HC Deb 03 March 1869 vol 194 cc542-56

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

MR. PEASE moved that the Bill be read a second time that day six months. He said he did so simply because no other Member had placed any notice of opposition to this project on the Paper. The other evening the House, on constitutional grounds, refused to allow a Bill to be introduced by a noble Lord; and there was an equally important constitutional question at stake in connection with this Bill—namely, whether or not the House would grant permission to a private company to monopolize a large portion, and in some cases one-half of the roadway of some of the chief thoroughfares of the metropolis. The House would have to judge whether this could be done without seriously affecting the public interests and greatly damaging the public convenience. There was a Motion on the Paper to refer this Bill to a Select Committee, but he thought the House would come to a much better decision than any Committee. Hitherto the history of tramways in the metropolis had been one of failure and disaster. The first scheme of the kind that ever was proposed was rejected in 1858, and in 1861 upon the proposal being revived, it was thrown out without a division. Again in 1866–7 a Tramway Bill was rejected upon the Standing Orders, and in the following Session it met with a similar fate at the hands of the House itself without a division. Trial of the tramway system had been made in the "Westminster Bridge Road and Victoria Street, and in Bayswater Road, but without success, and ultimately the rails were pulled up and the schemes altogether abandoned, all parties agreeing that it was altogether unsuited to the thoroughfares of the metropolis. Had the parties who promoted this Bill confined their proposal to Kennington Road he should probably not have objected, but they proposed to lay down tramways in "Westminster Bridge Road, where the traffic was very great, and where great public inconvenience would be the result. They were told that the system worked well in New York, but it was to be remembered that neither in Fifth Avenue nor in Broadway of that city, which were chief thoroughfares, were there any tramways. Moreover, the people of New York were in a measure compelled to use tramways on account of the state of the pavement which, according to Mr. Sala, was so execrable that hansom cabs could not traverse the streets. Copenhagen was also cited as an instance of the good working of the tramway system, but it would be well to bear in mind that more carriages passed up and down Westminster Road in the course of a day than were to be found in all Copenhagen. "Were the rails laid alongside the road they would seriously interfere with the business of the tradesmen and merchants along the route, for it would prevent carriages from standing before their shop doors; and would prevent carts from being loaded and unloaded with their goods. If, on the other hand, the rails were laid, in the middle of the road the progress of vehicles would be seriously interrupted, and drivers would have continually to cross and re-cross the rails. The narrow part of the Westminster Bridge Road was only 37 feet 6 inches wide, and if the tramway were laid in the centre only 14 feet would be left on each side for other vehicles. In Palace Road the width was only 29 feet. In Stangate the width was only 13 feet 10 inches. He was told that the rails to be used by this company were very superior to those which were laid down by George Francis Train. There certainly was some difference between them, but it was not such as to warrant any argument being based upon them in favour of the Bill. No one could deny that after the rail had been down a short time the rail on the blocks of granite would be three or four inches above the road, and would be dangerous to any carriage that was driven over the rails. He begged to remind the House that the Metropolitan Police Bill which had recently been passed placed in the hands of the Commissioner of Police great powers for the purpose of regulating the traffic, and these powers would, to a large extent, be rendered nugatory if they now placed half their streets in the hands of a private company. But it was urged that these tramways would be a great benefit to the working classes. On that plea he had supported the experiment made of a tramway along the Old North Road, one of the widest highways of Darlington, but after a short time everybody came to the conclusion that it was only a great nuisance, and it was taken up. But let them look a little into the benefits which were to be conferred on working men by this scheme. There would be two carriages morning and evening, at the rate of ½d. a mile, which would, allowing sixty to the carriage, accommodate 120 workmen. For the rest of the working men and the public there was a minimum charge of 3d. a mile, so that the plea was simply absurd, and would not for a moment compare with facilities afforded by the railway companies—the Metropolitan having agreed to run workmen's trains morning and evening, charging 1d. for the whole distance from Kensington to Trinity Square, Tower Hill. For these reasons, he hoped the House would reject the measure, and not throw upon the objectors the expense of fighting the Bill before a Select Committee.


seconded the Motion.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Pease.)


