nature will be put forward, and should Parliamentary powers be necessary to give effect to them a Bill will be promoted for that purpose, but it is understood that as it may be that the carrying out of these proposals is dependent upon the acquiescence and cooperation of other parties interested, it is impossible for my Company to pledge themselves to any particular scheme. That has satisfied the Corporation of Southend, because, in addition to that, the company have undertaken im- mediately to put in hand certain minor ameliorative measures, and they have give actual dates by which these shall be put into operation. Once more we are prepared to meet the railway company, and I would appeal to them most earnestly to recognise that we have attempted to meet them in the most conciliatory spirit, and in a spirit which does recognise that certain difficulties do exist.

In the second portion of my remarks, I would like to deal with the problem of Barking and Becontree. The London County Council have on that side of Essex a vast housing scheme. When it is completed, it is estimated that there will be a population living there of 120,000 people, where a few years ago there were none at all. At least 20,000 people use Barking station every day. Not only are these two districts rapidly developing, but there are other districts further down the line, such as Horn-church and Upminster. The Royal Air Force are putting up a large aerodrome at Hornchurch, and a large garden city is being developed at Upminster. I think the railway company are realising their obligations, in that they have put in hand electrical signalling on a certain section of their line, which, I understand, will allow the capacity of the line to be increased. But the problem is so vast that merely ameliorative measures are not going to be of any value. We have to realise that vast new towns are springing up, and, in my view, it will necessitate the construction, eventually of a fresh line. Nothing less than that will satisfy the needs of the district.

It is my privilege to represent a Division on the edge of London, and I can assure my hon. Friend opposite from my own personal knowledge that, travel ling-conditions are perfectly scandalous. The overcrowding has really to be undergone to be believed, and I do not exaggerate when I say that I can produce instances of people who have not been able to get out at the station at which they wish to alight, let alone others not being able to get into the train. The longer this problem is left, the greater it becomes, and the more difficult will the various traffic interests serving that part of London find it to deal with it. It may be that in the future some big scheme for the whole of East London traffic will be evolved, but we cannot assent to much more delay, and, as we have endeavoured to be reasonable and conciliatory on this occasion, I hope that when the hon. Gentleman who, I understand, will reply for the railway company comes to speak, he will be able to give us some real hope of something tangible being done to satisfy the needs of the inhabitants of that area.


l am venturing to intervene in this Debate for the reason that I have been a member of the London Traffic Advisory Committee since its formation, and, through the courtesy of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, I have had the privilege of being a member of each of the three committees which have held public inquiries into the travelling facilities in North London, East London and South-East London. With the information we have obtained and the conclusions we have come to, I hope I may be able to be of some help in this discussion. In the first place, I would say that I believe all that my hon. Friend the Member for South-East Ham (Mr. Barnes) and my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Rhys) have said about the difficulties of the situation is in every way true. The Committee which investigated the situation in East London reported: We are thoroughly convinced that the inadequacy of the through travelling facilities to and from East London generally has been established. I would like to illustrate some of the lines along which we as a Committee think this problem is ultimately to be settled. At Becontree there is an instance of a new town suddenly arising on the rim of a great city. Where there were formerly fields, in a very short time there will be, as the hon. Member said, a town of 120,000 people. Not only are there the crowded districts between here and Barking, but there is this immense accretion of population at Becontree.

My first point is that I believe the solution of this problem is not the special privilege, shall I say, or obligation of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company. There are many people responsible for this great district, and many people will have to bear their share. There is great and an intensive road competition; there is the London and North Eastern Railway, with its responsibility; and there is the special responsibility of the Underground service. In order that the House may fully appreciate the situation, I would like to show to whom the line which has been the subject of discussion belongs. The District Railway ownership, apart from about one-sixth of a mile between St. Mary's and Whitechapel, ends at the Mansion House. Between the Mansion House and Whitechapel the line is the joint property of the District Railway and the Metropolitan Railway. Between Whitechapel and Bow it is the joint property of the Metropolitan Railway Company and the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company. From Bow to Barking it is the absolute property of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company. The District Railway have running rights over these last two sections.

We have heard to-night, and we heard much more at the inquiry, of the overcrowding on the trains. This overcrowding makes a very interesting story. Practically, there is overcrowding for four hours out of the 18½ hours the line is open daily. For two hours in the morning and for two hours at night there is all the overcrowding and all the congestion to which hon. Members have alluded; they could not paint too black a picture of the terrors and the horrors of those four hours out of the 18½. But for the remainder of the time, for 14½ hours, there is a slackness of traffic which is probably unequalled in London. Within 10 miles of Charing Cross there is no line of railway which carries such a small traffic during the slack period as the particular section under discussion. The equipment of power and cars is practically doing nothing for these 14½ hours.

We have ventured to suggest to the London, Midland and Scottish Railway certain means by which improvements may be made. We were told, and I have no doubt we shall be told to-night, that the Company have begun, and I believe are approaching completion, of electric signalling on the lines belonging to them. When that is done, certain relief will be obtained. At the present moment the maximum number of trains that can be run on the sector from Barking to the Mansion House at the peak hours—or, indeed, at any hour—is 24 per hour. When this new signalling is complete—and probably some representative of the company will tell us that it soon will be complete—it is estimated that another four trains per hour can be run in each direction. That will mean that 28 trains an hour can run over that sector at any time, and that they will be able to carry something like 3,200 additional passengers every hour.

