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Samuel Laing, Esq., a Member of The House, Examined.
1. Chairman.] YOU are Chairman of the London and Brighton Railway Company-I am.
2. As Chairman of that Company, I presume you know pretty well the condition in which London Bridge is at present ?-Yes; my attention has been called very much to the state of London Bridge.
3. Do you think the bridge is in a solid condition, as regards its permanence? -That is a point upon which I do not feel competent to give any opinion. My attention has been called merely to the insufficiency of the space for the very crowded traffic that has to pass over it.
4. Do you think it is insufficient for the traffic which at present frequents that locality-There is not the least doubt of it.
5. Does that inconvenience your railway at all with respect to the departure of the trains?—It inconveniences the passengers very much who have to go by the railway, because you cannot rely with any punctuality upon catching a train; you are obliged to allow yourself often half an hour for a distance for which a quarter of an hour would be amply sufficient if the approach to the railway were wider.
6. Are there any other railways about to be opened in that locality which will increase the difficulty?-The opening of the Crystal Palace will very greatly increase the difficulty that is at present experienced upon it, by augmenting the number of passengers coming to the London Bridge terminus. I may mention also that, independently of the Crystal Palace, the traffic to the London Bridge terminus is increasing most rapidly. In the course of about five years, during which I have been connected with the Brighton Railway, the number of passengers has very nearly doubled, and it is going on increasing every day.
7. Will you be kind enough to acquaint the Committee how many railways diverge from the other side of London Bridge?-From that terminus you have the London and Greenwich Railway; the North Kent Railway, to Woolwich, Gravesend, and Chatham; the South Eastern Railway, to Dover and other parts of Kent; the Brighton and South Coast Railway; the London, Croydon, and Epsom Railway; and, in addition to these, you will have the Crystal Palace Railway in the course of a very few months.
8. Have you any suggestions to make with reference to facilitating the traffic over London Bridge?-As far as the railway traffic is concerned, there are several measures which would give it great relief. The more immediate suggestion that has occurred to us has been that of projecting the footways of London
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Bridge over the waterway by means of brackets or iron girders built into the bridge, which I am told by our engineer would be a very easy, and comparatively inexpensive operation, and that by that means you might get a wider footpath 14 March 1854. than at present, and throw the whole of the existing footway into the carriage road; that is the first measure that would give very great relief to the railway traffic. The other measure which has been suggested, as even more important for the carriage traffic to the railway, would be carrying out an improvement which has been proposed, by making a new road commencing from the Westminster-road, just on the Surrey side of the bridge, going through Southwark, and coming into the Borough on the Surrey side of London Bridge; that would, of course, relieve London Bridge of a great amount of traffic in carriages and cabs which now passes over it.
9. You mean that the traffic then would be conducted over one of the other bridges, and so approach the London Bridge terminus-Yes; in that case a great deal of traffic which now crosses London Bridge would cross Westminster Bridge, or possibly Waterloo Bridge, to some little extent, if the proposed new road were connected with the Waterloo-road.
10. Would the alteration of which you have spoken, by projecting footways over the bridge, not interfere with its solidity?—I am told not by the engineer; of course that is an engineering question, and I only speak from the opinions of others; they tell me it would be a very easy operation.
11. Is there any other mode by which the traffic might be facilitated?I think the traffic of foot passengers to the railway terminus would be somewhat facilitated by the construction of improved steam-boat piers adjoining London Bridge on the Surrey side, and by the construction of an arched tunnel under the bridge, similar to that which exists upon the London side, over Thamesstreet, by which passengers disembarking from steam-boats on the west side of London Bridge might go through the tunnel, and get up on the other side without having to cross the carriage road.
12. Mr. Jackson.] By making an extra arch under the bridge-Yes; there is an extra arch on the London side of the bridge, and the proposal is to have a similar tunnel on the Surrey side of the bridge, with good steam-boat accommodation; it would relieve the stream of foot passengers to some extent; I think the want of accommodation for foot passengers is one of the most pressing wants just now; the stream of people at particular times of the morning and afternoon pouring from the different railways across London Bridge, both causes very great delay, and causes great danger; I am astonished that so few accidents take place at those times as appear to take place.
