HL Deb 26 June 1855 vol 139 cc121-3

, in moving the second reading of this Bill, said it was a measure of modest pretensions, giving to the Executive powers with regard to Railway Companies to which he did not think objection could be made. The first clause of the Bill made it compulsory upon all Railway Companies to establish a means of immediate communication between the guards and drivers of railway trains; and the mode in which he proposed to enforce that provision was by inflicting a penalty in any case where a Railway Company failed to insure this communication in a satisfactory manner. He need not tell their Lordships that many accidents had happened from the want of such a communication, and he thought their Lordships would have no hesitation in conferring this power upon the Executive, particularly as it did not entitle them in any way to interfere with the management of railways, or lessen the responsibility of directors and managers. The next clause gave power to the Board of Trade to require a bridge or tunnel to be made over or under a railway in places where level crossings now existed. In al recent Acts of Parliament affecting railways the Board of Trade had power to require that a bridge should be made if it were thought necessary for the public safety or convenience, but in some of the early Acts no such power was conferred. The result was, that in cases where level crossings existed, and large populations lad sprung up in the neighbourhood, a Railway Company could not be compelled to substitute a bridge or tunnel; by this Bill, however, the Board of Trade would be empowered to interfere in all such cases, and a daily penalty was inflicted on Railway Companies, if within a specified time, From requisition made by the Board of Trade, a bridge should not be erected over the place in question. Another provision rendered a Railway Company civilly answerable for all misfeasances on the part of their servants, which at present was rather a matter of doubt. By the fourth clause, Railway Companies might summarily proceed against those of their servants who left their work, without permission from the proper authorities, before the time for which they agreed to serve had aspired, and without having given such notice as the terms of their engagement required from them; and offenders in this respect were made liable to fine or imprisonment. With regard to the question of assimilating the law of Scotland as regarded managers and directors of railways to that of England, that point had been taken into consideration. In Scotland, as their Lordships were aware, the managers or directors of a railway might be criminally indicted for any omission in providing any machinery necessary for safety on their railway; but although it might be considered prudent by some persons to introduce that principle into this country, still there were many reasons which rendered it inconvenient to do so. In Scotland there existed a public prosecutor in the person of the Lord Advocate, who, after looking through the evidence taken by the Procurators Fiscal, decided upon what course should be adopted. In addition to the inconvenience which would arise from there being no such functionary in England, he was afraid that if it were made easy to institute criminal proceedings against directors and managers of railways in this country persons of eminence would be deterred from accepting those positions, and directors of railways would become of a less eminent character than they at present were.


asked whether some means of communication between the passengers and guards should not also be established?


replied, that he did not propose to prescribe any particular mode of communication between the driver and the guard. All railways should be required to provide an effective mode of communication. If the Board of Trade were not satisfied that the method of communication adopted by any company was effective, it would be in the power of the Board to instruct the Attorney General to commence proceedings against the company.


wished to state that there could be no difficulty in effecting the required communication, because such a communication had already been established on the South Western Railway, and had proved most effective.

Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the whole House on Thursday next.