HL Deb 05 April 1864 vol 174 cc446-8

presented a Petition from the Vestry of St. George's, Southwark, praying for the compulsory establishment of cheap trains upon Metropolitan Railways. The noble Earl said that, in so doing, he desired to say a few words in reference to the Metropolitan Railway system, as it was now being introduced and sought to be still further introduced in the crowded suburbs of London. The Petition emanated from the Vestry of a parish which contained about 53,000 persons, mostly of the poor and labouring classes. The parish was already densely crowded, and that overcrowding was continually increased by the destruction of dwellings by the railways which passed through the district, while there could be no corresponding construction of new houses, the district being already densely covered. One railway alone had destroyed 100 houses, recently occupied by 300 families, the rateable value of these houses being £1,179. The petitioners, therefore, prayed for some measure of relief at the hands of their Lordships. Some time since a noble Friend of his, not now present (the Earl of Shaftesbury), made a proposition that all Metropolitan Railway Companies should be compelled to erect additional buildings as a compensation for those taken down. That was found to be impracticable, and he was afraid that the Resolution which the House came to, that all railways should provide such buildings, had proved to be no protection at all. The petitioners prayed (and it was not unreasonable or unworthy of serious consideration) that those Railway Companies which had obtained permission to construct metropolitan termini should be compelled to run at least one train in the morning and one in the evening at a very low rate of charge, at hours most suitable to the working classes, in order to accommodate those persons who might wish to be taken out into a more healthy neighbourhood to reside, and be brought back again to their work. The petitioners suggested that the fares should be as low as 1d. per trip, whatever the distance might be. He (the Earl of Derby) believed that there was one Railway Company that had already intimated their intention to start such trains at a rate not higher than 1s. per week for any distance not exceeding ten miles; that company was the London, Chatham, and Dover. He thought the suggestion was one worthy of their Lordships' consideration; and also whether it would not be right to insert a clause in each of the Bills before Parliament requiring that such trains in and out of London should be run morning and evening at such hours as might be suitable to the labouring classes, for limited distances—such as ten miles. If that were done, it would give an immense relief to the large population of this and other parishes, and enable the people to return to their homes without much loss of time. He was not prepared to move anything on the subject, but he hoped his noble Friend the President of the Council and Her Majesty's Government would consider the matter, and would confer with his noble Friend the Chairman of Committees, and see whether it would not be possible, and, if so, desirable, that some such clause should be introduced into all the Metropolitan Railway Bills passing through the House in the course of this Session.


said, that a system as nearly as possible like that recommended by his noble Friend was carried out with great success in Paris. The railways there were obliged to carry the working men, many of whom lived in the suburbs, into town and back at a certain low rate.


said, that the railways, no doubt, might be made much more available for the purpose recommended by the noble Earl than they were at present. He should communicate with the President of the Board of Trade, and he hoped in the course of the Session some steps would be taken to give effect to the views of his noble Friend.


said, he had been informed by the Bishop of London, who had fully considered the subject, that the great difficulty was with regard to who was to purchase the land for building the houses; for the Railway Companies were at present prevented by law from purchasing land for such a purpose.


I do not mean that these companies should be bound to provide the land, but that they should be compelled to provide facilities for carrying the working classes to and from the outskirts of the metropolis at low fares.

Petition to lie on the table.