That is the first solution. The second proposal—and again L do not know what answer we shall get to-night—was that the London, Midland and Scottish Railway should electrify their line from Barking to Upminster. If they did that we were assured that the District Railway could run their electric trains from the west of London right through to Upminster, and that, of course, would bring relief to that estate which the hon. Member for Romford so admirably represents. These were the two improvements which we thought the London, Midland and Scottish Railway might undertake at any time; hut, after all, the key to this problem is in another part altogether. A small section of the line from Aldgate East to Whitechapel is really the crux and the key of the problem of this line. Over that small section of line not only do the District trains run from the Mansion House to Barking, but one gets the Metropolitan trains coming from the Inner Circle dipping down under the Thames, and going to join the Southern Railway at New Cross. It is that extra number of trains passing over that section which makes it impossible at the present moment, and will make it impossible even after electric signalling has been installed, to run more than 28 trains over this sector in an hour. We suggest that there should be built a fly-under, by means of which the Metropolitan trains can be diverted to pass under the line and so under the Thames to New Cross. The cost of that will be very serious; it is estimated at about £1,500,000. I want to stress the great importance of that particular piece of work. When this is done 40 trains per hour can pass over this section and improve by 66 per cent. the present service. In our last report on the South-East London inquiry we made a suggestion that the Southern trains should be projected through that tunnel to the District lines and so give an improved service between South-East and Central London. If that be done it will mean more trains on that sector, and that would only aggravate the present trouble. This makes the building of the fly-under a matter of urgency because it is the key to the position.

For the moment that section belongs to the District and the Metropolitan Railways, but we say that it really is the common problem of all these railway companies, and I suggest to the House that sooner or later the four or five railway companies concerned should get together and frankly face the building of that fly-under junction in order to give this great relief. In all these railway extensions we know the question of finance is the crux of the whole problem. The committee of inquiry into this question reported: The evidence submitted at this Inquiry strengthens their view that no lasting solution of the London passenger transport problem can be secured so long as the present competitive methods are pursued. It is only by the elimination of all wasteful, uneconomic and unnecessary competition between the various transport agencies, that it will be possible for any considerable improvements to be effected, particularly in the way of the construction of new underground or surface railways. 9.0 p.m.

Perhaps I may be allowed to refer to the question of railway fares, and make a comparison with tram and omnibus fares? We had that problem very earnestly examined by the representatives of the Southern Railway at the last inquiry. They said that they felt that this competition was doing damage to their service, and they made the suggestion that somebody—they did not say whether it should be the Minister of Transport—should raise the fares of the trams and omnibuses up to the fares charged by the railways. Of course, that was a solution which we could not countenance for a moment. If and when we do get this co-ordination of London services and the elimination of the waste that is going on, we are confident that we shall be able to lower the railway fares down to the fares charged by other transport services. After all, Members of this House know as well as I do the very perilous financial position of the suburban railway traffic. We have been told that the Southern Railway have been compelled to close down eight of their suburban stations in the South-Eastern section because the traffic has left it, and this is the problem which is causing the greatest possible anxiety to the suburban railway service. After all, much as we may admire omnibuses and tramways, all means of transport are necessary for a great extending city. As the city grows the transport problem becomes a very complex one. When you get new towns like Becontree growing on the edge of a great city you need express railway services to connect the outer suburbs with the centre, and you also need stopping trains to connect the inner suburbs with the centre, and you need omnibuses and trams to deal with heavy short journeys. All these are necessary, and you cannot do without them. What is more, you cannot allow any one of them to be killed by the others. We are now fast approaching a time when certain services are going to kill other services unless some co-ordination like the one I have suggested takes place.

May I give some interesting figures in regard to the competitive services of omnibuses, trams and railways? I will take the figures for omnibuses, trams and the tubes. The average receipt per passenger per annum on the Underground services to-day is 2.8d. The average in the case of an omnibus is l.8d. and for a tram 1.5d. The cost of carrying the passengers on these services is 2.ld. on the Underground railways; l.5d. for the omnibus, and l.3d. for a tram. If you consider what is the capital investment of providing each of these services for each passenger every year the figures are, on the Underground 34d. per passenger, 5d. for a tram and l.5d. for an omnibus. If you combine all these figures into one economic whole you find the cost of providing these services. If you take the economic value of an omnibus at 100 you will find the economic return for a tram is 21, and on the Underground it is only 15. It is obvious, therefore, if you allow this competition to go on the omnibus must kill the railway and even the trams.

That is the problem we have to contemplate. We believe the solution of this problem is only one of the many traffic problems in Greater London which will have to be taken on the shoulders of many people, and ultimately must be borne by the responsibilities of a large number of people. The Minister of Transport, in answer to a question put by the hon. Member for Ilford (Sir F. Wise), stated that a small Committee had been set up to consider the coordination of all great transport services in London. It has been sitting for several months, and while it would be improper for me to say how far things have gone, some of us seem to think that it is on those lines a solution will be found. I wish to say, in conclusion, that I think the London, Midland and Scottish Railway can only contribute a very small portion towards the solution of this problem, but I believe they are trying to do that. I hope this Bill will be given a Second Reading.


Whatever else may be said of railway companies, they do, at least, by our procedure in this House, provide a very convenient opportunity of discussing, not only their own sins of omission and commission, but generally the ills of the world. I heard with considerable interest the speech of the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir H. Jackson), whose work on the Traffic Committee is well known and appreciated. Having listened very carefully to all that he said, I expected him to wind up by saying that the Report he produced showed the competitive system to have broken down, and asking the House to realise that the only remedy is nationalisation. That is what he was leading up to.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)

He did not get as far as that.