said, although he rose for the purpose of asking the House to take an entirely different view of the case from that which had been taken by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, he (Captain Grosvenor) could not affect to feel surprised at the prejudice which existed against the tramway system when he considered that it was associated in the public mind with the recollection of that obnoxious agitator, Mr. George Francis Train. That gentleman obtained leave to lay down various tramways, and not satisfied with constituting himself a public nuisance by his manner, tone, and general method of procedure he laid down his rails upon a principle so faulty as to threaten the destruction of any carriage with ordinary wheels that ventured upon their track. He would remind the House, however, that it was not Mr. Train who was now applying for power to lay down tramways, nor did the promoters intend to revive the imperfect invention of that gentleman. They proposed to pursue a course in every way the opposite of his. First, by every means to conciliate the public; and, secondly, to lay down rails in such a manner that they could not by any possibility obstruct the ordinary traffic. The interests of the company itself, as well as the strict provision in the Bill, guaranteed that this would be done—because if the rails were not laid down in a manner which commended itself to the public, they would have to be taken up again at great expense. As regarded the practicability of the project, it had long since been established by actual experience. Darlington had been referred to by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down as an instance of the failure of the system, but for his part he would adduce the case of Birkenhead, where it had been amply tried, and was a great success. An attempt had been made by some interested persons in Birkenhead to do away with the tramways on the ground that they were an inconvenience, but the jury before whom the case was tried declared that they were not a nuisance but an advantage; and the verdict was confirmed by acclamation in the town. That was in 1865, and from that time up to the present Birkenhead had enjoyed the use of the tramways. The prejudice, therefore, which existed against the name of Mr. Train should not be allowed to stand in the way of effecting a great public improvement. "Who were the objectors to the proposal? The proprietors of the public vehicles that at present plied in the thoroughfares of the metropolis. From what these gentlemen said, one would suppose that London was supplied with better and cheaper means of locomotion than any other city in the world, instead of something like the reverse being the case. These omnibus proprietors who now opposed tramways, had not been always of opinion that they were mischievous. On the contrary, he found from the Report of the General Omnibus Company of 1857 that their chief engineer was ill favour of the tramway system; and, in The Times of November 20 in that year he had seen it stated that the company were about to expend £50,000 of their surplus capital in laying down tramways for their own use. The fact that the directors had not carried out their intention he regarded as a loss both to themselves and the public, His object in mentioning this was to show that the omnibus company who now objected to tramways had really approved of their principle. It seemed to him that the practical objections to this Bill were very difficult to find, and though he had listened with attention to the statement of the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Pease) he had not been much assisted in getting at these objections. One statement made by the hon. Gentleman was to the effect that the streets of London were too narrow for the successful application of the tramway system. An answer to that was to be found in the practice of foreign cities where tramways were common, although the streets were narrow and also crowded. Apart from this, however, the Bill did not contemplate the introduction of tramways into any thoroughfare that could properly be called both crowded and narrow. The vestry of St. George's, Hanover Square, had petitioned against an analogous measure on the ground that they objected to giving up a portion of the public way to a company of speculators. This was not a question, however, of giving up a portion of the thoroughfares; for after the tramway was laid down the public would have precisely the same rights over the roadway as at present. The only right the vestry would give up was that of paying for the maintenance of that portion of the road used by the company. It was urged that the promoters were speculators, and that they ought not to be encouraged; but he did not think the House would be inclined unduly to curtail the spirit of legitimate enterprize. It was gratifying to find that, with one exception, the vestries concerned on the other side of the water, appreciating the advantages which would thus be conferred upon the ratepayers, gave their cordial support to the promoters of the Bill. He felt confident that, taking into consideration the peculiar circumstances of the case, the inducements held out to the promoters by special Standing Orders to proceed with their Bill, and the money which had been spent in bringing matters to this stage, the House would at all events afford the promoters the opportunity of obtaining a fair and candid consideration of their scheme. This was all that the promoters asked, and all that they required in order to prove that the realization of their scheme would confer a substantial and unqualified benefit upon all classes of the community.


