HL Deb 26 November 1925 vol 62 cc953-92

LORD MONKSWELL had given Notice to call the attention of His Majesty's Government to the fact that the railways since their amalgamation have failed to remove certain serious defects affecting the convenience and safety of the public, and to ask His Majesty's Government to urge upon the railways the immediate adoption of the following improvements—

  1. 1. The acceleration of express trains;
  2. 2. The issue to engine drivers of precise instructions about the making up of lost time;
  3. 3. The adoption of mechanical safeguards against excessive speed on sharp curves and other danger points;
  4. 4. The full and complete investigation of improved rail-joints;
  5. 5. The adoption of third class sleeping carriages;
and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, when, four years ago, the railways were amalgamated some very hopeful people seem to have supposed that railway passengers would receive increased consideration. With the exception of the institution of a number of improved cross-country services these hopes still await fulfilment. As a student of railways I have long been struck by certain glaring technical and other defects in the railways of this country. I have often discussed them with railway officers and directors, and have attempted to call attention to them by letters and articles in the newspapers, particularly in The Times; all without avail. With a desire to ventilate these matters, and in the hope that a plain statement might be of interest to your Lordships, I have put my Motion on the Paper.

British railways, like all other big businesses, had originally to be staffed by a large number of officials and clerks, and these people very soon developed an organisation for the safeguarding of their own interests as professional class. In a sheltered industry like railways it is not surprising to find that this organisation very soon took on a tinge of the most extreme conservatism, with the result that anything note than a routine change, the sort of change that people who pass their lives at one sort of work cannot fail to introduce from time to time, has always been extremely hard to introduce; so hard, indeed, that it is only when the case for change wits overwhelming that it has been introduced at all, and then only as the result of pressure from outside.

In the early days the idea was to make the railways keep one another up to the mark by means of competition, and with this in view different railways were encouraged to build lines between the same places. It must be admitted that there was in the early days a large amount of the keenest possible competition for the country which each railway was to be allowed to serve, and this was about all the effective competition that there ever was. It was impossible to make men compete when they were determined not to do so, and it did not take long for the officials who controlled the various railways to discover that if they wanted a quiet life for themselves, all they had to do was to agree with their colleagues in control of the other railways not to compete, with the result that, except for the small amount of new railways endeavouring to enter the districts of railways already established, railway competition became almost a negligible quantity. There were, of course, short occasional outbursts in various directions, but taken as a whole it amounted to very little, and was utterly incapable of providing public services as good as might have been expected if reasonable zeal had been shown by railway managements.

It is easy to find examples of this deplorable lack of energy in the service of the public. The classical instance is the resistance offered by the railway managements to the introduction of safety appliances, particularly automatic brakes and block signals. So strong was the resistance offered that it was only overcome when the use of these appliances was made compulsory by law. The late Sir William Acworth, than whom no greater authority on railways has ever lived, said this:— There has perhaps never been such a triumph of the vox populi over the opinions of the experts as is to be found in the adoption of the block system and since the passing of the Railway Regulation Act, 1889, automatic brakes have been required by law to be provided on all passenger trains. It is questionable whether a single person could be found to-day to deny that the experts were wrong and the public right.

Another controversy, now closed, is that about the use of super-heated steam for locomotives. Super-heated steam is secured by adding heat to the steam after it has been led away from the boiler and is no longer in contact with the water from which it was raised. It has various properties which make its use economical. The most important of these is that a small addition of heat produces a comparatively large increase in the volume of steam, the pressure remaining the same. There were certain difficulties that had to be overcome before superheated steam could be used in steam-engines, but there is no reason why these difficulties should not have been attacked and overcome in the middle of the last century. Railway engineers, however, intent on a quiet life for themselves, preferred to do nothing, though they were well aware of the properties of superheated steam. Eventually the matter was taken up in Germany and satisfactory apparatus was devised, with the result that the overwheming advantages of super-heated steam have ensured its adoption throughout the whole world.

Very much the same was the case with regard to the question of bogies for passenger rolling stock. Bogies have beer used with passenger coaches in the United States from the earliest times. In a lecture delivered by Mr. J. H. Ames, Chief Engineer of the American Car and Foundry Company, it is stated:— The first long passenger cars were constructed in this country in 1833, and this type has been in constant use ever since. The superiority of bogie stock is now no longer in question. But in spite of the fact that practically no other form of passenger stock had ever been used in America, it was not until the end of the nineteenth century that the use of bogies for passenger rolling stock was generalised in this country. To such an extent have railway managements shown their prejudice against improvements that they are sometimes prepared to deny the laws of nature. Your Lordships are aware that locomotive boilers are usually fed by an injector. The injector was discovered by a Frenchman, M. Giffard, some time in the 'fifties, and this is what the late Mr. Clement Stretton, a well-known railway historian, says about it: When M. Giffard tried to introduce his new injector, locomotive engineers laughed at him. He was told to read about the first rules of motion, and that he must be mad to suppose that steam from one part of a boiler could force its way back into another part of the same boiler. He could not even obtain authority to try an injector on a locomotive engine until 1859, and then he was only granted permission as a favour and with a view to letting him prove that his idea would not work, and thus put a stop to his constant letters and applications. All the foregoing questions have now been settled, and in every case the policy of the railway managements has been reversed, but not until unnecessary danger, inconvenience or waste, as the case may be, had lasted for many years.

There are a number of further questions of the same kind, where the obscurantist policy of the railway managements has not yet been reversed. Some of these I have enumerated in my Motion. First and foremost comes the slowness of express trains. At no time since the introduction of railways have managements made the least attempt to run their trains as fast as the rolling stock and roads at their disposal rendered feasible. They have never made the least attempt to economise to the utmost the time of their passengers, and the history of railway speeds in this country has been the history of a long series of agreements between railway companies for withholding from the public speeds which they could quite easily have offered. So far as I know, nobody wants to sit in a railway train any longer than he can help. Time spent in a railway train is generally useless for all purposes of business, pleasure, development or repose, and there is usually discomfort also. But this is nothing to the railway manager. He has a monopoly and he cannot see the least reason why he should take the trouble to study the interests of a public that must take whatever he likes to offer.

The indifference to the public interest displayed in this matter is thrown into the highest relief by the fact that by far the greater part of the expense necessary for securing a great increase in speed has already been incurred. Roads, rolling stock, signals and brakes are at the present time adequate for a large increase of speed. There are a number of records extant of the attainment of speeds of 90 miles an hour and upwards at various places all over the country. The Great Western Company themselves state that on one occasion one of their engines, not of the latest type and less well suited than their latest-built engines for attaining high speeds, attained the speed of 102 miles an hour. The well-known railway expert, the late Mr. Charles Rous-Marten, who was travelling in the train, wrote of this as follows. I take his account from the Great Western Magazine, and Mr. Rous Marten, writing of the section of the line between Whitehall Summit and Taunton, states:— Our velocity rapidly and steadily increased, the quarter-mile times diminishing from 11 seconds at the tunnel entrance to 10.6, 10.2, 10, 9.8, 9.4, 9.2 and finally to 8.8 seconds, this last being equivalent to a rate of 102.3 miles an hour. At this time the travelling was so curiously smooth that, but for the sound, it was difficult to believe that we were moving at all. The permanent way over which these speeds were run was of the ordinary Great Western type. It is therefore abundantly clear that, so far as the design of roads and rolling stock is concerned, there is no objection to very high speeds.

The only other difficulty with regard to the road is that there is on all main lines a certain number of places where speed must be reduced for purposes of safety, on account, usually, of sharp curves, though there are occasionally other obstructions, like swing bridges, colliery sinkings and things of that kind. Loss of time on this account does not, as a rule, amount to much. I have examined a diagram published in the Engineer of the running of certain special trains between Euston and Carlisle. The diagram shows the amount of slackening required at the various places where speed has to be reduced. I have assumed a train running at 75 miles an hour throughout, except at these points, and have calculated the time lost due to these slackenings. It works out at just about 10 minutes for the 299 miles—surely not a very serious handicap. With regard to signals and brakes there is, I believe, not a single place on any main line that is otherwise suitable for fast running where the signals are not so arranged as to give a driver running at the highest speed that his engine is capable of attaining ample time for pulling up with the brake power at his disposal. If there is difficulty in seeing any particular signal, nothing is easier than to combine two or more block sections and to make the signal in question control that covering the previous section, so that if the signal of the previous section is at "line clear" the driver knows that the succeeding signal will be at "line clear" also. So far as I know, this is always done. I lay special stress upon this because Sir Sam Fay, in The Times, has put forward the claim that the invisibility of certain signals makes high speeds undesirable I may add that The Times, for some reason which do not understand, published Sir Sam's attack upon my position but did not publish my reply.