Apparently because he thought that you might have stopped him, he did not quite get there, but, at all events, he did clearly set out to show what, after all, is the real essence of this case—the problem which my hon. Friends who moved and seconded the rejection of this Bill showed to be a real problem. There is great difficulty, there are great inconveniences, but anyone who knows anything of railway or traffic problems knows perfectly well that, no matter who may speak for the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company, no matter how good their intentions may be, no matter how sincere they are, no matter if they even applied the whole of their resources to it, they could not solve the problem. The answer to the remarkable figures quoted by the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth is very simple. That, after all, is the railway problem to-day, not only in London, but all over the country. The hon. Member has shown, by his figures for costs in the case of railways, omnibuses and trams, that the real people who have got away with it, and whom the public are paying, are the ground landlords who have had to be bought out, thus enhancing the prices which the railway companies have to charge to-day. That is the real answer to the competitive prices that the hon. Member mentioned.

Not a solitary word has been said against this Bill, and, therefore, we are all agreed that, the Bill being a good Bill, we will use our Parliamentary opportunities to discuss what is not in the Bill, and what could not possibly be in the Bill, because it happens to be a London, Midland and Scottish Railway Bill. When you are dealing with the question of fares, and particularly cheap fares—and if it were possible to have lower fares than obtain to-day I certainly would support it—it must be remembered that, just as sugar, and tea, and newspapers and other things have gone up, just as the wages of the workers producing those particular commodities have gone up, so the reduction of railway fares must not be at the expense of sweated railway labour or reductions in railway men's pay. I am always interested to hear the critics of the railway companies who talk about railway fares being 50 per cent. higher than they were before the War, but who forget that they can hardly show a commodity or industry, whose prices have not gone up by at least 75 per cent. to 100 per cent. You will see in the newspapers agitations against extortionate railway Companies, but none of them say a word about the fact that their charges have gone up by 100 per cent., as against 50 per cent. in the case of the railway companies.

One of my hon. Friends said that he would like to see the trains fumigated. I suppose he has been to a cinema, and at half-time has seen them go round with some fizz and, so to speak, clear the atmosphere. Let me urge him, however, to remesnber that a railway train is not a cinema, and, while it would be a very good thing if we could have something on the lines he indicated, I would ask him to imagine what would happen if there were a thousand passengers at the other end waiting for that train. Their language, while the train was being fumigated, would entirely overbalance the argument on the other side. I hope the Minister will not say anything—I am sure he will not—that would interfere with the functions of the Railway Rates Tribunal. The Railway Rates Tribunal is a safeguard to the worker, to the shareholder, and to the public. The Railway Rates Tribunal, in fixing rates, are not only empowered to take evidence from all sides, but they are empowered also to take into consideration the working conditions of the great mass of the railwaymen, and that, in itself, must be a factor that governs their recommendations. I believe that this is a good Bill. I believe that all the grievances that have been ventilated are genuine, but they cannot all be remedied by this company. I hope. that the company itself will give earnest consideration to those points that can be remedied, and that the House will give its best assistance by giving the Bill a Second Reading.


I want to say one further word to press home the matter of the London County Council housing scheme at Beacontree. I do not think that it would be possible here in this House at this moment to devise a comprehensive scheme to deal with the very complicated position of affairs between the various railway companies with a view to solving this problem, but what I think we can do, and ought to do, is to get some undertaking from those who are promoting this Bill that there will be no further delay in doing something to strengthen the railway services on the line between Southend and London, particularly that portion of it passing through the Beacontree estate. It has already been pointed out what a large estate that is, how it is growing, and how eventually there will be something like 120,000 people living on it. When we settled on that estate in 1919, we had very largely in view the factor of communications. The House will realise, because it knows about housing and about communications as no other body in the country does,. that it is no earthly use having a housing estate outside a large metropolis like London without having proper communications between that estate and the Metropolis, because nine-tenths of the people, who are actual wage-earners, will come in every day to the Metropolis.

When we settled on that estate in 1919, and bought it in order to develop it as a housing estate, we had distinctly in our minds the need for proper communications between the estate and London, and already arrangements had been made or undertakings given, by the predecessors of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company, that the line should be electrified in 1919, the very year in which we acquired the estate. Further undertakings were given by the Underground Railways that, in conjunction with the Midland Railway, they would not only re-signal the whole of the line, but would electrify the line between Barking and Southend. That has not been done; nothing has been done towards accomplishing it, with the exception of some amount of re-signalling and the erection of one station on the Beacontree estate. Admitting all the difficulties, admitting all the intricacies of the question, I do think that that is not a good record for those two railway companies. What I think I am entitled to insist upon, on behalf of the London County Council and its housing estate, is that we should get a definite undertaking from the promoters of this Bill that, inasmuch as we know now that the re-signalling—automatic signalling—is to be completed some time this year, either in May or June, from that date there should be an increase in trains as between Beacontree and the Metropolis. I understand that the company is willing to give us six extra trains in each of the peak hours, two in the morning and two in the evening over those running now, making 12 each way every day during the peak hours. That is a great concession, and one which I am sure will meet with the approval of the people who live on that line.

Not only shall we have more trains, as I understand it, but larger trains, because the intention is to increase the size of the platforms, and by doing that we shall be able to have longer trains holding more people. Then, I understand, not only shall we get these six extra trains at the peak hours but, spread over the whole day, we shall be able to get four to six extra trains on the top of those running into Broad Street. That is the first thing we ask the promoters of the Bill to undertake as from May or June next, or whenever it is that the re-signalling will be complete. In the second place, we ought to have a promise that they will do their very best in their negotiations with the other group of railway companies to have a really comprehensive scheme worked out before 1929, when they will bring in another Bill to include all that my hon. Friend said ought to be done to bring the underground system right over the London, Midland and Scottish system. Those are the two points I want to make on behalf of the county council. If we get our extra trains now, with an undertaking two years hence to have a thoroughly good scheme hammered out and carried out to a conclusion so that we shall have a system giving us 40 trains an hour at the peak hour, we shall be satisfied.


