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papers are sometimes of avail in obtaining a remedy. The companies, too, are most of them obliged to come to Parliament for a renewal or extension of their powers from time to time; and they are in continual negotiation as to working agreements, leases, or amalgamations, projected or desired between them. The occasion of giving them fresh advantages is the best opportunity for extracting from them any proper facilities on behalf of the public which they have previously neglected to afford; and parliamentary sanction should not be given to further combinations without great caution.
Competition is, indeed, the most effective weapon in the public armoury. Railway companies will, when competing, vie with each other in providing good carriages, well lighted and comfortably warmed ; in supplying frequent trains at cheap fares; in running long distances at high speed with punctuality ; in employing obliging officers and attentive servants; in constructing convenient stations, with ample platforms, and attractive refreshment and waiting-rooms. So valuable a weapon should be carefully preserved. The larger companies have repeated the process of extending their territories, and of combining with or swallowing up their neighbours, until at last they have become too unwieldy to be managed from within, or to be acted upon from without, in the manner most conducive to their own interests or the public
If this course were permitted to proceed unchecked, it would terminate in the country being swamped by one large monopoly, uncontrollable, unimproveable, and unmanageable. Parliament has of late shown itself more jealous of combination, and wisely. The public interest requires that as fresh competition is engendered, in consequence of the filling up of the open spaces still remaining, the greatest advantage shall be taken of it ; and that any fresh combinations of an extensive nature shall be temporary, and liable to revision as circumstances may require.
It is a common opinion that keen competition between railway companies is as injurious in the end to the interests of the public as it is to those of the shareholders.
This theory is not, as a general rule, borne out in practice. The question of amalgamation does not rest entirely with the companies. By raising their rates beyond a certain point they check traffic or divert it into other channels. There are not many localities in which they can afford to be very arbitrary. The fares between London and Manchester have never returned to the higher figure at which they stood before the reckless competition which was carried on in 1857 between those places; while some of the advantages which the public derived from that competition, of rapid travelling, numerous trains, and few stop
pages, have remained. The fares between London and Dover will probably never again rise to the prices which were paid before the Chatham line was made, unless, upon the competing companies coming to good terms with each other, Parliament should permit them to amalgamate.
There can be no stronger instance of the advantages which may accrue to the public from competition in construction, than is to be found in the railway works which are in progress in different parts of the metropolis at the present time, for the purpose of providing central and convenient stations.
Nothing else would have induced the different companies to undertake the outlay of time, trouble, and money, which they have thus forced upon each other.
That railway travelling is safer than any other mode of travelling is well known. Taking the average of a series of it would appear that for an average journey, say of 10 miles, only 1 in every 8,000,000 of passengers is killed, and only 1 in every 330,000 injured, from causes over which they have no control. These numbers vary materially, however, from year to year. In the last half of 1860, as is shown by the latest return before us, 136 persons were returned as killed, and 414 as injured; but of these only 36 were killed and 364 injured as passengers ; and of these again only 23 were killed and 351 injured from causes beyond their own control. There is no doubt that these numbers are below the mark. Many servants of companies are undoubtedly killed and injured whose deaths are not included in the official returns, in consequence
of the necessary
information not being furnished by the railway companies.
of those disasters which have acquired the name of railway accidents, 840 have been inquired into and reported on during eleven years by the officers of the Board of Trade. These were not by any means all that occurred; but they were selected for inquiry from among those which were reported by the railway companies, or which came under the notice of the Board in other ways; and they may fairly be considered as representing the principal accidents which were accompanied with personal injury. Of the total number of accidents, an annual average of 44 out of 76 consisted of collisions between trains and engines. We will notice such of the accidents reported on as appear to us most worthy of attention.
In the case of a collision on one of the Scotch lines, it was ascertained that the engine driver and fireman had been out for more than thirty hours, and that the guard, who had suffered from two broken ribs a fortnight previously, and had returned to his work for the first time after that misfortune, had been on
duty from nine o'clock one evening until eleven o'clock on the next morning but one, with only two hours and a half for sleep during that period! The engine broke down, the guard was fast asleep in his van, and a passenger-train which was following came into collision with the train of which he was supposed to be taking charge.
On an Irish railway, an engine-driver whose ordinary duties extended from 5 A.M. till 10 P.M., with three hours' intermission, fell asleep from overwork, and caused an accident.
At no great distance from Birmingham, in one case, a signalman had been on duty for twenty-six hours ; and there were engine-drivers and firemen, in another case, whose average duty amounted to sixteen hours a-day, but who had been out for nineteen, twenty-one, and twenty-six hours. At Normanton a pointsman worked habitually for eighteen hours a-day.
The engine-driver of a coal train, near London, was at work from 6 A.M. one day until 8.30 the next morning. The enginedrivers in North Wales were occasionally kept out for twentythree hours ; and the ordinary duties of a stationmaster on the South-West of London extended over sixteen hours on week days, and thirteen hours on Sundays. Certain other men came on duty at 6 A.m., and were sent out with a fresh train after working to between 10 and 11 P.M.; and others again remained on duty from the middle of one day to the evening of the next day.