13. Do not you think when the West End Railway is opened, which is to communicate with the Crystal Palace, it will give great relief to the traffic to and from the London Bridge terminus ?-No; because the whole of the east end of London, the most crowded and populous part of the metropolis, will still naturally go to the London Bridge station as the nearest; whatever traffic to the Crystal Palace we get at the London Bridge station will be in addition to the present traffic, the amount of which is quite enormous; if I just mention the figures of the existing amount of traffic, that will show how enormous it is. The total number of passengers travelling on the Brighton Railway, which in 1848 was only 2,485,778, had increased in 1853 to 4,491,561; that is irrespective of the vast numbers travelling by annual or periodical tickets. I have had a calculation made of the proportion of that number who go across London Bridge, and I find that taking the different lines of railway I have enumerated, the lines of the South Eastern Company, and the lines of the Brighton Company, the total number of passengers crossing London Bridge annually, to and from, may be taken at about nine millions and a half; that would give an average of upwards of 25,000 a day for the whole year; but of course that number is by no means uniformly distributed; and on particular occasions, and during the summer season, you have twice that number very often.
14. And in addition to that, the trains go at certain hours, so that the stream of passengers is not regular, but is much larger at certain hours than it is at others?-Yes, that is the case; the great mass of passengers up to London come in, in the morning, from the hours of eight and nine to eleven, and they go down again in the afternoon. I speak from experience, residing a great part of the year down at Brighton, and being constantly obliged to run it rather closely in catching the trains; and I know the extreme inconvenience and diffi
culty of getting across London Bridge. I find by experience that I am obliged S. Laing, Esq. to make an invariable rule of never taking a cab, if I am anywhere to the eastward of Temple Bar, because I cannot calculate to a quarter of an hour the time of getting over London Bridge.
15. Mr. Wilkinson.] You find it more certain to walk?-Much more certain to walk.
16. Mr. Jackson.] Do you know from your own experience, or from reports made to you as Chairman of the Railway Company, whether many passengers are disappointed in getting to trains by which they desire to go, in consequence of the want of free access over London Bridge?--No doubt about it; passengers are constantly disappointed in that way, and come too late for the trains.
17. Arising from the crowded state of the thoroughfare on that bridge?-Of the bridge and the approaches to it; the bridge, of course, is only one element in the question.
18. Mr. Wilkinson.] Now that the new street is opened to get to St. Paul's, I suppose the bridge will form the chief obstacle ?--Yes; but from Temple Bar up to St. Paul's Churchyard you will always be liable to be blocked up. For the purpose of access to the west of London, the great improvement would be the line of street to which I have referred, from the Westminster-road to London Bridge.
19. Lord J. Manners.] Is that the street which was proposed a few years ago on the part of the inhabitants of Southwark ?-Yes, that is the same street; I believe there were some funds accumulating for the purpose.
20. Are you aware what the estimated cost of that street was ?-I do not know the precise estimate.
21. Nor the amount of the funds which you said were accumulating for the purpose of making it ?-No; I think I have heard it said that there was something like 80,000 l. available.
22. Mr. Alderman Cubitt.] Was it not the fact that 80,000l. was to be allowed by the Government out of the coal duties for the purpose, but that the estimated cost of the new street had no reference to that 80,000l.?—Yes; but I believe the estimated cost of the street would depend entirely upon the value of the frontage that would thereby accrue for disposal. I have heard Alderman Humphery, who has interested himself in the matter a great deal, express a very strong opinion that the value of the new frontage that would be created along the line of that street would pay for the whole expense of making it.
23. You have said that during the five years that you have been Chairman of the London and Brighton Railway Company the traffic has been doubled. Did you mean that the traffic on the London and Brighton line itself has been doubled, or did you mean that the number of persons using the station for other lines, as well as the Brighton, had been doubled?-The total number of passengers is about doubled; and I imagine that the increase which has taken place to the Brighton station will be in a rather larger proportion than the increase in the whole number using the London Bridge terminus, because the increase has been larger upon the suburban traffic of the Croydon line than upon the others.