Two years ago I had an opportunity of raising the special grievances of a district in South Wales against the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company. I once had an interview with the general manager, who went into the details very thoroughly with me and explained the difficulties they had to contend with. We had an interview recently with the heads of the company and they made a promise that certain things shall be done to make the necessary improvements as soon as financial conditions permit. The special grievance I have to bring before the House is this. We have a branch railway about 14 miles long on which the stations are wooden structures. One of them is 1,150 feet above sea level. Anyone travelling there on a winter evening and finding the accommodation they have would think himself in an uncivilised country. I am told that the income that branch line draws from the Tredegar Steel, Iron and Coal Company, and other companies, amounts to £150,000 per annum, though it is only fair to say that the railway company does not admit the accuracy of that figure. The Tredegar people at mass meetings, the Chamber of Commerce, the Tredegar Steel, Iron and Coal Company and the Urban District Authority are all stating very definitely that the time has come for the Railway Company to provide better station accommodation. It may be true that they are not taking as much money from that part of the country as they used to, but they have drawn large sums of money from that area and nothing has been done in return. The wooden structure at Tredegar is an eye-sore to the whole place. There is a beautiful lake in the vicinity. The station was built in 1865, and practically no improvement has been made since. It has only one platform, which is about 100 feet by 15, with a covering over only a part of it. The passenger traffic is very considerable. There is a level crossing 12 yards above the station platform, and traffic has been delayed by as much as 17 minutes at a time owing to shunting operations. I should be failing in my duty if I did not use this opportunity of emphasising the necessity of certain improvements. The Tredegar people are very bitter on the point. They have sent deputations to Euston over and over again, and a promise has been given that steps shall be taken immediately. I am asking the House to take note of it so that the next time a Bill is promoted by this company it will be resisted unless the promise has been carried out.


I am always interested in discussions on railway Bills, but I only rise to draw attention to the futility of much of the discussion that has taken place, and that takes place on similar Measures. It is easy for people having knowledge of the great volume of peak morning and even traffic round the Metropolis to criticise any railway company, but their energies are mis-directed because, no matter what the motive power is or how frequently trains may be run during those peak hours, they will never solve the problem. I have had experience of driving these trains into London in the morning and outwards in the evening some years ago, since when the passenger traffic has intensified. My experience was that, no matter how fast the trains were booked, no matter how long they were, as you were leaving one station you could see in the distance the next train coming towards that station. My train was packed, and there were always the half-dozen or more "last second" passengers running and scrambling into your train in a position of unsafety, no matter how long you had been at that platform.

If the railway companies carried out their own rules for the safety of the travelling public and refused to allow passengers to approach the trains because of the danger to the passengers themselves, then the confusion and congestion would be far more complicated and intensified than it is to-day. The railway companies and the railway servants do their best to meet the necessities of the travlling public, but it is impossible, I repeat, for any railway company with any motive power—work their servants never so hard—to cope with the morning and evening peak traffic around this city or some of the other great cities.

Therefore, I ask, why turn criticism and energy, thought and research, to something which cannot be solved in that way? There have been other suggestions made, and I remember quite well when I was a member of the Railway Advisory Committee which was set up at the close of the War and which was in being until the railways amalgamated, we made a suggestion then to endeavour to solve this problem. We realised that it was impossible, as I have indicated, to deal with the peak traffic satisfactorily and allow no inconvenience to any would-be passenger, but we did find a solution. That may appear to be a large claim because I know that not only the hon. Member for Wandsworth (Sir H. Jackson), who spoke in so well-informed a manner on this question, but others have turned their attention, brains and experience to it, but I repeat we did find a solution. We suggested that as it was impossible for the railway companies to carry the traffic of the morning and evening peak period, the business houses and factories and works might alter their times of starting and closing and break it up over about two hours. But no one was willing to do that to assist the problem. Every office said, "No, we must start at 9 or 9.30 in the morning; it would upset our whole business to start half an hour earlier or later." Every factory and workshop said, "We must start at this particular time or the whole of our business would go." I do not believe that those statements were correct, and I believe if the business elements in these great cities could arrange to open their shops some half an hour earlier and some half art hour later so as to cover an hour, and close them in the same way in the evenings, even if they alternated their opening and closing for the convenience of their servants, this problem could be solved. But so long as your people are not prepared to alter their age-old conventions by half an hour or three-quarters of an hour, I suggest we are wasting the time of the House if we continually criticise the railway companies who cannot possibly solve the problem themselves.

There is one other point on which I should like to say a word; again I am referring to the very learned exposition of the position given by the hon. Member for Wandsworth. He pointed out that it is necessary to have trams, trains and omnibuses to deal with the traffic round the great cities. Yes, but the railway companies are in a peculiar position. Where road traffic is necessary, there is an expansion of new roads to meet the convenience of omnibuses and trams and we have a Road Fund to assist them. The railway companies, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) pointed out, have been financially hamstrung from years ago—for which the present proprietors or those who manage the railways, are not responsible—by the rapacious demands of the ground landlords putting up the cost of this or that bit of land purchased for the railways, and there is no Road Fund to assist the railways companies. Every practical railwayman knows that the traffic—it is the same underground as above ground—at these particular hours is absolutely overwhelming, and no science or methods can deal with it, whether you have electric or pneumatic signalling, or electric trains, and no matter what the motive power may be, steam or electric. You cannot get more trains over a given area with safety, irrespective of what the power may be.