said, he was not surprised at the support which the hon. and gallant Member for "Westminster (Captain Grosvenor) gave the Bill when he considered that the scheme did not propose to carry the tramways into Westminster. But on behalf of the people of Southwark, who were directly interested, he (Mr. Locke) was there to oppose the measure. Unfortunately with regard to private Bills, nobody seemed to know anything about them. It was very difficult to ascertain, for instance, who were for and who against such Bills. In the present case they were told that a num ber of philanthropists had banded themselves together for the purpose of benefiting the public at large. He, for his part, however, must acknowledge that he had never seen one of those so-called benefactors in his life. He believed that, in this instance, a good many of them came from across the Atlantic, and they came according to their own account in order to benefit the British public; but he hoped the British public would be able to estimate these proposals at their true worth. These philanthropists maintained that the tramways would be flush with the road, but how could any tramway having a groove in it for a flange to run in be flush with the road? The difficulty with regard to Mr. Train's tramways was, that no carriage could pass over them without danger, and sometimes accidents were the result. The Court of Queen's Bench having declared them a nuisance they had to be taken up. He had taken the trouble to go to Kennington to look at the plans and the model of the rails of the proposed tramway, in order to see whether they fulfilled the description given of them in the Notice Papers of the House. He had found that the tramway was not flush with the roadway, and that the same kind of inconvenience would occur as occurred in reference to Mr. Train's tramway, though perhaps it would not be to the same extent. These philanthropists would monopolize the road. ["No, no!"] What he called monopolizing a road was this—that the tramway upon which the carriages were to run would be so laid down that the vehicles passing along them could by no possibility turn out of the way, for there were flanges to the wheels. If this was not "monopolizing" part of the road, he did not know what he was to understand by monopoly. He would call to the minds of hon. Members the state of Westminster Bridge when it was first thrown open to the public, and when no vehicle could cross from side to side of the road, the centre being appropriated to heavy traffic. Everybody objected to that state of things, but no one moved in the matter except himself, and he asked a Question—indeed he believed that he kept on asking it about once a fortnight throughout the Session. He spoke to his right hon. Friend, the then First Commissioner of Works (Mr. W. Cowper) upon the matter, and what he heard from him was, that Mr. Page was enamoured of the plan, that he (the First Commissioner) did not approve of it, and that it would in time go. Now it had gone, and they had an opportunity of seeing what Westminster Bridge was with the tramway gone. He asked the House to consider where it was proposed that these tramways should go in Southwark. They were to start from Westminster Bridge, and go along York Road, which was not a very wide road; they were to cross Waterloo Road, and were then to go the whole length of Stamford Street, then to cross Blackfriars Road into Southwark Street, and thence along Southwark Bridge Road to the bridge. He could not conceive a greater inconvenience than that of a company monopolizing these roads, which formed a principal line of communication between Westminster and the City. If the Bill were passed hon. Members, on taking this new and quick route, would have those tremendous vehicles of the company rushing along their road and subjecting them to all kinds of danger; and it was not shown that any particular class of people would be benefited by it. It was indeed said that it would be a great thing for the working classes; but this was said by the philanthropists; and no doubt it would be a great good to these last-named people. There had lately been great difficulty in floating anything; there was no buoyancy in the British public; but when any concern could be got to float no doubt it was a good thing for those who got it off. It was said that if the thing did not pay the company would give it up; but who was to make them give it up? and they all knew possession was nine points of the law. He should like to know who would be the man to "bell the cat" and turn the company out of our narrow streets. His plan was not to let them in. The philanthropists said that they must adopt this scheme because so many places had adopted it. It was said that it had been adopted in America. Now he (Mr. Locke) had never been there, but the other day he heard a gentleman speak who was very fond of America, and doated upon American institutions, and he said that the greatest nuisance was these tramways in Philadelphia. Paris also appeared in the programme of the philanthropists, and it was stated in their document that they had got a tramway from Paris to Boulogne. [An hon. MEMBER: Bois de Boulogne.] No, it was "Boulogne." Every hon. Member knew that there was a little village a short distance out of Paris called Boulogne; and the company had used the name of this place, and left the ignorant to imagine that the tramway went all the way to the town of Boulogne, and greatly facilitated the communication between Paris and England. Now, where were the tramways laid down in Paris? They started close to the Place de Carrousel, which was a large open space, and they ran along by the river on an immensely wide road; and in this way they got to St. Cloud, and, he believed, also to Versailles. The case might have been somewhat parallel to London if there had been tramways along the Boulevards—which, by-the-by, were perhaps twice as wide as any street in London; but though Boron Haussmann was a bold man, yet he had never attempted this, and he (Mr. Locke) firmly believed that were he to attempt to lay down a tramway along the Boulevard, even with the Emperor to back him, the public would not submit to it. There was no tramway in Paris along any street in which there was a large traffic, though there was no better managed city; nor any where there were more omnibuses, nor where it was more necessary that the working classes should be accommodated. In his opinion there was no necessity for this Bill going to a Committee, because hon. Members could well judge of the question 'from their own knowledge of the state of the public roads. In his opinion the steamboat and omnibus accommodation were amply sufficient to supply all the public wants along the line which he had pointed out, through which it was the intention of the Company to lay clown these trams in the borough of Southwark, and he hoped that the House would vote that the Bill should be read a second time that clay six months.