These and other instances of over-work of servants are examples of one way in which accidents are caused. There are other causes which are equally inexcusable, but there are none which are more discreditable to the directors and managers of railways. The work that the men undergo is certainly not hard work, such as that of a navvy; but it is work in which great vigilance is required, and the public safety depends upon that vigilance being properly exercised. It is impossible for men who are employed over periods varying from fifteen to thirty hours, to do justice either to themselves or to their employers. The class of men so employed is not so good as it would otherwise be. Discipline cannot be maintained among them. They become stupid and reckless. They make mistakes in their signals, or neglect to keep a good look-out from their engines. They have an additional inducement to resort to stimulants, and even an excuse for excess; and they return to duty after their hours of rest, scarcely more fit for their work than when they left it.
No passenger would willingly allow his life to depend upon the activity and vigilance of a man who had been out with his
engine for thirty hours; but any passenger may be obliged to do so without being aware of it. Unfortunately a traffic-superintendent is not in much danger of being punished for allowing a signalman, or a locomotive-superintendent for allowing an enginedriver or fireman, to be left on duty for excessive hours. The tendency is even in the opposite direction, and a manager is more likely to be considered extravagant, and to lose his situation, in consequence of a desire to maintain his staff in what he considers a state of efficiency.
The best mode of obliging railway companies to keep up a sufficient staff, would be by preventing them from employing their servants habitually for more than twelve hours a day; and it is probable that railway managers would be very glad in many instances to shelter themselves under such an obligation.
One collision brought to light the case of a little girl, thirteen years of age, who was doing duty as gatekeeper and signalman at an important post in Staffordshire. In other cases, a little boy was acting as a pointsman in Lancashire; a youth of sixteen was doing regular duty of fifteen hours daily in a midland county ; another youth was in charge of telegraph-instruments in Kent, and, although these instruments were intended specially to provide for the safety of the traffic, he was saddled with numerous other duties which rendered it impossible for him to attend to them. A youth of nineteen, also, was found to have been in charge of a long train in North Wales, who had only once previously been on the line, who knew nothing of the running of the trains, or of the company's regulations, and who had not been provided with a watch, a time-table, or a book of rules.
The want of signals is obviated in recently-constructed lines, because the companies are required to complete them in this respect before they open them for passenger traffic ; and much improvement has been made of late years on lines that have been in use for longer periods. In addition to station, or platform signals, distant-signals, as they are called, are also necessary. These are placed at distances varying from 500 to 900 yards from the stations, to warn an engine-driver of any obstruction which renders it necessary that he should stop his train. When a train is travelling at high speed, it frequently cannot be stopped in less than from half a mile to a mile; and if a driver is not warned by means of signals of this sort, at a greater or less distance from an obstruction according to the nature of the gradients and other circumstances, he cannot be expected, particularly in hazy weather, to pull up in time to avoid a collision. Signals are similarly required at the junctions between two lines of railway, or between a main line and mineral sidings; and at some other places, such as level-crossings, when the gradients are steep and the view is obstructed. On many of the older lines, as well as on some of the more recent lines on which additions have been made since the opening, improvements in the way of signals are still required ; and these are now and then brought to light when collisions occur for the want of them. In one year alone fifteen accidents occurred from this cause.
When signals are not strictly obeyed there can be no safety. They are the only indications by which an engine-driver is informed when it is necessary for him to slacken his speed, and prepare for stopping his train. In several cases in which a disregard of signals has led to a collision, it has turned out that for some reason they had previously been habitually disobeyed.
Over-work, as we have already stated, tends to occasion want of discipline; and sometimes regulations are disobeyed from the want of means, or from the force of circumstances. Time-tables are so drawn up that they cannot be carried out. Regulations are printed and supplied to the servants of a company which are not suitable, and which they are unable to pbey, but which they are punished for not complying with when an accident happens.
Thus, trains have been arranged in the working time-tables of a railway to ert at the same moment, while the regulations of the company have directed that an interval of five minutes should be maintained between them. The servants of some companies are constantly intrusted with the responsibility of maintaining that interval without being provided with any means of ascertaining it. A signalman in Northumberland stated on one occasion that he had been unable to carry out his regulations in this respect, and that he had, therefore, allowed them to fall into disuse. In the case of another accident, an engine-driver, who required to shunt his train at a particular place, but was forbidden by his regulations to do so when another train was due, was unable to ascertain the time, and had no means of knowing whether the other train had passed or not. Under these circumstances, he made the best guess he could as to the time; he came to the conclusion that the mail train must have passed; he began to shunt his train across the main line ; and, whilst he was engaged in the operation, the train in question came up and ran into him.
For the maintenance of good discipline, responsible men should be employed, for reasonable hours, on sufficient wages, and under good regulations. They should be furnished with all necessary appliances, and should be subjected to irregular, but constant supervision. It has been found that the hope of reward has a