The only solution, as every practical railwayman will say, is to broaden the railway road just as you would the roads to carry more omnibuses, trams or motor cars. The nation spends money and taxes itself to provide broader and better roads for the private car owner, who is often travelling for pleasure and not for peak-hour business and for the trams and omnibuses, but as long as the railways are restricted to such narrow permanent ways in the cities, you cannot get more trains over them. The advantage is all with the road transport because the nation provides better roads for it. I am not presuming to ask that national finances should allow subsidised railways to broaden their traffic roads into the cities, but it is a problem for all who in the future have to govern the complicated traffic in any city. They are prepared to help the roads, and until they are prepared to recognise the difficulties of the railways, too, and assist them to broaden out their roads to bring their passengers in. I suggest, with all respect, it is a waste of the time, intelligence and energy of this House to criticise that which no one on this earth can possibly help under present circumstances.


As a director of the railway company which has introduced this Bill, I will endeavour to deal with some of the points which have been raised. I should like to enter a protest on behalf of the railway company against the remark made by the Mover of this Amendment when he said that for 14 years the railway company had done nothing to carry out their bargain made in 1912. I am quite sure he did not intend by that to suggest that the railway company had really neglected an obligation which they had accepted when the Act of 1912 was passed. I think he omitted to remember that there was War which lasted four years, that at the end of the War the railways were under the Government and not in private hands, and that on the completion of that period the whole question of the railways was before this House and the whole position was recast and it was not until 1922 that the railways could act on their own behalf. In 1924, a Bill was brought in for dealing with this question. Therefore, the suggestion that we have been leaving, for a good many years, an obligation which this House placed on us, is scarcely fair. The hon. Member for Wandsworth referred to the question of the railway and travelling facilities into the big cities, especially in regard to the particular part of London which lies to the east. It is a problem which is exercising the minds of many people and is a very big question indeed. I think the House would be very unwise if Members did not cast their minds forward as to what the problem will be 50 years hence, and any movement which takes place which does not visualise the future would be likely to be a wrong one. Therefore, if we do not move very fast it is partly because we think that this is a problem that ought to be considered not only from the point of view of the London,, Midland and Scottish Railway but that of other railways also, and other means of communication, and that it is not only the railways that are or will be affected, but the whole question of the movement of these vast masses of population from their homes to their work, and back.

The company are prepared to undertake that within two years of the present date alternative proposals will be put forward, and should Parliamentary powers be necessary to give effect to them, a Bill will be promoted for that purpose, but it is to be understood that, as it may be the carrying out of these proposals is dependent upon the acquiescence and cooperation of other parties interested, it is impossible for my company to pledge themselves to any particular scheme. We have, in addition, given in charge of the late chief engineer of the company the question of inquiring into the engineering problems that present themselves in this district. The question of electrification is one of them. One official is solely engaged in the consideration of schemes for meeting the future requirements of the traffic on the London and Southend sections; progressive electrification is one of them, and alterations and improvements at Broad Street is another. Steps are being taken to avoid delay owing to traffic movements, and the provision of additional running lines and facilities. Therefore, the House will see that we are studying these questions and taking steps to see what solution can be provided.

It is not entirely a question for ourselves. We may be able to run a greater number of trains by means of additional facilities on our own portion of the line, but when those trains leave us and go to the other lines it is a question whether those lines are able to take the additional number of trains. We are in process of automatically signalling the line between Barking and Bow. That work will be completed, we hope, by this summer, and when the work has been completed we shall be able to accept 40 trains per hour as against 26 to-day. It will not, however, be possible to arrange with the District Company for more than six additional trains per hour in the first instance; but this number will be increased so soon as the necessary arrangements can be made. These arrangements will relieve the difficulty at Upton Park and other stations on this section. It will be seen, therefore, that we have not been altogether idle, but that we have been taking steps to deal with this problem. It is a very big problem, and it would be unwise to take steps which would have immediate effect if they were not steps which were going to help to solve the difficulties of this problem, not only in the year after next, but 10 or 20 years from now. I think I have answered the remarks of the hon. Member for Fulham, West (Sir C Cobb). Six additional trains will be run this summer during the peak hours.


Stopping at Becontree?


We are fully alive to the importance of the population at Becontree, and I hope that all these trains are going to stop at Becontree. We shall undoubtedly have in mind the requirements of Becontree, and we fully admit that the requirements are not at present satisfactorily met by the existing service. The hon. Member for East Ham South (Mr. Barnes) referred to fares. The question of fares is at present before the Railway Rates Tribunal, and I am informed that three local authorities have filed petitions to be heard before the Rates Tribunal. Therefore, the question of fares is really sub-judice, seeing that it is now before the committee set up by Parliament to deal with such questions. Another point raised by the hon. Member was the overcrowding of the trains. We hope that the additional trains which we shall be able to put on will mitigate, if they do not entirely cure, the evil of overcrowding, but as the large majority of people seem to want to travel during certain hours the difficulty of meeting the traffic demands during certain hours is one which I am afraid will always be with us. However, the six additional trains will help somewhat to relieve the pressure on the peak periods when the overcrowding takes place. With regard to the cleaning of the trains, I do not know whether the hon. Member was referring to the London, Midland and Scottish trains or to the trains belonging to some other railway company.


The District Railway.


