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is in that evidence one most remarkable absence: the total omis-' sion, namely, of any inclination on the part of the inspectors of the Board of Tra.de—-who inquire into perhaps thirty or forty accidents apiece every year, and the other unconnected evidence--to attribute accidents to the negligence or misconduct of the servants of the lines. From them you find defective management to be the cause of every thing that goes wrong on railways: every disaster may be traced to that, they tell us ; some of the directors and oificials, on the other hand, insinuate what one would expect them to aver manfully, if they were convinced it were so, that every thing is owing to “ disregard of regulations.” At best, the witnesses, of the latter class, speak each from his knowledge of his own line only; the others from a long and general experience of all the lines in Great Britain and Ireland. Can it be doubted on which side the probability of truth lies ? Is it surprising if railway oracles also, at times, Philippize ? A common mode of misconducting the traflic of a line is to mix up slow and fast trains together, or to send off an express and a stopping train too near to one another. It is in order to provide against these consequences of having coal, mineral, and goods trains running, or rather creeping, _on the same lines with swift passenger trains, that the London and North VVestern Company found themselves obliged to resort to the measure of making a. third line. But what is the effect of this “ mixing up,” as it is technically called, of different descriptions of trains ? Why, “ there is always a pressure upon the driver of the quick train. He is always expected to keep his time; and if, through overcaution—this is my opinion—he is late, I think he will get a. bad mark against his name. The pressure is with the man driving an express train to keep his time ; therefore he would be very unwilling to stop his train, unless he was perfectly certain that there was a necessity for it ; and sometimes he would overshoot the mark of caution. His tendency is always to press on as much as he can.“ That is the servant’s tendency ; and very natural and almost inevitable it is, under the stated circum
* Colonel Wynne’s Evidence, p. 13.
stances. But the tendency of the companies, we are told by the same high authority, “ is, rather to overwork their signal-men and their men generally. I think many accidents occur from men being overworked, and that must arise from insufliciency of staff.” Probably few persons are aware to what an extent this is carried; but, however that may be, no one will pretend to advocate keeping night watchmen on duty for twelve hours at a time (and we have here revelations of such cases‘), or even twentyfour hours at a time,” a thing that strikes one as so utterly dis.
graceful as hardly to be credited ; but it stands on the credit of .
admissions made by a trafiic superintendent and an engineer, speaking of their own line. The excuse made for keeping a watchman on duty for twenty-four continuous hours, is sufliciently cold-blooded. “ Their duty is not laborious : it is not work--it is merely watchfulness. Q.——-Still it requires that a man should keep his eyes open during the whole of that time P A_——Certainly.” It ought, therefore, clearly to form an ingredient, in estimating the culpability of every railway servant on a charge of negligence, that there should be proved what are his hours of duty, and how long he had been on duty when the act of imputed negligence occurred. Very different is this case from that of attributing misfortunes to thiz overcrowded state of the tratfic on the line, as is sometimes done, thus exonerat-ing the company by rendering it almost impossible for the public to fix blame for the consequences of their own excessive patronage of the line; for the public cannot reasonably say, “ It is true we choose to throw such masses of traffic on your rails as you would have been totally unable to transport, but for the vast expenditure you have made, in the building, for this purpose, of engines of increased power, a large portion of which traflic might just as well have been sent by canal ;_ but, notwithstanding this, we at the same time insist upon punishing you for the necessary results of our predilection.” The fact however is, that, properly speaking, no line as yet can be called crowded. Captain Huish says, that he “ knows no line
* See Evidence, pp. 153, 144, 115, 116, 107, 108, 75, 77, 43, 27, 20, 19, 13.~ ’ Evidence, pp. 127, 116. .