There remains, therefore, only the question of power to be considered. It must be emphasised that where present day trains lose time is running uphill, and that acceleration is far more a question of faster running uphill and on the level than it is of extreme downhill speed. This is easily illustrated. If a train runs uphill for one mile at sixty miles, instead of fifty miles, per hour it saves twelve seconds. If it runs downhill for one mile at 100 miles per hour, instead of ninety miles per hour, it saves only four seconds. So far, therefore, as power is concerned, the controlling factor is the uphill speed. I have been privileged on a great number of occasions during the last twenty-five years to have special opportunities of observing the best work of the locomotives of the Chemin de Fer du Nord, probably the most enterprising railway in the world. My experiences in the course of these journeys have thrown a flood of light upon the capabilities of steam locomotives for uphill speed.

A couple of illustrations will suffice to show your Lordships what can be done. They were performed on the Nord main line between Paris and Amiens. The profile of the line in either direction consists of long ascents to two summits, each ascent being followed by a corresponding descent. The gradient on either side of one summit is roughly one in 225 for 12 miles, and on either side of the other is roughly 1 in 300 for 15 miles. It is neither a specially easy nor specially difficult line, but it is a line of quite average difficulty. The two summits are the points where the lowest speeds would be expected. In the direction of Amiens the speeds at these points were 66 and 69 miles per hour and in the direction of Paris 69 and 64 miles per hour. The trains were of the average weight of the Paris-Calais expresses, one rather more than 300 tons and the other slightly less, about the weight of an average express in this country. There is at the present time in Great Britain no train timed so fast as 62 miles per hour from start to stop. The average is about 55 miles. As speeds of from 64 to 69 miles per hour can be attained at the most difficult points of an average main line of railway and 100 miles downhill, it is obvious that a huge amount of the time of the travelling public is being unnecessarily wasted.

I have worked out the approximate cost of the power required to increase the speed of an average express train from 55 to 70 miles per hour, and it comes to about a penny-halfpenny per mile for coal, and another penny-halfpenny for the increased maintenance of boilers—say threepence per mile in all, or the price of two third-class tickets. I will not trouble your Lordships with the details of these calculations, but of course I shall be delighted to produce them if I am challenged. As I have said, I believe that beyond this no further appreciable increase of expenditure would be required. Railway officials are pastmasters at finding all kinds of ingenious excuses for the slowness of trains. The strain on the engine driver is said to be intolerable; faster trains it is said, cannot be fitted in with existing goods trains and stopping passenger trains; and a large number of other things of the same kind are put forward. It is, of course, impossible for me to examine all these in detail on the present occasion, but I have made it my business to go into them, and I can assure your Lordships that I have never found one really good reason against radical accelerations, except the determination of the railway managers to save themselves the trouble of introducing them.

There is one other point with regard to express train working which must be mentioned, and that is the design of the locomotives. No one who has travelled about a great deal can fail to have noticed the superiority of the French 4-cylinder compound type, with high steam pressure, over the ordinary British type of engine. The superiority obviously lies in the fact that steam can be and is used in the cylinders at nearly the full boiler pressure of 225 lbs. per square inch as against only 175 lbs. usual in Great Britain, and even that is considerably reduced before the steam is used in the cylinders. It is true that some twenty years ago the Great Western Railway bought three French engines and ran them on their line, and these engines were treated as failures. In France I have again and again seen engines of this type do work which I have never seen approached in this country by engines of the same weight, and I am therefore quite unable to believe that the trials in England were so conducted as to bring out the good points in these engines. It is noteworthy that the Great Western engines, which are far the most efficient engines in Great Britain at the present time, have a boiler pressure of 225 pounds, the same as the French engines, but, not being compound, they have not the same facilities for utilising the steam.

My next point is the issue of precise instructions to drivers about making up lost time. Really it is almost incredible that this should not have been done already. On a railway with heavy traffic punctuality is the soul of railway working. Each train has its few allotted minutes for traversing each section of the line. Any unpunctuality has most far-reaching results. A train which is out of its place in the great scheme of conducting traffic delays those which are following it, those which are connecting with it, and those which are crossing its path. Unpunctuality cannot, of course, be entirely avoided, but it can be minimised, and the way, and the only way, to do that is for any train that is late to make up the lost time as soon as possible. I believe I am right in saying that there are no clear, printed instructions on the subject in existence at all. I have done my best to find out how the matter stands, but I am unable to discover the existence of any instructions except a rule in the Rule Book which directs drivers to avoid extreme speed on loss of time. There is no attempt to define "extreme speed," and with regard to lost time there are no instructions as to what the driver is expected to do once his train is late. In these circumstances it is not surprising to find that chaos reigns in this important matter. An exceptionally energetic driver sometimes makes up time, apparently on his own responsibility, but, as a general rule, time is not made up. To give an idea of the appalling danger inherent in this state of affairs, I need only point out that the predisposing cause of the accident near Gretna in 1915, when half a battalion of soldiers was wiped out, was the failure of the London and North Western Railway to deliver two of their trains punctually at Carlisle.


What about the French accidents?


I will come to them later. All the other irregularities which were the immediate cause of that most deplorable accident would have been powerless to produce it if the trains in question had not been late at Carlisle. I may remind your Lordships that it is estimated that 224 persons lost their lives— there were difficulties in determining the exact number because many of the bodies were burnt to cinders. There were 246 persons injured. It was, I believe, the most disastrous accident that has ever taken place in Great Britain or any other country.

It came about in this way. Two sleeping-car expresses from Euston were so late at Carlisle that it was decided t.: send on a local train in front of them. The time-table provided for this local train leaving Carlisle after the two expresses. By the time the local trail, reached Quintinshill, just beyond Gretna, the expresses were approaching, so the local train was shunted on to the up-line to let the expresses pass. The first express passed safely and proceeded on its way. Meanwhile the signalman at Quintinshill, forgetting that he had shunted the local train on to the up-line, gave "line clear" to an up express, which crashed into the local train at high speed. Immediately afterwards the second express from London came on, also at high speed, and ran into the wreckage, some of which was blocking the down-line. If the expresses from Euston had made up time and arrived at Carlisle punctually there would have been no question of starting the local train in front of them, and the accident could not have happened. Even this ghastly accident failed to rouse the railway managements, and, so far as I know, nothing whatever was done to tackle the question of the making up of lost time. It would, I think, be impossible to illustrate the lethargy and indifference of the managements more clearly.