We are not responsible for the District Railway. We do know that the trains are not always in a condition in which we would like to see them, but after the rush hours all the London, Midland and Scottish trains in that locality are cleaned out. I am afraid that if we attempted to clean them during the rush hours we should complicate still more the overcrowding problem. The timing of the trains, to which the hon. Member referred, is a question which is being very carefully considered by the executive officers. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Evan Davies) raised the question of the condition of the Tredegar Station and the other stations on the Tredegar branch. I can assure the hon. Member that we are fully alive to the condition of these stations. There are, unfortunately, other stations on other parts of the system which are also in an unsatisfactory condition. We have a list of these stations, and I am sorry to say that Tredegar does not come top, but it will undoubtedly come in for proper attention in due course. I hope the House will grant a Second Reading to the Bill.


I am sorry that I am unable to put the questions I desire to raise to the hon. Member who has just sat down, but perhaps some other hon. Member who can speak for the company will be able to give me some satisfaction. The right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) and the hon. Member opposite who spoke in favour of the Bill have both left the House, otherwise I should have felt rather timorous in taking part in the discussion seeing that a railway director and a trade union leader have told us how hopeless it is for us to say anything or do anything. If either of these two hon. Members travelled on the district railway, and on that part of it controlled by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, or if their wives and daughters travelled on it night and morning, then in spite of what they have said, they would want something done. Every Session of Parliament, except perhaps during the War period, since the District Railway and the London, Midland and Scottish Railway have been run to Barking, there have been discussions on the overcrowded condition at certain times of the day and night, and even now I am not sure that hon. Members really understand what goes on on this railway at these times. For reasons quite beyond my control I have to go up and down early in the evening, I have to see someone who is lying ill, and the filthy condition of overcrowding is such that no man would want his daughter or his wife to endure, and I suggest that Sir Josiah Stamp should go himself and take any woman relative he pleases from Westminster to Barking any night or morning between the hours of six and nine. I am talking about the London, Midland and Scottish line between Aldgate and Barking; that portion of the line which we have been told is under the control of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway.

It is no use telling us that two or three people are responsible; and it is really not a matter to joke about. For two or three years I have not had to ride on the railway, but lately I have done so, and I am shocked each night as I go down and each morning as I come up at the condition of overcrowding, which the wives and daughters and sisters of the working people have to endure. The hon. Member for Plaistow (Mr. W. Thome) has been calling attention to this matter since the years 1910 and 1911, but if anything the conditions are worse to-day. As to the remedy, that is a matter for discussion, but some things, in spite of what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby has said, could be done now. We have running from Poplar to Broad Street what used to be called the North London Railway; it is now a portion of the London, Midland and Scottish concern. That railway was formerly used to a very considerable extent by the inhabitants of the district, but it is run to-day as it was run 50 years ago, the same kind of engine, the same kind of carriage, not the least attempt made to expedite the travelling, no comfort, no more convenience. It goes on now as it did many years ago. The portion of the line with which I am most concerned, that from Dalston Junction to the Docks, is a portion which pays very well indeed, because it carries for its length the heaviest amount of goods traffic to and from the docks of any piece of line in and around London. The company do not care a bit for the passenger traffic, and never have done. They just take it as though it was a nuisance, and give the smallest service possible.

In these days there are no trains on Sundays. The line is shut down, and yet that line from Poplar could carry our people to Hampstead Heath and Kew Gardens and Victoria Park, but simply because this company does not care one scrap about the passenger traffic it is closed entirely on Sundays. On weekdays the services, which were cut down during the strike and lockout, have never been restored, and so far as we can see, they are never going to be restored. The reason which will be given is that it does not pay, but it is quite certain the railway will never pay if the company runs it on the same methods and with the same organisation that existed fifty years ago. There it is. I should like hon. Members opposite to sample that railway. They will not find it overcrowded. They will have plenty of room and plenty of time. It is slow, comfortable and easy, and beats the South Eastern into fits. There is no railway in the Kingdom that is conducted as the old North London line is conducted. We do not want to cast our minds forward to what is going to happen a hundred years hence. We are concerned with what is going to happen now, and we say that this piece of railway is not properly used. The company has already electrified certain portions of the line which run to the west of London from Broad Street, but they have not even considered whether they will electrify the portion of the old North London which runs through to Poplar.

That brings to the next point. The experts, the trade union leaders and directors or representatives of directors, have with one accord told us that it is hopeless, that nothing can be done, that it is too big a question, that we must wait for co-ordination, and wait for this, that and the other. As a matter of fact you could ease the district that my hon. Friend represents, the whole of East Ham and Barking district, if this piece of North London line were electrified and you used the junction between Plaistow and Bow to run trains through to Broad Street. That is not done, because the directors do not trouble one scrap about the people who want to travel. The junction there is made. You have not to spend £'1,000,000 to fly over or fly under, for you have the junction made. The people who go to Aldgate, many thousands of them, would be even more conveniently placed if they were put out at Broad Street. But the company leave that junction almost unused. It was built years ago for some trains to operate, but nowadays it is scarcely operated at all. While I suppose all of us agree that it is not a very good thing for Parliament to spend a lot of time listening to this sort of complaint that affects only a few, yet I notice that every Member from a constituency which has a complaint uses the House to voice that complaint when he has a chance. But when other Members do it, or I do it, there is proof that we have not yet discovered how properly to use the time of Parliament.

