HL Deb 26 July 1878 vol 242 cc338-43

rose to move a Resolution in reference to the existing system of legislation in respect of the use of steam power on Tramways, and declaring the necessity of further inquiry. The noble Earl said, that looking at the extreme importance of the question to all persons concerned, he was desirous that the House should consider whether it was not expedient to pass some such Resolution as that he had just proposed. The first Report on the subject of the use of steam on Tramways was presented last year to the House of Commons, and the Committee of the present year had simply adopted that Report. The Committee recommended that certain bye-laws governing the use of steam or other mechanical power on Tramways should be framed by the Board of Trade, and he presumed that they were the bye-laws which appeared in the Bills now before Parliament. The recommendations referred to several matters more or less concerning the use of steam—the employment of bells, stopping the cars or slackening speed in case of approaching danger, posting the bye-laws, protection of passengers from machinery, consumption of smoke and steam, &c. But several of these precautions were not included in the Bills before their Lordships. One of the regulations—a very important one to his mind—was that the engines should not travel at a greater speed than eight miles an hour in town, and 10 miles an hour out of town; and that, where there were facing points, the rate should not be more than four miles an hour. The speed was to be determined by an indicator attached to each engine. Now, the indicator was admittedly not a perfect instrument, and therefore it was considered desirable that a recorder should also be used. But no provision was made in the regulations for recorders. On this point it was important to note the evidence given by Major General Hutchinson, of the Board of Trade. Before the Committee that gentleman was asked whether it was his opinion that the use of steam indicators and steam recorders should be laid down in any general regulations? The answer was, that was the opinion of the inspecting officers of the Board of Trade. But even if all the regulations recommended in reference to the use of steam were observed, it could not be said that they had arrived at any fixed or conclusive decision; and the question which he desired to raise, therefore, was whether some "further and well-considered legislation" as to the use of steam on tramways was not desirable. It should be remembered that when tramways were introduced, it was intended they should supply the place of omnibuses; and their application was first made in the direction of towns, the provision being that the lines should be carried along the middle of the streets. Now that it was proposed to lay down tramways in the public highways in the country, it was right to draw attention to the remarkable fact that in all these Provisional Orders the word "street," not "road," was used. This omission of the word "road" seemed to him to be very important, since, in some of the Bills before their Lordships' House, there was an evident desire to substitute to a considerable extent tramways for railways in certain cases. If that was the right thing to be done, it behoved Parliament to take care that further provision was made for the safety and convenience of the public, and that undue competition with railways did not arise. These tramway schemes came to Parliament at a great advantage; for, instead of having like a railway to buy land, they took the public highway. That was said to be for the public advantage; but for all that it was a matter requiring careful consideration, both on the ground of competition and of public convenience. There was one case illustrative of his argument that he desired specially to mention. Down in Lincolnshire they had started a tramway which was to run 10 miles into the country, and the lines were to be laid along one side of the turnpike road. This could only be done to the inconvenience, more or less, of the cattle, and carts, and other vehicles which by right were now driven over it; and it was perfectly clear that if tramways were thus to be laid down in all directions throughout the country, that some further Parliamentary regulation and control—not at first contemplated— would be required to prevent them becoming a danger and a nuisance. He thought it desirable, therefore, that their Lordships, before giving their consent to the Bills that had been presented to Parliament, should consider how far was expedient to permit the use of steam on tramways.

Moved to resolve, That this House is not prepared to sanction the use of steam power on tramways generally under the conditions proposed in the Bills now waiting to be committed without further inquiry:

That further and well considered legislation appears desirable in regard to tramways to be worked by steam along public highways throughout the country in conjunction or in competition with railways, such tramways being free from many of the obligations to which railways are subject, and frequently proposed to be laid on one side instead of the centre of the road thereby affecting the property of frontagers injuriously and unequally.—(The Sari of Redesdale.)