In France the drivers receive precise and detailed printed instructions about the making up of lost time, and the same used to be, and probably is still, the case in Germany. The very first time that I travelled on a French locomotive no lees than twenty minutes were made up in a run of eighty-one miles, which was performed in eighty-two minutes. The following is a translation of a circular which the French Ministry of Public Works addressed to various companies in France on the subject of making up lost time: If it is important to avoid excessive speed, it is no less indispensable to prevent delays as far as possible, or to attenuate those which occur on the way. Independently of the disturbance which these irregularities import into the service, and of the complaints on the part of the public to which they give rise, they often become the cause of serious accidents. And the following is a translation of the printed instructions issued to engine drivers of the Paris-Orleans Railway about the making up of lost time:— When a delay has taken place engine-men must make every effort to regain on the remainder of the run the time lost on the first part of it. They must, however, always have their train under control and be able to stop, if necessary, within a distance of 800 metres (half mile). The additional speed must never exceed half the regulation speed of the train on gradients which rise or fall less steeply than one in a hundred, and a third of the regulation speed on gradients of one in a hundred or steeper. The next point is the adoption of mechanical safeguards for preventing excessive speed on sharp curves. As already remarked, there are on every line of railway a number of places where speed must he reduced for purposes of safety. They are not very numerous. On the London and North-Eastern Railway there is none before Peterborough is reached. On the Great Western line to the West of England there are only about three places between London and Exeter, but all these places are danger points. Speed limits are laid down in the driver's instructions, but there is no absolute safeguard that the driver will follow his instructions and, in point of fact, several very serious accidents have occurred owing to this cause. In the year 1906 there was a very bad accident at Salisbury. A boat train from Plymouth for Waterloo took an eight-chain curve outside Salisbury station at a speed which it was afterwards calculated could not have been less than sixty-seven miles an hour, and was completely wrecked. There were also other accidents about the same time. There was a bad one at Shrewsbury, and another at Grantham. There is nothing whatever, except a small amount of expense, to prevent the laying down at all these places of train stops, which would automatically bring to a standstill any train approaching one of these danger points at a high speed. The Great Western Railway at the present time use, apparatus of this kind in connection with their signals. To judge from the number of these appliances which have been laid down, they must be working well with trains running at high speed: only the smallest modification would be necessary to adapt them for the purpose suggested.

The next point is improved rail joints. Every railway traveller knows the bump of each wheel as it crosses each rail joint. The rails are usually forty-five or thirty feet long, so there are either 117 or 176 jolts per mile. They are absolutely-no good whatever to anybody. They are not in the least dangerous, but they injure the, road, they knock the rolling stock to pieces, and they shake up the passengers. And all this is done by energy taken from the engine. The imperfection of rail joints is much the most serious defect in railways at the present time. Owing to its very magnitude it is obviously a difficult question, but there is no reason whatever to suppose that it is a hopeless question. Yet ever since the ordinary fishplate joint was introduced, perhaps eighty years ago or so, it has been treated as a hopeless question. Apart from a few little half-hearted experiments, railway engineers have preferred not to bother their heads by trying to find a remedy.

I come now to third-class sleeping carriages. This, of course, is not nearly so wide a question as those upon which I have already touched. There is only a demand for third-class sleeping carriages between London and the Scottish towns—Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen—and possibly between London and Fishguard and Holyhead. None the less, the discomfort caused by the absence of third-class sleeping carriages is acute. Anything more miserable than sitting up all night in a crowded third-class carriage it is difficult to imagine. I have often done it and I dislike it. It is neither difficult nor expensive to remedy this state of things. Every ambulance train in France during the War was composed for the most part of what, in effect, were third-class sleeping carriages. There were three tiers of bunks of quite cheap construction. There would, of course, be no possibility of undressing completely; but the difference between passing the night in a recumbent position with one's boots off, and passing the night sitting upright in a crowded third-class carriage is the difference between comfort and misery. The berths would have to be reserved beforehand and a, small supplement might be charged. The vehicles could be run up one day and down the next, and would be well utilised. The railways would probably gain by the change. The difference between third-class and first-class sleeping carriages would be so great that it is extremely improbable that there would be any large transfer into the third-class of people who at present travel first-class.

It therefore appears that in many cases the public have been subjected to danger and inconvenience, and the country has been put to unnecessary expense, owing to the indifference of the railway managements to progress and their unwillingness to introduce reasonable and obvious reforms even when those reforms have been thought out, for them by other people. Monopoly, no doubt, is at the bottom of this obscurantism. Apart from that, railway organisation appears to be admirably adapted for producing a condition of divided responsibility so complete that any single person is never responsible for doing anything positive, though he has, at the same time, ample powers for vetoing any new departure that anybody else may desire to make.

Technically the railways are supposed to be controlled by the directors. Actually the control of the directors does not appear to go beyond the general supervision of finance. It can hardly be otherwise. Directors are usually large shareholders, or the representatives of large shareholders, and it is only in exceptional cases that a railway director of this class has any special railway knowledge or knows more about the subject than the average man in the street. In addition, there are on the boards of railway companies a few retired railway officers who have helped in the past to bring about the conditions I am criticising, and are absolutely certain to be in favour of a continuance of those conditions.

As to the officers themselves, their departments interlace so closely that hardly one of them has anything like a free hand. In fact, the organisation almost amounts to giving the head of each department the right to veto the proposals of the head of any other department. At the same time, there is no superior officer with either power or desire to sweep away the obstacles to reasonable progress which his subordinates are encouraged to set up. It need hardly be added that the, whole organisation works as one man to boycott the most reasonable and obvious suggestions which come from any outside source, which are never listened to at all on their merits, though they have occasionally been forced en the railways by law or by facts Which wore too strong to be resisted.

So far I am afraid the picture I have painted has been one of almost unrelieved gloom, and I think that, considering the extreme richness of the traffic they have had to handle, the results achieved by British railways are deplorable in too many respects. It is only fair to add, however, that I recognise that there are, and have been, individual railway officers who are doing, and have done, their best to improve matters. In a few cases they have even contrived to work with some success. The speed of the best Great Northern expresses in the 'eighties of last century put them in a class above everything else in this country and probably in the world. The greater part of the credit was due, I believe, to the late Mr. F. P. Cockshott. In the middle 'nineties the engines of the Caledonian Railway frequently did work which in the matter of high speed over an extremely difficult road has never since been approached in this country. This was generally supposed to be the result of the energy and enterprise of the late Mr. I. Kempt.

In the first few years of the present century, the improvements introduced on the Great Western were the most strenuous attempt at reasoned reform that any railway in this country has ever made. They seem to have been due to the late Lord Cawdor and the late Sir James Inglis. Even Sir Sam Fay, who now poses as the protagonist of obscurantism, is not so black as he thinks fit to paint himself. When he was general manager of the Great Central Railway he was responsible for the running of the principal expresses at speeds which were a very great improvement on what had before been accomplished. I beg to move.


My Lords, I hardly know how to begin to answer the noble Lord. He has ranged over so many subjects and has made statements which, in my humble opinion, are so difficult to justify, that it is with some diffidence that I attempt to answer him. I may claim, I think, to be the only member of your Lordships' House who has had practical experience on the footplate, not only in this country but in others, and I cannot subscribe for a moment to the general accusation of the noble Lord that the railway companies in this country have been of late years in any way averse from progress or have not tried to adopt new inventions. I propose to deal with the noble Lord's points more or less seriatim. In the course of his speech he made a comparison between the French expresses on the Chemin de Fer du Nord and the P.L.M. as instances of high speed.


Not the P.L.M., only the Chemin de Fer du Nord.


Then I will take the Nord first in regard to high speeds and heavy loads. I know both of those roads fairly well. The fastest trains on the Nord between Paris and Calais, a distance of 184 miles, take 195 minutes for the journey, or 56½ miles an hour; they are the 10 o'clock train and the midday train from Paris to Calais. There are dozens of express trains in this country with heavier or equally heavy loads, travelling over more severe roads, and more difficult gradients, at a much higher average speed than that. I will quote two instances which are well known to your Lordships—the two-hour trains between Paddington and Birmingham and Euston and Birmingham. There are also isolated express runs at over sixty-one miles an hour on the Great Western Railway, the London Midland & Scottish Railway, and the London & North Eastern Railway. When the noble Lord says that the railway speeds in this country are not comparable to those on the Chemin de Fer du Nord I think he is mistaken.


I beg the noble Lord's pardon. I did not say that was so in general. I said that there were certain special occasions on which the Chemin de Fer Du Nord showed what could be done. I did not say that it was done every day on that railway. I gave instances to show what could be done.


I am taking, I think, the more practical view—what is being done every day by trains between points which the public use. We all know that you can achieve very high speeds. I should hesitate to tell your Lordships' House the speed at which I have travelled in a motor car. I think my noble friend Lord Churchill would hesitate to say that any of his trains exceeded 100 miles an hour, though they might have done that in very special circumstances with the gradients in their favour. I am dealing with the practical facts of the day. The noble Lord also quoted the weights of trains. If you take the average weight of bogie carriages 35 to 36 tons, and take a train of twelve coaches—an ordinary load for our express trains—that works out at from 430 to 450 tons per train. With dining cars and so on they have this weight. Many of these trains exceed the average weight of the trains the noble Lord quoted.