I wish that we had a better means of bringing forward these grievances and getting them remedied. I have not very much hope that Sir Josiah Stamp and his colleagues will bother much about Poplar and Bow and Bromley and Hackney. We cannot spend very much money on passenger traffic, but we do happen to want some conveniences. We are not asking for a new railway to be built. We are asking for a railway that is built to be properly used, and that a means of accommodation which at present exists should be used to mitigate terrible over-crowding Everybody knows that over-crowding takes place very largely between Aldgate and East Ham. If this Broad Street to Plaistow section of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, which belongs entirely to the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, were open and the line electrified and properly developed, it is certain that the over-crowding would be very considerably lessened. I hope that if another representative of the company is to speak he will tell us what the company propose to do with regard to this North London Railway, when we may hope to get a full service restored, when we may hope to get the line electrified, and when we may hope to get on that line some carriages that did not come out of the Ark.

10.0 p.m.


If it were considered in its true setting, I think that the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken would stand out as a really startling example of inconsistency, because, as the representative of his constituency, he voices what he believes to be the grievance of. his constituents as to the character and capacity of the railway service that they presumably do not enjoy, and yet in his capacity as a member of the Opposition with Socialist tendencies, on Friday next he will ask the House to encourage municipalities to run omnibuses all over the country in opposition to the railways.


How do you know what I am going to do?


We all know. I should be entirely out of order were I to pursue any arguments as to the merits or otherwise of municipalities running omnibuses from Land's End to John o'Groats. That subject must be discussed in due course when it arises. What the House is asked to consider to-night is whether a Bill promoted by a railway company should be given a Second Reading in order that its details may be considered. The essential points in the Bill are not numerous. After the somewhat discursive Debate that we have had, I would remind the House that the Bill is simply to enable this company to construct two junction railways and to undertake one diversion of a main road. One of the junction railways is a short but very important piece of line essential for the better conduct of the transport of coal in the now widely developing Nottinghamshire coalfield. The Nottinghamshire coalfield was referred to in the Report of the Samuel Commission, and I need not repeat here what was there stated, except to say that it is the important coalfield in this country for future development. Here is a provision for a junction railway that is essential for the better transit of the product of that coal-field. The second junction railway mentioned in the Bill is in Yorkshire and is necessary for the better conduct of traffic on the company's lines in that county. The road diversion, which is perhaps a small matter, is in the County of Flint, which is chiefly important as being a sort of half-way house between the industrial areas of Lancashire and the health-giving air and wonderful scenery of North Wales.

Is it really suggested that two important proposals such as those I have mentioned are to be held up and indefinitely delayed because the trippers of Southend-on-Sea want to travel in vestibule Pullman saloons? I cannot conceive any greater travesty of the authority of Parliament than the constant holding up of these private Bills, the object of which is to improve one or another public utility of the essential public service to the country. I know that you, Mr. Speaker, have held quite properly from time to time that a company promoting a Bill of this kind should answer to the House if any question is raised as to whether it is a fit and proper authority to be endowed with the powers proposed, but it does seem to me to be a travesty that grievances and complaints such as we have listened to to-night, which, after all, can from time to time be repeated for almost every congested part of the country, should be brought up to-night as on other occasions as an excuse, but only an excuse, for preventing the further development of some essential public utility because it is in the hands of a private company.


May I point out that in this case Parliament has specifically laid an obligation on this company to carry out certain undertakings?


And the company, as is quite clearly shown, is doing its best to carry them out, and in this particular case is endeavouring, through every means, to try and carry them out, and the local authority concerned has refused to come to any kind of agreement with the company. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] There is only one way in which we can really thrash out the details of the opposition and the complaints such as arise in this case, and that is in the Committee Booms upstairs. For my part my constituency, of course, is not directly represented in this Bill. I happen to represent an urban constituency in the powerful city of Manchester. Sometimes I feel thankful that there is no railway station in it and that my constituents travel by tram.




Yes; municipal every time. But there are great principles involved on which I could enlarge at very considerable length, except that Mr. Speaker would remind me that I should be out of order in doing so. The same kind of complaint which is raised in the House to-night is raised in and around every urban or industrial area in the country, and in every case it comes back to the fact that in the past Parliament has been too lenient in authorising sometimes irresponsible and frequently unnecessary competition with statutory undertakings upon whom has been imposed the obligation of providing facilities which the public require. When, as a result of that irresponsible or unnecessary competition, the statutory undertaking finds itself unable to proceed as rapidly as it would like with the acceleration or improvement of those facilities, hon. Gentlemen are invited by uninformed and sometimes irresponsible bodies to get up in this House and object to such efforts as those undertakings are able to make towards bettering the facilities they offer. There is only one solution to those things, and that is to enable the statutory undertakings properly to fulfil the functions for which they were created. Here is a company labouring under considerable difficulties. It meets with competition of every kind at almost every turn. Hon. Gentlemen who, as I said just now, rise in this House and voice the grievances of their constituents, as Members of this House on other occasions are almost relentless in their efforts still further to cripple the capacity of these undertakings to discharge their proper statutory functions. If we, having regard to the public interest desire to see these railway facilities increased, we can do it on occasions such as this by saying that this Bill should be afforded a Second Reading in order that the proper and strictly relevant complaints may be duly heard in Committee.

The MINISTER of TRANSPORT (Colonel Ashley)

I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall) that it is at all improper that hon. Members on the occasion of a Bill such as this should voice any grievances they may have against the particular company. It is a well-established practice of the House of Commons, on the Second Reading of a Railway Bill, that matters entirely unconnected with the Bill but connected with the railway company should be raised, and this evening, if I may so, hon. Members have put their case with moderation and with appreciation of the difficulties of the railway companies. But as we have now been discussing the Bill, not mentioning one single line which is contained in the Bill, for two hours, I would appeal to the House now to give the Bill a Second Reading. It is a very innocuous Bill. It is a good Bill, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hulme has said, it only seeks to obtain powers to construct two quite important, though short lines, in Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire and to authorise the diversion of a road in the town of Flint. That being so, and as the House has other business to get through, and as no one likes a lengthy sitting, I would ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading and to leave any details to be thrashed out in Committee upstairs.