24. So that taking it altogether, the increase in the number of persons using the bridge during the five years that you have been there must have been very great indeed?—I should think it has at least doubled in the course of five years; and I have no doubt that it will be doubled again in the course of the next five years, irrespective of the Crystal Palace traffic.
25. Lord J. Manners.] How do you arrive at that calculation of nine millions and a half that cross over the bridge to and from the railway every year?I-arrive at it by taking the number of passengers who are booked in and out from London Bridge by the different lines.
26. Mr. Alderman Challis.] But they do not all go over London Bridge?— A comparatively small number of them may have come in cabs along the Surrey
27. Lord J. Manners.] Have you taken the whole, or only a proportion of those who take tickets from London Bridge station ?-I have no hesitation in saying, from my knowledge of the railway traffic, that considerably more than four-fifths of them cross London Bridge; nine-tenths I should say at least cross London Bridge.
28. But the figures you have mentioned represent the whole of those who
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take tickets from the London Bridge station?-Yes, including those who may have gone away by the Surrey side.
29. Mr. Pellatt.] Of the average number of 25,000 passengers daily, how many do you think come in carriages or cabs?-I can only give a guess upon that point without inquiry; but I should think a comparatively small number; a fifth of them perhaps.
30. Then the traffic over the bridge would be very much relieved if those carriages took the new route which you suggest, going from your terminus through Southwark, and over Westminster or Waterloo Bridge-It would relieve the traffic of carriages over London Bridge to a very great extent.
31. Can you form any idea to what extent it would relieve London Bridge of carriages? I should think it would take fully two-thirds of the carriages coming from the railway, for this reason, that people coming from the City, from a short distance, for whom London Bridge would be most convenient, would, generally speaking, not come in carriages, but walk. Most of those who took carriages would be those going to the western and north-western districts of London, in which case they would all prefer the new road, crossing either Waterloo or Westminster Bridge.
32. You do not think that Westminster and Blackfriars Bridges are so overcrowded as to prevent their bringing some passengers to and from the proposed new road? They are not so much crowded as London Bridge.
33. Are you of opinion, that if Waterloo and Queen-street Bridges were thrown open free, a great number of carriages would then come across those bridges to your terminus?—I think Waterloo Bridge would be crossed by a considerable number of carriages if you had the street to which I have referred. The great obstacle to their crossing either Westminster or Waterloo Bridge now, is the impediments which they encounter in the labyrinth of narrow streets about Barclay's brewery and that district, on the Surrey side of the river as you approach London Bridge. With respect to the other bridge to which the question refers, Southwark Bridge, the throwing that open to the public would be of no use for the traffic to the railway unless it was accompanied by the construction of some new street leading from it to the London-bridge Road.
34. Do you happen to know whether the 80,000l. which has been mentioned is enough to provide for what is wanted, up to Queen-street Bridge, on the Southwark side?-No; I do not know how far it would go.
35. Mr. Alderman Cubitt.] You said that you contemplated an archway on the Surrey side of London Bridge, similar to the dry arch on the Middlesex side of London Bridge; but was not the archway which has been contemplated, a tunnel to be made through the bridge, from the landing of the stairs on the one side to the landing of the stairs on the other side, for foot passengers, so that foot passengers coming by the steam-boats, landing above the bridge, and going up the stairs, might pass through the tunnel under the bridge, and so avoid crossing the road; is not that the proposed archway to which you were alluding? -Yes, that is what I referred to; I think such an archway or tunnel would be a great convenience to enable passengers coming by steamers on the Surrey side. to cross the line of traffic.
36. Mr. Wilkinson.] But passengers using that tunnel would still have to cross the end of Duke-street?-Yes; but they would avoid having to cross the main line of traffic.
37. Lord J. Manners.] Out of what funds is it proposed to make this tunnel? -I am not aware.
38. Mr. Alderman Cubitt.] Do you happen to know whether the persons who built the bridge have had it under consideration ?-I know that a petition has been got up by persons in the neighbourhood, and has been signed by the companies, in favour of a tunnel of that sort.