said, he wished to give his testimony as an independent witness to the value of tramways. Although up to a recent period he had been much prejudiced against them, his recent experience of their working in New York and New Orleans had led him to the conclusion that they were of the greatest public utility. The hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Pease) had quoted Mr. Sala as a conclusive authority on the subject; but although one who appreciated light literature and admired Mr. Sala's ability, he contended that Mr. Sala's fault was that of a sensational writer who could do nothing unless he laid on the colours thick. Mr. Sala was a most amusing companion at the breakfast table; but he was about the last writer in England upon whose testimony he would rely, or to whom any Member, having respect for his position as a legislator, should go for facts on a matter of grave importance. Mr. Sala's description of New York was extravagant and nothing but a caricature, the result of Mr. Sala's playfulness of style. He said this from what he had seen during five weeks' residence in the City of New York. The tramways would be of the greatest use to all classes, and the argument that the two workmen's cars would carry only 120 persons during the day was fallacious, because the passengers would not ride the whole length of the line, and would most probably be replaced four times in a journey. The fact was that the train ways in New York and elsewhere were of the greatest value to the working classes. He admitted that some of the American tramways were faulty, but the majority of those he passed over in carriages did not obstruct the passage of the wheels in the least. He knew that in New Orleans the tramways were an immense property, and he believed that there was hardly a town in America of 40,000 inhabitants in which there was not a street tramway. He asked, would there be any harm in sending the matter to a Select Committee, so that they might not legislate upon any absurd, prejudice or false statement? The reason why tramways were not generally adopted in Paris was that the system of "correspondence" was perfect, and one of the cheapest in the world. He, like the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke), did not believe in philanthropists, but he did believe in speculators, and it would not be worthy of the House to be carried away by an idle sneer against a class of men who had done so much for England. Our railways and many other most important social undertakings were entirely the result of private speculation.


said, he could give his most emphatic testimony to the value of street tramways. Some years ago one was laid down in Birkenhead, and the mode of working was at first greatly complained of. The rails were thereupon removed and replaced by others, and from that time there had been no complaint. Now, nothing would occasion a greater annoyance to the inhabitants of Birkenhead than that the street railways should be removed. They ran from, the Ferry to the very heart of the town, and were a convenience to thousands of working men. He himself was constantly riding through the streets of the town, but he never found that there was any danger or inconvenience arising from the tramway. There was another street railway in Liverpool, which ran by the six miles of docks, and. it was a great accommodation, and he had never heard of any inconvenience arising from it.


said, he wished to express the opinion of the Board of Trade that this Bill ought to be referred to a Select Committee, and to state that the Metropolitan Board of Works entertained the same opinion. The question then before them was not whether the scheme proposed was all that could be wished, but whether, considering the testimony borne to the value of tramways by the last two speakers, the subject did not deserve inquiry. He could support the view taken by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire) from his own experience of tramways in America; he had never experienced any shock when passing over the line in a private carriage. He fully concurred as to the advantages derived from tramways fin "America. There was scarcely a town in that country which was without a tramway, and he saw no reason why a good system of trams should not be tried in the less crowded thoroughfares of the metropolis. There were no less than three Bills now before the House which proposed that forty-one miles of tramways should be laid down in the suburbs, and he understood that it was the intention of the hon. Member for Frome (Mr. T. Hughes) to move to refer all these Bills to the same Committee, and that the Standing Orders should be suspended, so as to permit anybody whatever to oppose the Bills without being objected to on the ground of locus standi. On the part of the Government he should support that Motion, he hoped therefore that the Bill would be read a second time.


said, his experience of the American tramways had been quite the opposite of that of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maguire). Tramways wore possible in the United States only because the streets were very broad, ran at right angles, and were but little encumbered by traffic. If tramways were so advantageous as had been stated, why did not the most enterprizing people in the world lay them down in Broadway? In Montreal, the only tramway that paid was one that ran from one end of the town to the other, and it paid because in some parts the roads were so narrow that people were obliged to use the tramway to make their journey. The lion, and gallant Member for Westminster (Captain Grosvenor) had said that if the tram were found to be a public inconvenience it would not pay, and then the company would have to remove it; but if the company monopolized the road, as the Montreal tram did, the line would be sure to pay, because the public would be obliged to use it. It was said that if tramways were adopted, the inhabitants would have to keep only half the width, of the roads in repair; but then the half would have the traffic upon it doubled, because the traffic would be diverted from the tramway to the common road; so that the cost of machinery of the road borne by the parish would be much the same as it was now. Another objection was the stopping of the ordinary traffic by the police to allow the passengers to get from the trams to the pathway. The danger of the trams was notorious. He had recently heard of a gentleman's carriage being smashed to pieces through being unable to get off the Hue in time; and when in New York, he had heard of forty accidents occurring in one day. He had himself driven before a car on a tram, and it reminded him of nothing as much as flying before an express train at full speed.


