HL Deb 11 April 1878 vol 239 cc1083-6

said, their Lordships would, perhaps, recollect that in the discussion which took place on a Motion of his noble Friend (Earl De La Warr), a short time ago, as to continuous brakes, he (Lord Henniker) stated that Her Majesty's Government thought it might be advisable to introduce a measure which, as far as continuous brakes were concerned, would follow the precedent of 1873, when a short Act was passed to obtain certain information from the Railway Companies with reference to the interlocking of points, and the working of the block system. The Bill which he was about to present was intended to carry out this suggestion. The Act of 1873 was introduced, as he might remind their Lordships, in consequence of a recommendation of a Select Committee presided over by the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Somerset). It was quite unnecessary for him to detain their Lordships for more than a very few minutes in introducing the Bill, which was a very short one, consisting of only two—or, practically of only one, clause. It provided simply that certain Returns respecting continuous brakes should be made by the Railway Companies to the Board of Trade, in the same way as they now made Returns as to the interlocking of points. The provisions of the Bill were, that every Railway Company should, twice in every year, make to the Board of Trade Returns respecting the use of continuous brakes in the passenger trains running on the railways worked by such Company. These Returns were to be made on the 31st of December and 30th of June in each year, or on such other days fixed, as might be, from time to time by the Board. The Returns were to comply with the requirements of the Board of Trade, and were set out, so far as this Act was concerned, in a Schedule. It was thereby required that these particulars should be given—(1.) The name of the Railway Company. (2.) Name and description of the brake adopted by them and in use on their passenger trains. (3.) Whether the brakes were instantaneous in action, capable of being applied by the engine driver or guards; whether they were self-acting; whether they could be applied to every vehicle of the train, and whether they were used in daily working—a most important point—and (4) whether the materials used were of a proper kind, of a durable character, easily maintained and kept in order; information was to be given as to all the engines and vehicles employed by the Companies in their passenger traffic. (5.) They were required to state the amount of their stock used for passenger traffic not fitted with continuous brakes, and the amount of such stock which had been fitted during the six months. They were required, also, to furnish Returns, showing whether the continuous brakes in use on their lines had failed from any cause when required to be brought into action; and (6) Returns showing every case where continuous brakes had not been used. These were all the provisions of the Bill. From the experience of the working of the Act of 1873, which required Returns to be made as to the block and interlocking system, there was, he trusted, some reason to hope that in the matter of continuous brakes the publicity that would be given, and the attention that would be drawn to the question, would cause the Companies to pay no less attention to the necessity of providing continuous brakes than they had to adopting the interlocking and block systems. It would be interesting to mention, that in the year 1873, 10 of the principal Companies, with a mileage of 7,918 miles, had from 29 to 40 per cent of their points interlocked. In 1876 the same Companies, with a mileage of 8,809, had 75 per cent of their points interlocked; and in some cases—such as the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway, and the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway—they had completed the interlocking system over the whole of their lines. He would not trouble their Lordships with any figures as to the block system; it was sufficient for him to state that they were as satisfactory as those he had quoted as to the interlocking system. No doubt, considerable expense had been incurred by the Railway Companies by the adoption of the block and interlocking systems; but it was most satisfactory to know that the number of train accidents had decreased. This was the case not only in a relative sense to the large increase of traffic, but it was an actual decrease when compared with the figures of 1873. In 1873 there were 251 train accidents, and the number of passengers conveyed—exclusive of season-ticket holders—was 455,320,188; in 1877 there were 182 train accidents; and, although the number of passengers could not yet be given for 1877, there was no reason to suppose the number had fallen off from 1876, when there were 538,287,295. He thought these figures would show the advantage of obtaining Returns of this kind. The publicity they gave was an incentive to the Railway Companies to adopt those mechanical contrivances which tended to secure the safety of the travelling public. They allowed, too, an opinion to be formed as to the advantages which would arise as the adoption of these contrivances became more general over the Railways of the United Kingdom.

Bill to provide for Returns respecting Continuous Brakes in use on Passenger Trains on Railways—Presented (The Lord Henniker.)


said, he could not imagine that there would be any objection on the part of the Railway Companies to make such Returns as the Bill required. If, at the present time, the Companies were not so unanimous as the Board of Trade might wish them to be as to what was the best form of brake, it was simply because of the number of continuous brakes which were now actually employed, and because of an unwillingness to surrender what was believed to be effectual machinery for that which might not produce equally good results. It was wrong to suppose there was any unwillingness on the part of the Companies to report these matters to the Board of Trade, and he believed the object might have been secured without a Bill under the orders which the Board of Trade was now empowered to issue. It would be admitted that, with a few casual exceptions, the requisitions of the Board of Trade had hitherto been readily complied with.


said, the Returns contemplated by the Bill would have the effect of keeping his noble Friend (Lord Houghton), and other Railway potentates, continually under the eye of the public, and would enable their Lordships and the public to judge whether the Companies introduced this necessary means of safety with sufficient rapidity, or whether it might not be necessary—he hoped it would not be—to apply some direct measure of coercion.

Bill read 1a; to be printed; and to be read 2a on Monday next. (No. 75.)