39. Mr. Alderman Challis.] Have the railway companies ever considered that it would be for their interest to contribute largely to such a thing?—I think the railway companies would feel that if they were once to admit the principle of contributing largely to metropolitan improvements which would facilitate access to the railway, all their funds would be speedily swallowed up. We are already large ratepayers, and as ratepayers we contribute our just proportion to such improvements.
40. Chairman.] How would you provide funds for constructing the footways suggested to be projected over the sides of London Bridge?—I am not aware
what funds are specially at the disposal of the Corporation of London and the Bridge House Committee; but I understand that the Corporation of London and the Bridge Committee have control over the bridge at present, and I should look certainly to their providing the funds. If you are going to adopt any more comprehensive scheme of control over all the bridges and metropolitan improvements, that of course raises the whole question as to the best way of raising the money. It would probably have to be levied to some extent by local
41. Mr. Wilkinson. You naturally conclude that the same parties who built the bridge, would provide the necessary funds for making it larger ?—As long as the Corporation of London have the control over the bridge, I suppose it is their duty to make it passable for the public.
42. Mr. Alderman Challis.] By "the control of the bridge," you do not mean that the Corporation can exclude any of the public from coming over it, but you mean, that whatever traffic may be brought to this bridge, there rests a responsibility on the Corporation, or whoever built it, to make it adequate to the traffic? -I fancy the Corporation have large funds applicable to certain purposes, and I should imagine that maintaining the bridge in a proper state of efficiency for the public traffic was one of the objects to which those funds would be applicable.
43. Chairman.] Would the alteration which you suggest involve the stoppage of the traffic over London Bridge at all?-I think not; but that is a question of engineering detail which I have never looked very closely into, because having no power to execute anything of the sort, and seeing no iminediate probability of it, we have not gone closely into the plans.
44. Mr. Jackson.] Looking at the nature of the traffic which flows from the suburban districts of London over the bridges, do you think that it would be an unjust measure to tax the district which is now taxed by the coal duties for the purpose of keeping open, and in repair, and constructing all bridges necessary to a perfect communication between both sides of the Thames That of course involves a very large question of policy as to how funds should be raised for these metropolitan improvements. I do not pretend to have considered that subject very closely; I can only give you my individual impression about it. My impression is, certainly, that you must look at London as one great whole, and that you ought to have some large central body, however elected, who should control and superintend all these great improvements—whether roads or bridges, or sewage or drainage, or other great public purposes-and that the funds for those purposes must be levied by rates within the metropolis, and not imposed upon the country; and that probably the adjustment of the rates for particular districts might be made according to some sort of approximate estimate of the extent to which particular districts might be benefited in comparison with the whole.
45. Lord J. Manners.] Do you share in the general feeling against the coal duties?—The coal duty is of course a very heavy tax upon the inhabitants of London, and of the area of 20 miles around it, when you get beyond the metropolis itself, into the country.
46. Supposing you had to establish some metropolitan fund, out of which the expenses of these metropolitan improvements may be provided, do you think that the coal duty would be a more objectionable method of taxation for that purpose than any other method that might be adopted ?-If carried to the extent of an area of 20 miles, I think it is an unjust and harsh tax upon the inhabitants of the country; but if it is confined within the fair area of the metropolis, I am not then so sure, if the money must be raised, that it is a worse mode of raising it than by a system of direct taxation; but it should be confined to the district benefited.
47. Mr. Jackson] Does your observation of unfairness apply to the coal duties as they exist, or would it apply to a rate levied over the same district?— It applies to the districts within the operation of the coal duties; districts so remote in the country, that they really have no more connexion with the metropolis, or metropolitan improvements, than many places 100 miles off.
48. Considering the enormous amount of consumption which takes place in the metropolis of agricultural produce, produced within a circle of 20 miles round London, and considering the increased facilities of access to London which the parties living within the circle would have by an increased number
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