that is crowded with tratfic; no line which, under proper arrangement, might not do double what it is accomplishing. Accidents occur from other causes than from the multiplicity of trains.” ‘ “ Practice shows me,” he says, “ and I have watched it for many years, that the amount of traffic on a line has very much less to do with accident than people imagine ; and, as a practical result, those portions of the lines which are most crowded have the least number of accidents from collision. I could name many instances where the trains are, very frequently, within three or four minutes of each other, and they go on year after year without a. casualty. On other lines, where the trai.ns are much less frequent, the casualties are much more numerous, and it arises from the simple fact, that on account of the multiplicity of trains there is more perpetual attention, both on the part of the signal-men and on the part of the engine-drivers, who are continually on the look-out for something a-head, they are continually keeping their hand on the engine lever. I might illustrate it by the fact of there being fewer people probably run over in the Strand, than there would be in a bye street.” This, of course, supposes every thing in its proper state, both in the carriages and in the rails and way; and also, that the number and quality of the watchmen and others employed is equal to the strain. No such statement, we presume, could be made where servants are kept for twenty-four hours together, in the winter, at watchman’s duty. Companies, therefore, cannot appeal to the feelings, and represent ‘themselves as being as much hurried and driven with business as attorney Dowling, in Tom Jones, so as to produce any deserved efi'ect, unless they show, at the same time, such arrangements as are beyond cavil, and at least primd facie sufficient and satistisfactory. Directorates—there can be no doubt the evidence fully "shows it, and the reports of the Board of Trade inspectors confirm the fact-——are frequently compelled, by the clamours of the shareholders for better dividends, to practise such systems of carking parsimony as are incompatible with a proper maintenance of repairs, of an efiicient staff of servants, and generally with appropriate
measures of management. When directors are left to adoptsuch means as observation, experience, and ingenuity point out for dealing with their business, even along what are usually called‘ the most crowded lines, when there is not time in the twenty-four hours to arrange so that the swift passenger trains should not be intermixed with the goods trains—even on the line between Liverpool and Manchester-—it does not appear that the per centage of accidents is higher than on the other and less travelled parts. So Captain Huish mentions the occurrence, some time ago, of two days of fog so intense that a train could not be seen the distance of its own length, and yet in those two days the London and North Western Company ran 400 trains without diminishing the speed, by the profuse use of fog signals, no doubt with a great increase of expense.‘ On the other hand, where expenditure is unduly stinted, there will occur accidents; hence of the thirty-five cases of collisive accidents reported on to the Board of Trade in the course of 1857, the majority were cases of collision between passenger trains and goods trains, not between one passenger train and another.
The usual cry adopted from political economists is, “You may surely leave companies to study and find out what is their own interest, and rest assured they will pursue it.” But facts and experience prove companies not, by any means always, to do this; competition, false economy, and various other disturbing causes operate, and very often operate, to prevent them.’
Assuming, however, that youhave a. company which is fully alive to the necessity, both on the primary ground of humanity, then of regard to its own character and standing in the estimation of the public, and lastly, on the mere sordid consideration of the immense waste of profits in the shape of damages awarded, and compensations and other expenditure to which casualties give rise, of taking care to have its rails and its plant in good order at all times, and its staff adequate in numbers and efiiciency for the work of its line ; there still remains for safety, that
it should adopt adequate means for securing punctuality, the grand panacea for safety in all railway locomotion. How, then, is this best secured? The evidence before us shows that distinctly. It loudly declares for telegraphic communication, not by the old mode of sight signals of green and red lights, &c., but by the incomparably more secure and invariable mode of electric telegraph. The government inspectors all recommend the latter and newer system; most of the other authoritative evidence is the same way, and although the authorities of one or two lines can claim a great immunity from casualty on their lines, where nothing but the old system, managed however by extremely welltrained, zealous oflicials and subordinates, is in use, still we are persuaded that every one who studies the subject will arrive at the result, which seems to us to be thoroughly established—that for all circumstances there is no mode of signalling, as yet invented, which can be compared in certainty, and the absence of liability to be disordered or misunderstood, with that of the electric telegraph. There is no doubt of its being an expensive system, because for its due working it is necessary that the company should have a wire of its own, kept exclusively for the requirements of the traflic. The adoption of this system, on the principle on which it is usually worked, of having the whole line, or portion of line, to which it is applied, divided into small lengths and sub-_ portions, and providing that each length shall be kept absolutely clear for one train only at a time, supplies manifestly an entire guarantee against casualty from collision; and it is to be hoped and expected that, before long, in all cases of collisions, it should become an element in the inquiry, as regards the responsibility of the company, to ask whether they signal by electric telegraph on the part of the route at which the miscarriage occurs.‘
The committee do not recommend any interference of Parliament, by the enforcement of a maximum or otherwise, with the rate of travelling ; but they are of opinion, “that the perfect regularity in the time of the departure from and arrival at each
i 1 As to punctuality, see Evid., pp. 4, 67, 154, 165, 168,169, 172» 133, 190,
192. _ A