« PreviousContinue »
the country, instead of being devoted to useful purposes, are too often improvidently wasted.
“ Your Committee do not mean, by these observations, to recommend that the turnpike roads of the kingdom should be taken into the hands of Government, as such a measure is liable to various objections; more especially as it would be difficult to compel either the Government or its agents to keep the roads in a proper state of repair ; and as, in process of time, the roads might be considered rather as a source of revenue, than an accommodation to the public. But your Committee are perfectly convinced, that leaving matters in their present state is in the highest degree impolitic. They are of opinion, that a Parliamentary Commission ought to be appointed, to whom every trust should be obliged annually to transmit a statement of its accounts, to be audited and checked. Before these commissioners any complaints of improper expenditure, by which so many innocent creditors suffer, ought to be brought and enquired properly into. An annual report of the state of the turnpike roads of the kingdom ought also to be laid, by such commissioners, before his Majesty and both Houses of Parliament. Such a commission would not be attended with any expense to the public treasury, as a small poundage on the
money received by the different trusts would defray all the expenses it could possibly occasion.
“ Nor is this all the advantage that would be derived from the proposed establishment. Under the direction of such an Institution, the necessary experiments might be tried, for ascertaining the best mode of forming roads, and the best means of keeping them in repair ; the proper construction of carriages and wheels; and the system of legislative provisions, the best calculated for the preservation and improvement of roads. All these are points which cannot be brought to the state of perfection of which they are capable, without some attention on the part of the legislature; nor by committees of the House, occasionally appointed, however zealous in the
Such great objects, which would add millions to the national income, and would increase the comfort of every individual in the kingdom, can only be successfully carried through by a great and permanent Institution, whose whole attention shall be directed to that particular object; and who would take a just pride in accomplishing some of the greatest benefits that could be conferred on their country.
* Since these pages were sent to press, a Committee of the House of Lords have made a report on the state of the Turnpike Roads, which contains the following paragraph:
The expense which must unavoidably be incurred in making roads as roads ought to be made, is in many cases so great, that it is not possible to acquire sufficient funds by any rate of toll which would be submitted to; and therefore it becomes necessary to provide some plan for obtaining them by other means. When the improvement required is of a principal mailcoach road, the public is so much interested in it, that the counties should be enabled to levy a rate, to be given in aid of the road tolls.* The mail coaches also should pay tolls, not to the trustees, but to the Board of Control, to be applied by it in making improvements. It
“ All the witnesses who have been examined to that point concur in recommending a system of general control over the management of the roads of the kingdom, with a view to prevent an increase of debt, to introduce one general, economical, and skilful course of management, as the only means of reducing the present great amount of debt, and of relieving the country from the burden of statute labour and the high rate of toll now levied in many districts. The Committee are of opinion that such control would be attended with the most beneficial results, and recommend that measures should be taken to carry the same into effect.”
By the 45 Geo. 3. c. 43. power was given to the Treasury to advance to the grand juries of Ireland, loans for making and improving mail-coach roads, to be repaid in instalments by county rates. Several excellent roads were made in this way, according to surveys furnished by the Postoffice, and all the loans have been repaid.
might also be proper to apply a part of the revenue to this purpose, derived from the duties on post-horses and stage coaches.
All past legislation on roads may be said to have failed in producing perfect roads, in consequence of most erroneous notions about the cost of making a good road. The want of correct opinions with respect to what constitutes a good road has commonly led to overlooking the necessity of providing adequate funds. With the greatest economy and skill, it is seldom possible to make a long line of new road in a proper manner, with no other funds than the money raised on the credit of the tolls of it.
The roads, commonly called parish roads, in England, are generally in a very imperfect condition. This is owing chiefly to the law by which the management of these roads is placed under the governing authority of the vestries of the parishes through which they pass. Black
“ In England every parish is bound, of common right, to keep the roads that go through it in good and sufficient repair, unless, by tenure of lands or otherwise, the care is conveyed to some particular persons."
The principle here established, of placing the common roads of the kingdom (not being turnpike roads) under as many separate governing authorities as there are parishes, is, in every respect, repugnant to any thing like a sound principle of management; and, until it be abandoned, no efforts of legislation can prove successful in introducing any real improvement.
So long as this radical error in principle shall be recognised by parliament, it will be labour in vain to pass acts of parliament containing a multitude of new regulations. The influence of the original cause of the evils which prevail will render them, as they have rendered hundreds of similar regulations, wholly abortive.
Legislation on the highways of England, to be of any practical good, must be founded on a more enlarged view of the subject; and instead of the governing authority of a parish, it seems advisable that that of a county should be substituted; or, when counties are very large, that of a division of a county.
The reasons which may be given to support this general proposition are so obvious, that it is unnecessary to state them all in detail ; two only will be noticed. The first is, that the private interests of a vestry lead it to be satisfied with very imperfect roads. A road that