In this country, at any rate, we can still say without any doubt whatever that the average speed of our best trains exceeds that in any other part of the world. There is not the least doubt about that. The noble Lord quoted the Chemin de Fer du Nord. Let us take an equal comparison in this country. Between Paris and Calais is 184 miles. There are only 46 stations and 9 junctions. Between Euston and Warrington, practically the same distance—182¼ miles—there are 59 stations and 52 junctions. He will see, therefore, that there are many more difficulties to be got over, many more stations to run through and many more junctions to be passed. Take another instance, the Boulogne to Paris train. That is another of the fastest trains of the Chemin, de Fer du Nord. From Boulogne to Paris is 158 miles. The two fastest runs are done in 170 minutes, giving an average of 55¾ miles all hour. As to the run from Paris to Calais, I have already pointed out that there is nothing like the same number of stations and nothing like the same amount of traffic. In addition to that the density of the traffic is far less. The noble Lord might like to know—he did not quote it—that the next best railway in France, in point of speed, the P.L.M.—


Oh! no, the P.L.M. is a very bad one.


Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to proceed. It is generally considered to be the next best to the Chemin de Fer du Nord, at any rate by those in the best position to judge. From Paris to Laroche is a distance of 96¼ miles. The non-stop expresses take to do this journey from 2 hrs. 7 mins. to 2 hrs. 20 mins—an average of 45 and 41 miles per hour respectively. That is over quite an easy road going up the valley of the Seine. How can you compare this with what is done in this country? In my opinion it compares very badly with similar runs to Grantham, or to Leicester, over distances of the same sort. The noble Lord referred to the speed and the power of locomotives. There are several points to be considered in this connection. The first is that our loading gauges in this country are nothing like as big as the French loading gauges. It is therefore difficult to use locomotives of the same dimensions in regard to boiler dimensions. I was on the footplate of a locomotive so recently as Monday on tote Southern railway, in which the steam pressure was 225 lbs. to the square inch. That shows that we are not behind the best practice on the Continent. There is another point and that is the density of traffic, which precludes high speed when approaching a terminus. To give the House some idea of how that affects the E4aglish railways, I may mention that there is on the Southern Railway system, within 15 miles of the London terminus, 171 junctions and 222 stations. If any of your Lordships had accompanied me on the footplate last Monday coming into the London area in slightly foggy weather, you would have seen, I think, that the train was going at a quite sufficiently high speed.

The noble Lord also went into the question of the engine driver making up time. After considerable experience, I entirely endorse the general attitude of the British railway companies. I think that it is far wiser not to issue precise instructions. The making up of time must be left in all cases to the judgment of the individual driver. Let me give your Lordships some idea of the training through which the drivers of our fast trains go. They begin quite young as cleaners. They then become firemen upon goods trains, and pass on to be drivers. The next step is for them to drive fast goods trains. Then, as a rule, they pass on to drive the slow passenger trains, and it is only at last that they arrive at driving the expresses. These picked men convey us with the most marvellous safety in this country. We have, I suppose, the highest average of safety of any country in the world. These men are thoroughly to be trusted. They would not be driving the express trains if they were not to be trusted, and personally I would rather rely upon their judgment than I Would upon any mechanical device or any precise instruction.

The noble Lord also said that the drivers should drive their trains faster. I think we all know that the greater the speed the greater is the strain on the human element. It is all very well to say that that is not so; it is so. And there is one disadvantage nowadays. The locomotives have to be built with very high boilers because of the necessity of get- ing greater power. One great disadvantage of these high boilers, which, perhaps, has occurred to some of your Lordships, is that the steam from the smoke stack blows towards the glass through which the driver looks at his signals, and very often obscures his outlook for several minutes. I think that under those conditions it is wonderful that our drivers so very seldom make a mistake. The records of the railway companies show that there are only comparatively few cases of danger signals being overrun. I would also call the noble Lord's attention to the fact that the system of issuing precise instructions to drivers in France, and in some cases of offering them pecuniary encouragement to make up time, has resulted in some of the worst accidents that we have had of late years. It is quite clear, when the accident on the P.L.M. occurred in August, that the driver was going at an excessive speed, or was taking risks that he never should have taken in the circumstances.


Will the noble Lord let us have the details of the accident?


I cannot do so now. It was quite common knowledge, and was reported in all the newspapers, and L myself wrote about it to The Times when the accident occurred. The speeds were not excessive as the train was timed. I can say with the greatest confidence that the French railways have not the same average of speed that we have. With regard to mechanical safeguards on British railways, the noble Lord must know, or he ought to know if he has studied railways, that signalling is nowadays largely mechanical. On some railways it is done by compressed air, while on other railways, such as the underground railways, it is done by electrical devices. There is no main line without them in this country now, and I doubt if there is one on tiny branch line of any importance. Most of the systems have got also what is called the inter-locking method of signalling. That is very important as a Factor in safety. I do not think it is fair to say that the railway companies have not encouraged safety devices when they are practical. To use a mechanical device of any kind before it has been thoroughly tried out would be a rash thing indeed to do. When you have to think of the safety of millions of passengers you cannot do it. You may do it on a toy railway or in a laboratory, but you cannot do it on the great railway systems of this country and thereby endanger the passengers.

I pass on quickly to the rail types. A great many railways, as the noble Lord knows, have 50 or 60 feet length of rail, varying from 85 lbs. a yard to 95 lbs. a yard. The locomotive weights do not exceed 22 tons per axle as a rule, and 95 lbs. rails are strong enough to bear such a weight. The average railway locomotive does not weigh much over 21 tons per axle.

The last point referred to by the noble Lord was that of the third-class "sleeper." I imagine it is a question as to whether it pays or not. I am inclined to agree with him that further experiments might he made in that direction, but I do not think railway companies are averse from encouraging traffic if they can and if it pays them, and I have no doubt that various noble Lords connected with the railways which run north have often thought the subject out. I have no time to-day to follow the noble Lord into the question of superheated steam. I might be able to tell him a good deal about super-heated steam and its history. There were great difficulties in regard to it in the early days, and if the railway companies were slow to take it up I think they were perhaps justified.

The general attack which the noble Lord has made on railway companies since the War is, in my opinion, unjustified. They have been awake for a long time past. I have been a critic of railway management in the past in certain directions, but no one can deny that since the railway companies have had their systems back from the Government they have done a great deal to improve the accommodation for the public. I have had many hours of very good sleep in a railway carriage, and, speaking generally, the permanent ways of our railway systems are immeasurably superior to those in any other country. The noble Lord spoke of the railways as being a sheltered industry. I think he is absolutely wrong. They were a sheltered industry until my friends of the motor-car industry came along. They are sheltered no longer. They have to face fierce competition by road, and that competition will become even more intense. They may be sheltered as regards foreign trade, but they have competition by sea, and in regard to both passenger and goods traffic they have competition by road. Any one who looks into their returns can see that there has been a large decrease in the amount of traffic during the last twelve months. On the London, Midland and Scottish it amounts to a £1,500,000, on the North-Eastern to £1,250,000, and on the Great Western to £800,000. Only the Southern Railway shows an increase. The railways are suffering from competition, and they cannot be described as a sheltered Industry.

I apologise for taking up so much time, but I think the noble Lord has made an unfair attack on the railways of this country. The speeds he talks about are no doubt possible in some cases, but only in some; and they would entail on the majority of the trunk lines of this country—I challenge him to deny it—an immense expenditure which would be mostly unproductive. If you put high speed lines down for express trains only to get into termini, it would be done at a cost entirely out of proportion to the advantages that might be gained. I believe there is another solution to that difficulty, and that is to take the traffic further out into the country by means of tubes and other devices, and then start your express trains five or ten miles out. That would be a much better and a more economical solution of that problem.

I assure the noble Lord that I am not a director or a large shareholder in any railway company. I am a student of transport matters and of railway matters, like himself, and I beg him not to assume that every railway director is a blockhead and every official a fool. I think the public realise that the railways, on the whole, serve their interests very well: and they have a wonderful record of safety for many years past.


