PREVENTION OF RAILWAY ACCIDENTS.
1814 October 1850.
Sin—The late railway accidents have recalled public attention, and yours in particular, to expedient; for diminishing their number. Allow me to suggest one, which, however obvious, simple, and beneficial alike to travel- lers and railway companies, seems to me hitherto to have been overlooked. I mean, adherence to punctuality. I can scarcely recollect an accident which has not originated in trains being behind their time. The melancholy tale always begins "the up" or "the down train" "was over-due." The uncertainty hence arising extends from the superintendent to every servant and every workman on a line. They learn to trust to the doctrine of chances, not to system or order, for escape from the perils or penalties which environ the tremendous power they have to cope with. Had the train in the late deplorable accident on the Eastern Counties Railway kept its time, would nine lives have been sacri- ficed? Travellers on the different lines can usually obtain what are miscalled time-tables. In them the hour of starting from the principal stations is given with tolerable accuracy; but all the rest is chaos. After one or two short halts, a long pause indicates that the season of mystification has com- menced. Inquiries remain unanswered. The pensive public perceives that it is no more regarded than its carpet bags. If the journey is long, the time allowed for dinner is cut short ; but the time not allowed for some unknown cause is largely extended without scruple. I have lately returned from my autumn visits to and fro in the North, and declare I have never known a railway train keep its time, or any tolerable reason given for its irregu- larity. Since my. return, I have heard of an express train from Brighton, and another on the Great Northern Railway recently opened, which show that time-tables need not necessarily be fictions ; and I strongly recommend the subject to the consideration of the RailwayC,ommissioners, now no longer "distrait" among new and competing lines. But surely the proper remedy is in the hands of the public themselves, and, as a part of them, of you and your respectable brethren of the periodi- cal press. All we want is, the publication of the actual time of the ,arrival of trains as compared with the thus-tables. I suppose such a register is kept; and if not, it ought to be and must be kept, and rendered accessiblei if necessary on paying a small fee. You could easily give us the substance of a. weeirs return of the principal trains in successive numbers of your. paper; and if thereby you could encourage punctuality,. c. reduce the bunts her of accidents, and prevent disappointments mellear arrangementa, .3tona would, I hope, be amply rewarded. Suchav return would besides he a mokt: useful guide to all travellers. We have now, for instance, "three competing lines between Landon and Edinburgh,—the North _Bridals, the Caledoman, and the Great Northern. The k faros are equal, and the time-tables show an equal time marked for the journey.- Under such caremnstanoes, I should select the most punctual line," -would you but enable me to know which Arise: And if to punctuality were added the ebsence. of mystery—I. e. of the dredd of telling the public the plain truth, whether in relation tomidents, dalays,u