HL Deb 04 July 1878 vol 241 cc737-42

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 3a."

Clause 4.


proposed the omission of all the words between the word "thereto," in line 18, to the word "make," in line 19, together with subsection 1. The noble Earl said, that, under ordinary circumstances, he would not have deemed it his duty to move an Amendment at this stage of the Bill; but the justification of the course he was about to pursue must be that this was, in some respects, an exceptional case. Questions of importance connected with railway legislation were often brought under consideration at a time when many of their Lordships were not present. The Bills were, no doubt, dealt with with great judgment and discretion by the Committees; but there were frequently matters which might with advantage be brought under public notice and further discussed in their Lordships' House, and he believed that the present was a case of that kind. It appeared that, in the year 1865, the Great Eastern Railway Company obtained powers to build a station in Liverpool Street, in the City of London. While the Bill was in Committee—he was not certain whether it was in their Lordships' House or in the House of Commons—certain other powers were given, which enabled the Company to close a street not far from the station, the street being one of the great arteries of traffic in that part of London. The Corporation of the City of London and the Metropolitan Board of Works were ignorant of the powers thus acquired until the street in question—Sun Street—was about to be stopped up. Immediately after the discovery, the Corporation applied to a Court of Law for an injunction; but, failing in this, they came to Parliament with a Bill, which, however, was not passed, in consequence of the pending legal proceedings. The street was stopped up; but in the year 1876 the Metropolitan Board of Works and the Vestry of St. Leonard's, Shoreditch, finding that great inconvenience had arisen to the public, obtained an Act to enable them to make a new street to communicate with Primrose Street and Skinner Street. The new street was to run parallel with the street which had been stopped up, and it was designed to make up for the deficiency in the traffic accommodation. No sooner had this been done, than the London and North Western Railway Company introduced into the House of Commons a Bill to empower them to construct level crossings over those very streets. In spite of the opposition of the Metropolitan Board of Works and of the Vestry of St. Leonard's, Shoreditch, the Bill passed through the House of Commons, unknown to the Corporation of the City of London. It seemed to him a remarkable fact that a Bill relating to two important streets in the very heart of the City of London should have actually passed through the House of Commons without the Corporation knowing anything about it. But the explanation appeared to be that the place where it was proposed to make the level crossings were outside the boundaries of the City of London to the extent of seven yards or thereabouts, and that, therefore, no Parliamentary Notice was sent to the Corporation. Their Lordships knew that Railway Bills often passed through Parliament with out much publicity; consequently, it was easy to understand how it was that, no Parliamentary Notice being sent to them, the Corporation should have no knowledge of what was going on until they heard of it from other sources. When the Bill came to their Lordships' House, the Corporation presented a Petition against that part of it which related to the level crossings—the Metropolitan Board of Works, the Vestry of St. Leonard's, Shoreditch, and all the local authorities interested in the traffic of the district concurring in the opposition. But, notwithstanding this, he regretted to say that the Bill was passed by their Lordships. He thought he was quite justified in saying that, on the whole, there was something of an exceptional character in the case. All the local authorities, who might be supposed to be guardians of the traffic in the district, opposed the granting of the powers referred to, as being not only inconvenient, but dangerous to the public. It might be argued that the level crossings were not to be used by locomotive engines; that they were to be used by trucks drawn by one horse only; and that the danger, therefore, was not very great. But, be that as it might, heavy trucks could be set in motion at any hour of the day or night across this large public thoroughfare. He would not pretend to say which were the more dangerous—the locomotives or the other trucks; but there was no provision in the Bill for enforcing the employment of sufficient break-power. That was how the matter stood; and he asked their Lordships whether it was desirable, under the circumstances, to pass the clause without the alteration which he proposed? He knew it might be said that if the power of transporting goods from one yard to another were taken away, it would be a source of great inconvenience to the Railway Company. But if their Lordships would take the trouble to look at the evidence produced before the Select Committee, they would find, on the authority of the Engineer of the Midland Railway Company, that there were other means of providing for this transport. Captain Shaw, the head of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, also stated that if the clause were carried out, it would create a most inconvenient stoppage of traffic in that part of the City. The witness added— From my experience of these crossings, I look upon them as an absolute stoppage of the street at times. In every case we [alluding to the fire engines] turn round and go another way, probably thus losing five or ten minutes. He therefore urged their Lordships to re-consider the decision which had been arrived at, and not to sanction the establishment of level crossings over important thoroughfares in the very heart of the City.

Moved, To omit, line 18, from ("thereto") to ("make"), line 18.—(The Earl De La Warr.)


said, the decision which their Lordships were asked to reverse was arrived at by the Committee over which he presided. The clause was fully discussed by the Committee, who confirmed the decision of the Committee of the House of Commons. The crossing was not what, in common parlance, was called a level crossing. The Railway Company would have warehouses on both sides of the street, and it was extremely desirable that they should be allowed to pass over a single truck at a time, the truck being drawn by horse power, and on level ground. There was a provision that when the truck was passing a policeman should take care that no accident happened, and the Metropolitan authorities would have a general power in organizing the street traffic. Deeming it undesirable to trust entirely to evidence, he inspected the spot himself, and at once saw the reason for the decision of the Committee of the House of Commons. It had been said that the Corporation were ignorant of the nature of the proposal; but it was stated before the Committee that the Engineer under the Bill went to the City Surveyor and informed him of what was in contemplation, and the reply was that the place was outside the City boundary. The Metropolitan Board had spoken very harshly in the statement they had put forward, saying that the Railway Company had asked to be allowed to put down the crossing after the new street had been projected at the cost of the Board. It would scarcely be believed that the Board had been negotiating to re-sell to the Railway Company all the surplus land they had in connection with the street for the purpose of enlarging the station. He submitted that the noble Earl had not made out a case which would justify their Lordships in reversing the decision of the Committee upstairs.


said, as a Member of the Select Committee to whom this Bill had been referred, he might be allowed to say a few words in reply to the Motion of the noble Earl. Very little evidence was necessary to satisfy them that the two streets in question were not of sufficient breadth to carry any considerable amount of traffic. Before they could be convinced that any material obstruction would arise, some very much stronger evidence would have to be adduced. With the view of ascertaining whether the traffic of these two streets would be stopped up by the tramways intended to be laid across them, he had asked Captain Shaw questions, and one would have supposed from his answer that trams were running over the street all day long. Then it was suggested that the use of the other streets had been very much interfered with, and that traffic would be of necessity carried into these streets. But he understood that two of these—Primrose and Skinner Streets—were not passable to carriages at all, and the others were most inadequate for ordinary traffic. Was it conceivable that, under these circumstances, the Metropolitan Board of Works would have remained in that state of quietude which it had assumed if the traffic had been stopped up as was suggested? The fact was, that this Motion was nothing more than an inglorious attempt to carry before their Lordships what the opponents of the Bill had been unable to carry before the Select Committee.

On Question? Resolved in the Negative.

Bill read 3a with the Amendments; a further Amendment made; Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.