My Lords, I understood the noble Lord who has just spoken to say that the weight of an engine was about 22 tons.


21 tons per axle.


The weight of the Pacific engine with tender on the Great Northern Railway is 149 tons. I believe they are rather heavier than the similar engine on the Great Western. There was a trial between them the other day and I think one was as good as the other. There was not much difference, between them. I only rose in consequence of the attack made by the noble Lord upon railway directors. I was a director of the Great Northern Railway for twenty years, and for the last six years I was Chairman of that company. The Chairman before me was the late Lord Allerton. The noble Lord has said that railway directors are chosen because they are large shareholders. It was not the, case with the Great Northern Railway. He also says that they have no knowledge of their business, that they are practically in the hands of their officials, and that they take no notice whether trains are punctual or not. Many of your Lordships knew the late Lord Allerton and no one who knew him would think for a moment that he was in the hands of anybody, except himself. I do not like to talk about myself. I succeeded him as Chairman. I had my own opinions, and I acted upon them, sometimes irrespective of the board and the general manager. I certainly was never unduly influenced by my general manager or by the board

The noble Lord says that no care is taken about the punctuality of trains. Every week the Chairman of the Great Northern Railway had the hours of the arrival of trains brought before him, and every month these figures were put before the Locomotive Committee. I can only speak of my own railway. When I became Chairman the first thing I did was was to send for the general manager. I said to him: "Our trains have got to be punctual. I do not care if you make them five or ten minutes longer, but they must be punctual. A person travelling by a train, perhaps having an engagement or desiring to go on by another train on the other side of London, wants to know whether he is going to get to his destination according to the time-table, and I hold that that is far more important than whether he takes two hours and twenty-five minutes or two hours and ten minutes to do the journey." I said: "Now you will see that to the utmost of our ability our trains arrive punctually." Those were my orders, and they were not disobeyed. The noble Lord seems to think that the Chairman of a railway company is a person who goes down to a comfortable room, has a good luncheon and does nothing else. I can assure him he is nothing of the sort.

I have the good fortune to live upon the Great Western Railway, The Great Western Railway—I come up a good deal by it—is always absolutely punctual. It has a train which leaves Swindon, 77½ miles from London, at 3.45 p.m. and arrives at Paddington at 5 o'clock—that is to say, 77½, miles in 75 minutes. There is one thing that I have to complain of, and that, is that it is generally two minutes before time, which is not quite as it should be, because it ought to be there "on the tick." I venture to say that there is no railway in the world that could do better. You are not jolted or shaken, you travel in comfort, and you can read your papers or go to sleep if you so desire. The noble Lord said that the roads, signals, and so on, were now adequate for this increased speed. Is not that rather in contradiction of his other arguments? He speaks of these inefficient railway managers and servants and the still more inefficient chairmen and directors, but they have managed to get the roads, signals, and so on, adequate for that which the noble Lord wishes them to do.


I did not deny that they were adequate. I wanted to know why they were not made full use of.


Somebody must have made them adequate.


Certainly. That is where the inefficiency comes in—in not making fall use of them.


I am speaking on behalf of those people who have made them adequate, and I say that, speaking generally—there may be some railways that are better than others; I have instanced the Great Western Railway— the railways in this country are superior to the railways in any other part of the world. The noble Lord says that the officials endeavour to excuse the fast running of trains by saying that it is a strain on the drivers. The noble Lord has reversed the statement. When I was Chairman of the Great Northern Railway it was the railway unions, not the officials, who spoke of the strain on the drivers. Of course I can only speak from my own experience, but the officials of the Great Northern Railway always said that there was not much more strain in driving a fast engine than in driving a slow one. We discussed this at the board over and over again, and we found that the drivers themselves competed to get on the big engines, and therefore it is not likely that there is any special strain.

I am sorry to have occupied your Lordships so long and I conclude by saying that I can hardly imagine that the noble Lord has noticed the enormous number of accidents that have lately taken place abroad. I do not know whether trains go much faster abroad, but, supposing they do, surely it is better to go at a reasonable pace with the certainty of arriving on time at your destination without being killed, than to go a little faster with the possibility that you may either be killed or severely injured before you arrive.


My Lords, I am not going to enter at this hour of the afternoon upon a dissertation upon all the complex questions that the noble Lord who introduced this debate has put before you, but, as I suppose I am the oldest railway director here and probably; the oldest director in England, for I was elected in February, 1874, more than fifty years ago, and I left only when amalgamation took place, after being for many years vice-Chairman and for many years Chairman of the North Eastern Railway Company, I cannot sit quiet without saying a word in refutation of that which the noble Lord has said about the friction and brake-power applied by officials to any suggested improvements. I have been through all the controversies about brakes. They all took place in the time of my directorship. I have been through controversies about almost every other invention that has been made, and I doubt if anybody who is not a director knows the enormous number of suggestions that are sent in for almost every kind of improvement in the running of the railways, in mechanical details and even in such matters as the opening of carriage doors. It is quite impossible to try them all. You have to select and experiment, but my experience—and I wish to testify to it here—is that no hindrance was ever put in the way of the directors by the officials. In fact they were only too pleased to try experiments. That is the little protest that I want to make.

One other point. The noble Lord seemed to hint that they do things better abroad and that we shut our eyes to all improvements going on in other countries. I can assure him that I have found the contrary to be the ease. We were always trying to find out whether there was anything that anybody could do better than ourselves. I will give one little experience of my own. We were told that certain German works were using more iron and steel in the construction of railway wagons than we were using in England. In the northeast, of England, which was our district, the use of iron and steel was of enormous importance to the railway. If the iron and steel trade was prosperous the railway prospered too, and therefore, not only for the sake of the wagons, but for the advantage of the whole district, I wanted to see if anything could be done. I personally went over to these works with an introduction to the manager, who came out and asked me what I particularly wanted to see. I told him about the railway wagons, and he said: "It is a funny thing that you should have come to see us about that." He took me through the works, and on the platform in the middle was an English railway wagon, which had been imported from England and was being copied exactly, as the best that they could find. I can assure your Lordships that, in my very long experience of nearly fifty years I have found no obstruction from the managers, and certainly the directors were most anxious to do everything they possibly could, not only for the comfort and safety of the passengers but for the adoption of the best means in the world for securing that comfort and safety.


My Lords, I am not a railway director nor have I any experience of the foot-plate, but I think I may claim to have very considerable experience as a railway passenger. I think that the noble Lord who raised this discussion has really performed a valu- able public service, although there was a good deal in his speech with which I found myself unable to agree. I will get rid of that first. It appears to me that his remarks upon safety and upon punctuality are to a great extent self-destructive. If trains are scheduled to run at the highest possible speed it is pretty obvious that, if there is a delay, there can be no room to recover time in safety.

I entirely agree with what fell from the noble Lord, Lord Banbury, regarding punctuality. It is far more important to the passenger than speed, and further, speaking from my experience as a railway passenger, my opinion is that the present speed is as high as it can be made with comfort to the passenger. When you exceed a certain rate of speed—as you do, for example, going down Shap Fell; and I could name other places on different lines—the oscillation is such that it becomes difficult to read and quite impossible to write. On many lines it is quite possible to write comfortably in the railway carriage, and in that respect you probably save as much or more time than you would gain by arriving a few minutes earlier at your destination Before leaving that subject, I would say this, that if the Government can bring any pressure to bear upon the railway companies to improve the punctuality of railways—on some of which, no doubt owing to causes which may be difficult to overcome, such as roads improvements, and so on, the unpunctuality is a rather serious feature—they will be doing a very great service to the public.

