HL Deb 21 April 1884 vol 287 cc119-23

said, that he rose to ask a Question of his noble Friend opposite, of which, he had given Notice, and which Notice was in these terms— To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of the difficulty, if not impossibility, of properly ventilating underground railways without openings into the outer air, as proved by the evidence given on behalf of the Metropolitan and Metropolitan District (Inner Circle) Railway Companies when their Bills were in Committee in 1879 and 1881, the Government will consider the propriety of making the assent of Parliament to the proposed new railway under the public parks contingent on the company undertaking to work the line by electric power and not by steam? Before putting the Question he wished to make a very few remarks, and he certainly should not in any way go into the merits of a measure that was now before the other House of Parliament, but would only ask his Question for the purpose of acquiring some information. Before Easter, in answer to a Question put by a noble Lord who sat upon his side of the House, the noble Lord opposite described the railway which was proposed to be made under the Parks, and, if he remembered rightly, it was said that the line was to consist of three sections. The first section was to pass through the Edgeware Road, and he presumed that that would be an underground railway of the ordinary description and carried in a tunnel. Then there would be another section, beginning at that point and running through Hyde Park to a point in the neighbourhood of Albert Gate; whilst another section would run all the way under St. James's Park and the Green Park down to a point in the neighbourhood of King Street, Westminster, where there was to be the final station, but which station was not to be in any way connected with the existing underground railway there. His noble Friend, on the occasion to which he referred, said that there was to be no opening for ventilation of the line in the Parks. Having sat upon the Committee of 1879, upon which his noble Friend also served, and having sat also upon the Committee that sanctioned the ventilators upon the Embankment two years afterwards, he was not at all sure that if these tunnels were not ventilated, and if the ordinary locomotives were used, there would be any ventilation at all. Before the Committee of 1879 the opponents of the Bill proposed that there should be made long chimneys beside houses, through which to draw up the fumes generated by the engines from the line by means of the draught caused by fires; but Sir John Hawkshaw strongly opposed that proposition, and he succeeded in convincing the Committee against it. If he understood what he read in the newspapers, it was now proposed to employ, in connection with the tunnels under the Parks, a mode of ventilation which Sir John Hawkshaw strongly opposed in 1879, and which the District Railway Company also afterwards opposed, and put Mr. Myles Fenton, who was formerly General Manager to the Metropolitan Railway, into the box to prove that the plan had been tried upon that line, under the superintendence of Mr. Fowler, the eminent engineer, and afterwards by Sir Edward Watkin, but without success. He was therefore very much afraid, in consequence of what he had gathered from the newspapers, that the plan of ventilation which was now proposed was the one that had been previously condemned by Sir John Hawkshaw, and which would not work satisfactorily in these tunnels. Now, he wished, under these circumstances, to draw attention to the fact that there had recently come into operation a plan by which steam locomotives could be dispensed with altogether. There had been for some months a railway six miles in length working in the North of Ireland, at Portrush. This railway, or tramway as it might be called, carried a large number of passengers, and with success apparently. Within the last few weeks he had himself personally tested this railway; and he had also had the good fortune to have the opportunity of being present when Sir William Thompson and other scientific authorities were trying experiments on the Company's premises. The line was carried upon the gradients of an ordinary public road, such as would have been made by any good engineer some few years ago; but, of course, the gradients of a railway would be much easier. The road upon which the carriages ran was also open to the wet, and not at all like a road which would be in a tunnel under the Parks, and quite protected from the effects of the weather. No doubt, improvements could be made in the way of working trains by electricity; but he was quite convinced that now, where there was a good railway, it was quite possible to run trains by this means. It was under these circumstances that he ventured to put the Question of which he had given Notice.


In reply to the noble Earl, I have to say that the approval of the Government to the scheme of constructing a railway across the Park was given under the distinct assurance of Sir John Hawkshaw, the great en- gineer, that there would be no difficulty in constructing it in such a manner as that there would be ample ventilation, and that there would be no necessity whatever for ventilating shafts. The First Commissioner of Works, on the understanding arrived at with the Railway Company, laid it down as a primary stipulation for allowing the railway to proceed that no ventilating shafts would be allowed. It was only on that distinct understanding that the Bill was allowed to proceed. The noble Earl referred back to the years 1879 and 1881, when the Metropolitan Railway Bills were brought before Parliament. Evidence was, no doubt, then given by eminent engineers to the effect that proper ventilation could not be secured without air shafts; but the circumstances connected with these railways and the present are totally different, and the noble Earl will remember that in that case the scheme was for a continuation of an old line—namely, that of the Metropolitan Railway. There was no proposition made then that the tunnel should be constructed in any way differently to the old one, or that it should not be exactly similar. There was, in fact, no reason why any new scheme or new plan should be carried out. In the present case it is an entirely new line that has to be considered, and it is the opinion of competent engineers that proper ventilation can be secured without air shafts; and, indeed, it is impossible to read the evidence given before the Committee on the Channel Tunnel a few years ago without being convinced that eminent engineers are of opinion that long lines of tunnel can be made without that means of ventilation being employed. If, in the opinion of these eminent engineers, it is considered possible that over 20 miles of tunnel can be ventilated without air shafts, surely it is possible to ventilate a line of 600 or 700 yards by some other means without any difficulty whatever. The noble Earl has said that the electric railway at Portrush is doing good work. There is no doubt that the electric railway at Portrush has been a great success; and that the experiments made in Austria and other parts of the world show that before long electric railways will be of great benefit, not only to small lines, but to main lines, for which they would act as feeders. When this is the case, and electric railways are used, of course all questions as to ventilation in tunnels will cease to be of such importance; but I must point out to the noble Earl that there is at present one insuperable difficulty with respect to the Parks Railway being worked by electricity. According to the scheme at present before Parliament it is intended that the line shall work in conjunction with the Great Western and Metropolitan Railways; and if the electric system were introduced in regard to the proposed line it would have to be worked not on one system, but upon two or three, and that is quite impossible at present. If the electric system is to be used it must be used as a separate and distinct system; and until the Metropolitan and Great Western work their lines by that method, the suggestion of the noble Earl cannot be carried out. Of course, as the noble Earl has stated, this Bill is before Parliament, and is about to go before a Committee of the other House, when the whole matter will be investigated; and it is quite possible that they may come to the conclusion that some better mode of working should be adopted, or some better system of ventilation should be carried out. But if that is so the Committee will be able to deal with it. In addition to this, the Bill, if passed in the other House, will come before your Lordships and be again sent to a Committee, and the whole matter will be dealt with.