said, he strongly objected to the measure, and must oppose the second reading. The proposed trams ran into Essex, although the title referred only to the metropolis. As the measure stood trams might be extended even into Sussex. There was a part of the road between Whitechapel and Stratford so narrow that it was called "the funnel," and let the police do their best to regulate the traffic, it would be impossible, if this tramway were established, but that accidents would be greatly increased.


said, he thought it was very inconvenient to decide questions of this sort in the House. As the testimony with regard to the working of tramways in New York and elsewhere were most conflicting, the proper course would be to send the Bill to a Committee. They could not have before them in the House the plans and sections necessary to determine the matter, and surely it was not because ten years ago an objectionable plan was brought forward, that they should now decide against any plan whatever. At present the working classes in London travelled great distances on foot, and anyone who devised a plan by which they could be relieved of this necessity must be regarded as a public benefactor.


said, that most of the arguments against proceeding further with the measure, reminded him of those which were formerly used against railways. He had travelled in street tramways in the crowded thoroughfares of New York, and he had no hesitation in saying' that if the system were once fairly introduced into the metropolis, such advantage would result, that everybody would be opposed to its withdrawal. He hoped the measure would be allowed to go to a Select Committee.


said, that the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke) in his description of the tramway in Paris, had omitted a most important point, which was that it ran at right angles to the four or five bridges over which the entire traffic of the city passed. When he met the hon. Gentleman in Paris at the time of the Exhibition those bridges were crowded with carriages, which crossed the tramway diagonally without slackening their speed; and he wanted to know whether his hon. Friend had ever heard of an accident having occurred there. He thought it hard that any well-considered plan should inherit the prejudice which had been created by the scheme of Mr. Train.


said, admitting that the question of rails or or carriages or of the public advantage of tramways was a proper one for a Committee, he entertained a strong preliminary objection to the measure—he objected to giving up a por- tion of the public streets to any private company. If the scheme were a good one the road ought to be under the control of the public authorities; the most that should be done was to let it to a company. He hoped the Board of Trade would protect the interests of the public in that respect, and not allow a portion of the Queen's highway to be alienated, as it would be, for ever by this Bill.


said, if his vote, on this question depended solely upon his experience of Mr. Train's railway he would have given this proposal his unqualified opposition. But, having witnessed the operation of the tramway system in almost every important town in North America, and knowing what was to be said on both sides of the question, he felt unable to refuse his assent to sending the Bill to a Committee. He thought it would be of great importance to what sort of a Committee the Bill should be referred, as this was a question which could only be decided properly by experience, and the British public were very little conversant with the working of the tramway system. Our crowded thoroughfares in the City of London, and the more densely peopled portions of the metropolis were totally unsuited to it; but there were, nevertheless, parts of the metropolitan area—for instance, the Stockwell Road, the Whitechapel Road, and many others of the less crowded thoroughfares in which a system of tramways would be an unmixed benefit. It would, he thought, be the duty of any Committee to take a much broader view than was opened by this Bill, and to see whether a much larger scheme might not be adopted in the outskirts of London without interfering with the crowded thoroughfares. As to what had been said of New York, you would not find a single gentleman there who would not bear testimony to the great advantage to the whole community of the tramway system, and yet there had been a constant fight going on between the authorities of the town and the tramway companies about getting a tramway into Broadway. He remembered one Sunday morning finding the road in Broadway pulled up and a number of men laying down tramway rails as fast as they could. The reason they did it on Sunday was because the courts of law could not grant an injunction to restrain them on that day. That was what some would think rather taking a Yankee advantage. But, when he returned to New York, he found the street restored to its normal condition and the tramway taken away. We might take a lesson from the Americans with respect to this matter. They were a practical people, and they would no more allow a tramway to be put down in one of their crowded thoroughfares than they would dispense with them where they could be usefully applied.


said, that the reason why the authorities of St. George's, Hanover Square, gave only a very qualified opposition to the proposal was because they considered that the traffic of London was one of the difficulties of the age. They doubted, however, whether it would be expedient to transfer the care of the roads from a public body to a private one. The substitution of a groove for a flange was considered a great improvement.

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 209; Noes 78: Majority 131.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed.

Ordered, That the Metropolitan Street Tramways Bill and all other Metropolitan Street Tramways Bills be referred to the same Committee; and that all Petitioners who may pray to be heard by themselves, their Counsel or Agents, against any of the said Bills, be heard, without reference to any question of locus standi, upon the allegations contained in their Petitions, if they think fit, and Counsel heard in favour of the Bills against such Petitions.—(Mr. Thomas Hughes.)