Would the right hon. Gentleman answer the point about the railway rates, and whether they prevent the London, Midland and Scottish Company, on the line from Barking to Bow Road, adjusting its fares to the general level that obtains on the District Railway?

Colonel ASHLEY

I thought that point was dealt with by one or two other hon. Members but, as I understand it, until the appointed day, that is to say, until the Railway Rates Tribunal has decided every fare and every rate in the kingdom, the London, Midland and Scottish Railway on that particular section of line are entitled to charge what fare they like, so long as it is under the maximum under which they are now working.


They are not governed by a minimum?

Colonel ASHLEY

I cannot say without notice.

Major OWEN

I rise more particularly in view of the remarks of the hon. Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall) when he said it was not the right of an hon. Member to explain the grievances of his constituents on the Floor of this House. That is the first time I have ever heard that doctrine enunciated.


I did not say so.

Major OWEN

That was the trend of the remarks of the hon. Member, and I think that was the way in which they were understood by the House. I happen to be the representative of a constituency which is served by this railway, and on more than one occasion I have had to make complaints with regard to the inefficiency and the inadequacy of the services given and of the buildings used by this company. Some two years ago, as the Minister of Transport will remember, I drew his attention to the condition of one of the stations in the Conway Valley, the Dolgarrog Station, where, for a considerable period, nothing had been done to provide accommodation for passengers using that station. There is a small shed there, but practically no other convenience, and in very inclement weather scores of people get wet there and catch chills and suffer ill-health through the inadequacy of the provision made by the railway company. And nothing has been done. Every time one puts a complaint to the company the answer is that the matter is being considered. So far as I can see, it remains to be considered for ever and a day.

There is another point to which I want to draw attention and that is to the condition of things at the station of Port Dinorwic. There, on many occasions, owing to the inadequacy of the platform, people have been in danger of injury and several people have experienced injuries as the result of the inadequate arrangements for lighting the platform. The only thing that this great railway, which, as the result of the amalgamation brought about by this House, was going to improve its services so much, has been able to provide is a step ladder to enable passengers to get in and out of the carriages at this station. We were told that as a result of the amalgamation the passenger and freight traffic would be improved. Under the old London and North Western Railway there was a far better train service to the towns in North Wales than there is to-day. In the old days the Irish mail used to stop at Bangor and people travelling from that area could get up to London in a comparatively short time. The best train which the company now run from Euston to Bangor and Carnarvon starts at 10.35 a.m. and does not reach Carnarvon until 5.8 p.m. Travelling by this train one arrives at Chester at 2 o'clock, but three hours are then occupied in covering about 50 miles. The only train by which there is a full connection from. Carnarvon starts at 10.42 a.m. There is a wait at Chester for the Irish mail and London is not reached until 5.50 p.m. The service instead of improving has become much worse, and it is only right that Members of this House should utter their protests when new powers are being claimed by a company like this. I certainly do not hesitate to utter my protest against granting this company greater powers until they make proper use of those powers which they already enjoy.


I also wish to make a protest on behalf of my constituency. Only last year a commission which was taking evidence as to passenger conges tion in Poplar placed their case before the Traffic Committee, and I think the hon. Member for Wandsworth (Sir H. Jackson) will admit that they made out a fairly good case. Since then things have become worse—and they were bad enough. The Minister of Transport has had a petition from people in Poplar complaining of the inconvenience which is suffered owing to the want of proper railway facilities. The London and North Western Railway formerly ran a 15-minute train service between Poplar and Broad Street. Under this company we get a half-hour service, and in the middle of the day there is no service at all. They have a rest until it is time for them to resume in the evening. It is no wonder there is congestion on the trams and omnibuses, when we have a statutory authority with a line and railway stations who will not run a service. The reason why they do not run a service is because they have not come up to date. They send all their worst and oldest steam engines down to Poplar. [Laughter.] That is a positive fact, and one can see the old London and North Western rolling stock still in use there, having been sent from other parts.


Are they on the rates?


They are.


The company might help to pay some of the rates if they ran a better service. They would get a better return if they did so. Complaint has been made about Members raising grievances of this kind in the House. It is the only opportunity for doing so, and uniess the procedure of the House is altered we must use such opportunities as we have got. I have nothing to say against the proposals in the Bill. I think it is a very good think that the Company should have these facilities for which they ask, but it is as well to remind them that they might do more with the railways they have already got. We have had reports this evening about the congestion in the East End of London, and I think it could be considerably relieved if this Company would only become a little bit up to date. This is all their own line. They have no need to trouble any other Company whatever, and all that is needed to do is to electrify their railway and put some electric trains on and run them into Broad Street. They run a portion of their trains from Broad Street to Dalston electrically, and why cannot they do it in this other case? The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) mentioned their service from Plaistow to Bow. The old North London Company had a service from Plaistow round into Bow and on to Broad Street, and why cannot this Company do the same? They would relieve the congestion at Plaistow on the District Railway if they did. I think we are quite justified in telling this Company that they are not doing their duty in regard to their passenger service.


By leave of the House, I would like to answer a point raised by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) with regard to Broad Street Station. We are at the present time taking steps to lengthen the platforms at that station, and we hope in a comparatively short space of time to be able to run trains from the Southend district and Barking into Broad Street Station. We are going to make additional use of Broad Street Station.


Additional trains from Poplar to Broad Street Station?


I hope so.

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