was not surprised at the alarm exhibited by his noble Friend, in common with many others, at the somewhat novel idea of introducing steam power upon the highways and country roads. His noble Friend shied at the idea, just as horses shied at steam tramways themselves; but they were told by witnesses who appeared before the Committee of the House of Commons, that it was possible to educate horses to the engine and cars; and he must confess that, since their evidence, he had gone through some education himself, and thought that a great deal of the ground for alarm had passed away. The Committee which this year inquired into the subject was a most competent one, and was presided over by a Gentleman of great ability and industry—his hon. Friend, Mr. Arthur Peel. Their Report was not by any means a repetition of that presented by the former Committee. A great deal of fresh evidence of a most important kind was taken, amongst the witnesses being Major General Hutchinson and other railway inspecting officers of the Board of Trade. Major General Hutchinson had been engaged during the year in examining all accessible tramway lines, not only in this but in foreign countries, where the use of steam power had already been tried. The result of those inquiries was well calculated to allay the alarm that had been created. Notwithstanding what his noble Friend had stated, there did not appear to him to be any lack of restrictions or regulations in the Bills and Provisional Orders before Parliament. On the contrary, the promoters of the tramways were subjected—and most properly so—to an amount of control such as was never imposed upon any other class of traffic. If steam was to be used on tramways at all, the most careful regulations would have to be adopted for the safety of the public, especially in regard to the danger of frightening horses, and thus causing risk to human life. For his own part, he wished that those obnoxious machines, the traction engines, which they were in the habit of seeing on their roads every day, were subjected to anything like the same regulations as were to be found in these Tramway Bills. He believed the annoyance that would be experienced from steam tramways would be less than that which resulted from the traction engines. No doubt, there were weighty arguments in favour of these Bills. The promoters had managed to satisfy two careful inquiries of the other House; they had satisfied the Board of Trade; and last, though not least, they had satisfied all the local authorities of the towns and places concerned. But it was true that this House had not itself inquired into the question of the use of steam on tramways on their public roads. He thought it would be only proper that the House should inquire for itself into that point; but he did not see why, on that ground, these Bills and Orders should be absolutely rejected. He thought the promoters, who must have incurred considerable expense, were entitled to have their Bills without the clauses authorizing the use of steam, on the understanding that an official inquiry should be instituted into the whole question by this House next Session. He trusted this suggestion might be accepted.


said, that if the suggestion of the noble Lord met the wishes of the House, he, for his part, would be quite prepared to accept it.


was struck by the somewhat favourable legislation accorded to Tramway Companies as against Railway Companies. Over the Metropolitan Railway, which was constructed at the enormous cost of about £1,000,000 a-mile, there was actually running a tramway whose proprietors purchased no land at all, but simply laid their rails on the high road. The Metropolitan Railway Company had to pay 5 per cent on their receipts for passenger duty, whilst the Tramway Companies—those privileged interlopers on the Queen's highway—did not pay a farthing. He thought the time had come when some fairness should be shown in the matter; and he considered that the passenger duty should be imposed on the Tramway as well as the Railway Companies.


hoped their Lordships would not pass the Resolution which had been proposed, as they would have the effect of preventing the use of steam on tramways altogether. He thought to do so would be a mistake, because it was quite possible the best kind of steam engine had not yet been invented, and it was not improbable that some noiseless machine might hereafter be made which would be altogether unobjectionable.


did not advocate the use of steam on tramways, which were a sufficient nuisance without it; but he travelled in a steam carriage to Ascot and back before the introduction of railways with the late Earl of Egmont and other persons, and although the journey was a tedious one, there was no accident owing to the frightening of horses.


thanked the noble Earl for having brought this question before the House, as it was one of very great importance. The noble Lord (Lord Carlingford) appeared to have no fear of tramway engines; but directly he met a traction engine, he was aghast. In regard to the testimony borne by the noble Lord who spoke last, he must state that he had witnessed the working of a steam tramway in Princes Street, Edinburgh, and his experience was that every horse which passed shied at it.


said, it seemed to be agreed that it was desirable to appoint a Select Committee next year, and, as another debate of some importance was about to come on, it was hardly worth while to prolong the discussion or to divide the House. One point was gained, at all events—that the parties who were immediately interested in these Bills would now know what they were to expect. He understood that it was now arranged that a Select Committee should be appointed early next Session. He hoped this would be appointed as early as possible; and, meanwhile, the Board of Trade would insert powers to use steam in all Provisional Orders relating to Tramways, subject to the decision of the Committee, which would have to be considered by the Board of Trade before they could come to any decision. There were two Bills. No. 3 Bill related to tramways which were already existing, which were asking for steam powers. No. 2 Bill contained new Tramways Provisional Orders, with steam powers in them. He did not suppose that even the noble Earl (the Earl of Redesdale) wished to disallow powers which had been sanctioned over and over again by Parliament, and he supposed that under the arrangement made, No. 3 Bill would not be proceeded with, and No. 2 Bill would be passed without the clauses relating to mechanical power.


understood the noble Lord's (Lord Carling-ford's) suggestion to be that the clauses empowering the use of steam should be omitted from the Bills passed this year, and that next Session there should be a Committee of the House to consider what should be done. As that suggestion had been accepted, he would not press his Resolution on the House; but next year he should ask attention to the question whether better legislation could not be had as to tramways running over the public roads of the country.

Motion (by leave of the House) withdrawn.