I do not propose to deal with the technical matters, because I do not understand them, but think what the noble Lord said about sleeping accommodation for third-class passengers is a matter which really ought to be seriously considered. The third-class passenger is, after all, the best customer of the railway Company. It is the third-class passengers who provide by far the greatest bulk of the traffic receipts and they certainly do not receive anything like the consideration which is due to the best customer. It is not merely a question of sleeping accommodation. There is a certain train by which I travel most weeks, on the London and North Eastern Railway, and it is very exceptional not to find a large number of third-class passengers standing in the corridors. That is not only inconvenient for the passengers who have to stand but inconvenient for those who have seats, and Who may desire to get from one part of the train to another. It is appalling to think what might happen in those circumstances, if there was a serious collision. It is really a matter on which I think the third-class passenger has a very serious grievance. He pays his fare and is entitled to a seat, although on many occasions he does not get it. I am bound to say that if you write to the railway companies and point this out they realise that there is something wrong, and promise that they will do their best to remedy it, but the railway passenger, having relieved his feelings, at the end of the journey says: "Thank goodness that is over and I will say no more about it." I do, however, submit to the Government that some pressure ought to be brought to bear upon the railway companies to induce them to give proper consideration to the third-class passengers, not only with regard to sleeping accommodation but in regard to the other matter which I have mentioned, which is really a much more serious matter.


My Lords, my experience about crowded third-class cars is rather different from that of Lord Sandhurst. I travel on the London and North Western Railway, and I constantly find the first-class crowded and the third-class nearly empty. That, however, is a small matter. I should like to say that I think there is a good deal in the defence put up by some of the railway directors in this House. Undoubtedly if we are to compare our railways with railways abroad, I do not think that there is a man in England who, if he had the choice, would not choose English railways in which to travel when abroad. Look at our sleeping cars. What comfortable things they are compared with those for which one pays an extravagant price on the Continent. I agree with Lord Banbury that punctuality is an infinitely more important question than that of speed. Personally I object to those very fast trains—trains which go at over 60 miles an hour. I do not think our railways are really made for such speed, and I find a very great difference, at the end of a journey, if I travel at a speed which seems to me to suit the train and the line, than if I travel at a greater speed. I would sooner spend longer on the road and arrive comfortably and punctually. I hope, therefore, that that part of the speech of Lord Monkswell will not be taken too seriously by the Government or by the railway companies.

I do, however, see considerable deterioration in some of the lines on which I have had to travel since the amalgamation. The real point is that the amalgamation made the units too big and destroyed the competition. Before the amalgamation took place of the great northern lines there was constant competition, and that led to constant improvement. No such improvement is going on to-day in any respect, and I must say, taking my own experience of what was the London and North Western Railway, there is considerable deterioration as to punctuality and in every other respect, except that of the lunches which are served in the old Midland cars, which are very often put on this line. The unit is too big. I think that is a thing which our Socialist friends often forget in their advocacy of Socialism. There is a unit economically satisfactory in almost every business. That unit has become too big owing to the amalgamation of the railways. I do not think that any man, with or without the spur of competition, is sufficiently big to manage these companies, and my principal reason for rising to-day was that I might stand in a white sheet because, when the Amalgamation Bill was before this House, I did not say what I thought.


My Lords, with regard to what fell from the noble Lord as to third-class sleeping cars I can assure him and your Lordships that the interest of the third-class passengers is always uppermost in the minds of railway managers and directors. They are our best customers, and this question is ever before us, but I may tell the noble Lord candidly that it is a matter of £s. d. It is the fact that first-class sleepers are run at a loss by the railways, and from the railway point of view we wish to goodness that such a thing had never been invented. We do realise, however, that the third-class passenger is naturally interested in that direction, and if the net receipts in the future go up in the way that I see little chance of their doing in present circumstances, I can only say that this question will ever be before our minds. With regard to the other points that have been raised, I feel rather in the position which, no doubt, your Lordships have on other occasions experienced, when replying to your own health, because everybody, including Lord Banbury, has been so extremely courteous and civil with regard to the Great Western Railway that I feel much embarrassed. I can only assure Lord Monkswell that while I think his psychology is such that, when confronted with first-class experts who are unable to accept his views, he is inclined to think they are past all salvation, I much regret that when In' visited Paddington I was not o there to welcome him. I can add the assurance that any suggestion in the future for improved mechanical appliances or other means for improving the efficiency of the railways will be welcomed.


My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord who opened this discussion can congratulate himself on the fact that he has initiated an interesting debate. In fact, I think I may congratulate him also on his courage in making so many vigorous attacks on railway directors, who are a body so well represented in this House. I listened with admiration to the amount of technical information that poured from the lips of my colleagues, and I could not help thinking that perhaps the noble Lord had somewhat under-estimated the knowledge of railway matters—and, indeed, of other matters—which can be shown by the experts in your Lordships' House.

I do not wish to be critical of the informed speech of the noble Lord, but I am a little sorry that he made those general charges, not against railway directors, because they are so well equipped to defend themselves here, but against railway officials of all classes. I do not think that general charges of that kind are very effective, or serve to assist the object with which they are used. I was rather surprised to hear that the noble Lord expressed surprise that a letter of his was not published in The Times, because I was provided with the copy of a letter of the noble Lord which was published in The Times of August 15, from which will read one or two passages. For instance, he says: The average railway officer in my experience simply refuses to think about acceleration at all, and is utterly impervious to argument, to which he does not listen. I say again that I think it is a pity to make these general charges, and perhaps their generality and the way in which specific attacks are avoided may possibly have accounted for the reluctance of the editor of The Times to publish further correspondence on the subject. I observe that the noble Lord, in his Question, talks about the failure to remove "serious defects" in the railways since their amalgamation. In his speech he dwelt on such matters as block signalling, brakes, superheated steam, bogies and other matters, but, of course, he was talking of comparatively ancient railway history; at any rate, things which were dealt with long before the amalgamation of the railways. I do not think this House has a great taste for historic discussions or this kind, and I therefore pass by those subjects, but with this reservation, that it does not at all follow that, because a most admirable device has been invented or used in the laboratory, it can therefore be applied at once, without prolonged trials, on a commercial scale to large industrial undertakings.

The next point was the question of the acceleration of express trains. Speaking as a member of the public, I agree with what has already fallen from the lips of noble Lords: I dislike intensely travelling at these great speeds. I like to sit in comfort in my railway carriage, sleeping if I wish to sleep, studying if I wish to study, or reading, and I can do that most comfortably in the trains as they travel at present. I do not think I shall be accused of any indiscretion towards our French neighbours, for whom I have a great admiration, when I say I cannot drink half my coffee in going to Paris without the rest being spilt on the floor. That is my own particular feeling. But there are great practical difficulties in the way of increasing speeds. I pass by for a moment the points made by certain noble Lords about the considerable speeds at which trains travel in this country already, and I think it was pointed out by Lord Montaga that there are very strong practical reasons against largely increasing the speeds in this country, because of the low gauges, and because of the difficulty, with the whole framework of your railways—the tunnels and the spaces between the rails—of largely increasing the size of your engines, which would be necessary in order to drag these heavy loads at great speeds.

In the last few years great additions have been made to the comfort of the travelling public, and that comfort translates itself into a heavier weight of carriage, and, again, lays a heavier charge on the pall of the engine. I understand that in order to maintain the high average speed of fifty-eight miles an hour—I do not know whether the noble Lord considers that very fast—you have to attain at certain points speeds of eighty to eighty-five miles an hour. It is obvious, therefore, that if you greatly increase present speeds you will be travelling in many cases at over 100 miles an hour. I do not comment on the greater safety of travelling in this country. It is obvious to anybody who, like myself, has travelled in every country in Europe, and in America as well. Nor do I wish to compare the comfort of the railway system in this country and elsewhere, because I am here not to defend the railway companies, but to say what the attitude of the Government is. The noble Lord, however, certainly did not in his comparison give full weight to the point of the enormous amount of traffic on the British lines compared with many of these Continental lines which attain greater speed. When he has taken that fully into consideration, I think he will realise that the difficulty of increasing the speed of trains is considerable, even if it is desirable. He has asked that the Government should urge upon the railways the immediate adoption of the improvements he mentions, and I can only say that the Minister of Transport altogether declines in these circumstances to urge the immediate acceleration of trains upon the railway companies.

The next point was the issue to engine drivers of precise instructions about the making up of lost time, and he instanced the fact that most definite instructions are issued in France to the drivers of trains. That is exactly what you would expect from the habits and the genius of the French people. They love drawing up these precise instructions, and no doubt it suits their own people, and possibly is agreeable also to the drivers themselves. I am certain that it is wholly unsuitable to the drivers in this country. Look at their training, at the experience they have had before they drive these trains. And if the directors and officials are as incompetent as they are represented to be, would they not only draw up regulations which would be wholly incompatible with the genius and capacity of the men who drive the trains? Surely it is much better in this case to trust to the intelligence and common sense of these capable men who drive our trains, witnessed by the very small number of accidents which happen upon our lines.

I will not dwell upon the virtue of punctuality, because my noble friend Lord Banbury dwelt upon it with great force, and I have to confess that, perhaps, I suffered also from the criticisms of the noble Lord. I was a director of the Great Northern Railway under the noble Lord himself and I can testify to the energy and capacity with which he always insisted upon punctuality on that line. Therefore, perhaps, in that case, too, His Majesty's Government thinks it very undesirable to issue or to urge upon the railway companies that they should send out to their trained drivers what must be complicated instructions as to what they are to do when an emergency arises on the railway or when a train is late.

The next point in the noble Lord's Question has reference to the adoption of mechanical safeguards against excessive speed on sharp curves and other danger points. I need hardly say that these would be much more necessary, probably, if railway trains were greatly accelerated; but as I think we are content, for the present, to go along at the humdrum moderate paces at which our trains are now driven it becomes unnecessary, on my answer to the first Question, to deal with the point. These matters are always being considered and fresh safeguards are always being introduced. I do not want to weary your Lordships with a long and detailed account of the safeguards introduced during the last few years, but the matter is constantly being looked into and examined, and I do not think that any general instruction to the railways by the Ministry of Transport to introduce these precautionary safeguards would be of much value. What would be the result if that was done? The railways would ask: "On what do you base your instructions? Compare the accidents on our railways with the accidents on any railways in the world and then say how you are justified in forcing upon us certain precautions which you do not specify and as to which your advice can only be perfectly general."

The noble Lord will permit me to pass rather quickly over the Question regarding investigation of improved rail-joints, because I am told there is not only great difference of opinion on that matter amongst those best qualified to judge, but it is one which is being constantly examined and re-examined by the railway companies. Therefore, no urging by the Minister of Transport is necessary, and it might be considered rather unnecessary, perhaps, if he tried to interfere with the action of the railways in this matter.

The noble Lord's final point has reference to third-class sleeping carriages. On that we have had the very valuable testimony of the Chairman of the Great Western Railway, on whom so many panegyrics have, if I may say so, been justly passed during the debate this afternoon. This, of course, is a matter of pounds, shillings and pence. The number of passengers you can take in a first-class sleeping compartment is twelve, I believe, and the carriage weighs about 40 tons, but the number that can travel in a third-class coach, which is a little more full than when my noble friend travels to Manchester, is fifty-six, and the carriage weighs about 22 tons. It is clear, first of all, that you would add considerably to the weight of the train if you instituted a number of third-class sleeping compartments. The noble Lord suggested that you should not have separate compartments for sleeping as in the first-class sleeper, but an arrangement of bunks in tiers or something of the kind. These suggestions have been made before; but I understand there is a good deal of objection on the part of the travelling public to third-class sleeping carriages built on those lines. Anyhow, the short answer is that the railway companies would be very anxious to introduce third-class sleeping carriages, but it is really a matter of adding to the weight of the trains and to the cost. Contrary to what the noble Lord has said about the supplement, which he described as a little matter, in addition to the third-class fare, I am advised that it would have to be considerable if the railway companies are to receive a proper reward for the effort they put forth in instituting third-class sleeping carriages.

Those, perhaps, are the briefest answers I can make to the points raised by the noble Lord. But in pressing improvements or suggestions on the railway companies regard must be had to the financial condition of those companies, and if you are suffering, as unfortunately is the case, from grave unemployment which tells heavily upon the receipts, and if the gross receipts of the railways, except, I think, in one case only, are a great deal lower than they were even in the bad year, last year, it will be obvious to the noble Lord, I think, that he must temper justice with mercy and not take the most inopportune time for pressing upon the railways suggestions which might otherwise he acceptable. I do not say that I have satisfied the noble Lord that the Government can do what he asks them to do, but I hope I have to some extent satisfied him that the position of the railways is not quite so melancholy as he suggested it was in his depreciatory speech; that most of the things which he said should be urged upon the companies are already being dealt with by the companies; and that if, for many of them, solutions have not been found already they are at least in process of being found. On the whole, therefore, the Minister of Transport does not think it advisable to press at present upon the railways the urgency of some of the changes advocated by the noble Lord.


My Lords, I think the discussion that has taken place this evening proves once more that your Lordships' House is always able to provide experts upon any question which comes before the House. It is evident from the wealth of technical knowledge displayed by the noble Lord who asked the Question, and also by the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, who followed him, that in addition to the knowledge which is always in the possession of rail- way directors, we have at least two other members of your Lordships' House who would always be able to contribute valuable assistance to our discussions upon this and cognate questions. I congratulate the noble Lord who introduced this Question on initiating a discussion of very real interest and, if he will allow me to say so, on having rendered a public service by so doing. I hope this will not be the last occasion upon which we shall discuss the railway services in this country. An annual discussion would, I think, be a matter of very real interest to the general public.

I am glad that there were several railway directors present this evening in your Lordships' House. We must say at once that the companies they represent are perfect in every way and that nobody has any criticism to make of those lines. But I would ask them to remember that there are lines which are not so well managed as their own, and that there are other railway companies of which criticism is not only made, but is made with very good reason. One can hardly open a newspaper without seeing some criticism, for instance, of the Southern Railway. Whether noble Lords would say that the lines they represent are in every way identical with and as praiseworthy as the Southern Railway I do not know. If this discussion is renewed on a future occasion possibly they will be able to tell us what they think about other railways.

The point to which I would draw your Lordships' attention is as to how far the expectations of amalgamation have been met and whether, indeed, the economies we wore led to expect as the result of amalgamation have really taken place. The Minister of Transport, earlier in the year, told us that he was unable to give us any detailed information because it was not available. But on June 23, Mr. H. N. Gresly, who was chief mechanical engineer of the London and North Eastern Railway Company, said that the expected economies had not materialised, and that the railways were in a bad condition and did not know where to look for money. I confess that the last statement rather surprised me, because I understood that as a result, partly, of the sums of money which were paid to them for their War service the railway companies were not so badly off as they have been in the past. There is this to be said with regard to the amalgamation, that it took place at an unfortunate moment. It was immediately followed by a slump in trade, which, of course, the railway companies could not avert, and which did materially affect their traffic receipts in an adverse direction. Therefore it is a question of whether we should have found the same results following amalgamation if the course of trade had followed a different direction. But the real question which is being asked by the public is whether the railway companies have yet learned to adjust their old organisations to the new circumstances of the case, whether they have freely amalgamated the various systems. The London, Midland and Scottish have, I see, taken a new move, and a very interesting move, in appointing Sir Josiah Stamp to be the president of their executive. That, I believe, takes place on the 1st January, and it is, I believe, a move which is copied from America. But it is a new office in this country, and I am sure we shall all watch with interest to see what the result of it may be

There is one point upon which I should have liked to hear something. Unfortunately it is not mentioned in the Question. I refer to the unfortunate matter affecting the reserves of the railway companies. As I understand it, by a decision of your Lordships' House, sitting judicially, the railway companies were not allowed to use their reserves for the purposes of capital expenditure at the present time. That was unfortunate for them, because it led them, when they needed more money, to go into the money market when the money market was not particularly favourable. I regret that that should have been the case. If they had been able to use their large reserves we might have found that amalgamation would have produced a better result. There is one statement which is always made, and to which I wish to enter, like my noble friend, a very emphatic contradiction. He has told us how he stands to-night in a white sheet for not having opposed the amalgamation. We were all told at the time that nationalisation was the only alternative to the grouping of the railways. I never was convinced by that argument, and I am less convinced to-day than I was at that time. I believe that it is quite unnecessary to have adopted so drastic a remedy at the time when the measure was brought in. We have to remember, I think, that the condition of affairs is changing. Railways no longer have a monopoly of transit. They have more real difficulties to cope with. There is not only the motor ear, but there is also the char-à-banc, and, in addition to that, a tendency on the part of high class traffic to be moved by motor lorry rather than by railway.

It is matter for consideration, I think, whether some lesson should not be learned from America where the same difficulties were experienced. Can we not learn from them a fact which they proclaim—namely, that transport is a commodity which needs to be sold just in the same way as you sell any other class of goods, and that you must adapt your prices if you wish to make a profit on transport? I saw the other day that Sir Henry Thornton, when he landed in England, said that it is impressed on every employee on the Canadian National Railways that the passenger is the guest of the company. He may be a paying guest, but still he is the guest of the company. I wonder sometimes whether that is fully realised by the unfortunate third-class ticket holder travelling on the suburban railways of London. I wonder whether he really feels that he is being treated as a guest, even a paying guest, by the railway on which he is travelling.

There is a very real inconvenience that I should like to mention. It is one which some of us thought might have been amended as a result of amalgamation. It is the difficulty in which we find ourselves at a junction when the train by which we would naturally try to reach our furthest destination is scheduled to leave just before we ourselves arrive at the station. The noble Viscount, the Chairman of the Great Western Railway, has had so many bouquets thrown to him this evening that he will perhaps allow me to mention an instance in which he himself is interested. I shall venture to give your Lordships two instances, which have occurred to me since I knew the noble Lord on the Cross Benches was going to bring this matter forward. These are two instances of which I have personal knowledge, and they can probably be multiplied a great many times all over the country. The 11.13 Great Western Railway train from Taunton arrives at Bristol at 12.21. The London, Midland and Scottish Railway has a train which leaves Bristol at 12.20 for Gloucester. We lose that by exactly one minute. It is perfectly true that amalgamation need not necessarily affect this particular instance, because there is no amalgamation between those two lines, but it is an inconvenience to the traveller on the Great Western Railway which I hope the noble Viscount will forgive me for mentioning.

My other instance has to do with two of those railways which have been amalgamated. Here is the case of a train leaving Rugby at 5.10 and reaching Birmingham at 6.22 in the afternoon. Another train leaves Birmingham at 6.21 and reaches Worcester at 7.21. Thus on those two lines which have been amalgamated an extraordinary inconvenience is caused to passengers by one train departing one minute before another arrives. I would venture to say that in the case of the amalgamated companies there is no excuse for that kind of thing, and the convenience of the railway passengers might very well be studied by the directors.

May I say one other thing to the noble Viscount, the Chairman of the Great Western Railway? We have been told that we must not go too fast, and one or two noble Lords have protested against excessive speed. We have also heard—and I entirely agree with this—words in praise of a train from Swindon to Paddington on the Great Western Railway which goes at the rate, during one part of the journey, of 77 miles an hour. I should like to mention a curious thing with regard to the traffic to Birmingham. The London, Midland and Scottish Railway does that journey of 113 miles in two hours, but the Great Western Railway, on whose system the journey is only no miles, takes exactly the same time to do the journey as the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. Nothing like 77 miles an hour is attained at any point between London and Birmingham. It looks to me somewhat suspicious that the two different distances should be accomplished in exactly the same time by the two railway companies. I would venture to ask the noble Viscount whether he could not do something on the route from Paddington to Birmingham such as has been done on the route from Swindon to Paddington, to accelerate the service for the benefit of the travellers from Paddington to Birmingham. I think I can assure him, from conversations that I have had with other passengers upon that line, that anything of that kind would be very much appreciated.

A good deal has been said in defence of the Southern Railway, and for my own part I would venture to say something not quite in defence of that railway. I happen to spend part of the year living upon that line, and my own experience is that since amalgamation the service on the Southern Railway is very much worse than it was before amalgamation took place.


Where is that?


Down on the Dover line. Your Lordships will perhaps allow me to give one or two examples of which I have personal knowledge. Some friends of mine wanted to come down and stay with me, and wished to leave Charing Cross at four o'clock by a train due to arrive at six. It was on an afternoon towards the end of August. They arrived at Charing Cross in time to catch the four o'clock train, but they found that the three o'clock train had not left. They got into the three o'clock train, and arrived at their destination at seven o'clock, the train having taken four hours to do a journey which it was scheduled to do in two hours. It is not an unusual experience that trains at Folkestone remain in the station for certain periods until another engine comes up and gives them a shove out of the station. The explanation given to me by an employee of the' company was that the engines which used to travel on that line were no longer on it; they were being used on another part of the Southern Railway system. Your Lordships will of course, remember the great occasion when a railway train was lost on Southern Railway, and eventually managed, after wandering about the country for some hours, to get back again to the place from which it started. Your Lordships will also remember that it was described as "the night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head."

I am speaking of the experience which some people have had on the Southern Railway, but it is not fair to do so without paying a real tribute to the work done by Sir Francis Dent on the old South-Eastern Railway in the old days. He rendered admirable service to the company, and during the War the Southern Railway was most admirably managed and run. That continued until last year, but this year I do think there is a very real deterioration in the quality of the services supplied by the Southern Railway, which can only he attributed to the amalgamation. If that is so, I hope that we may perhaps have a discussion, on a later occasion, when we have had more experience of the results of amalgamation and find out whether it has been a good thing or not. I am not Set quite certain that there has been a real amalgamation of the railways. The instances I have given of trains just missing one another at junctions, indicate that real amalgamation has not yet taken place and that the old system is going on under nominal unity. The old organisations still appear to exist under separate officials, and the real amalgamation which was aimed at has not yet taken place.


My Lords, I should not have taken any pare in this debate had it not been for the speech of the noble Earl who has just sat down and the criticisms he has thought fit to make on the unpunctuality of the Southern Railway. He did pay a tribute to Sir Francis Dent, and I am glad he had the generosity to do so, with regard to the manner in which that line was run during the War. But the noble Earl forgot, in paying that compliment, that it was because the line was so well run during the War and was so much occupied during the War that it became completely exhausted, both as regards permanent way and stock. The railways were left in a state of great demoralisation by the Government. That had to be put right, and it could not be put right until the Government had passed the Railways Act and voted the money. We had to sit and look at an incomplete system, both with regard to the running-lines and stock; we were unable to do anything to improve the situation as we had not the money to do it. That is always forgotten. It has become a habit, when a Southern Railway train is half an hour late, to publish the fact in the newspapers. If people travel to Scotland, as I do sometimes, they would find that trains on systems other than the Southern Railway are sometimes late. I was three hours late in arriving at Aberdeen on one occasion and two hours late in arriving at Stirling. I do not want to criticise the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. I know they do their best and that fogs do occasionally occur. But if a train is half an hour late on the Southern Railway people seem to write to the newspapers at once about it. It has become a practice.

May I say this with regard to the Southern Railway? I have just presided over the Traffic Committee of the Southern Railway. We had before us the running of all the trains on the system. We are not quite so good as we were before the War yet on any part of the system, but I must tell your Lordships that during October the whole of the trains running on the system were only two minutes late on the average. I think your Lordships will agree that that is not a bad record. I do not think it ever was below 8 or .9 of a minute, and to get down to two minutes as an average is something that should also be published abroad, particularly after the remarks which the noble Earl has thought fit to make. I do not enter into the general question raised this evening, except to express my surprise at the want of knowledge on the part of the mover of the Motion. He was dealing with matters he did not quite understand. He could easily have got answers to all the points he put forward. With regard to the Southern Railway I think I have shown that the situation is not what it was a year ago.


My Lords, I do not propose to detain your Lordships any longer at this time of night. I am naturally disappointed by the answer of the Government and I regret that they refuse to move a finger to remove the conditions which brought about the Gretna and the Salisbury accidents. It is, of course, impossible now to go into everything that has been said by the railway directors who have spoken this afternoon, but I do notice that a good many of the points I have not made have been refuted and the points I have made have been ignored. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion I made for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.