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THE public have again been startled and alarmed by a series of those railway accidents which occur so frequently at this season of the year. The greatly increased traffic on the various railway lines, which is the natural result of holiday time, appears to be prolific in accident and disaster. Whether it is that the companies' servants are un- duly taxed, and their attention overstrained, by the additional work imposed, or simply that the wear and tear of the material of the lines'is in- creased beyond the proper limit, it is certain that the excursion season has been for the last few years a time-of dread to all habitual travellers by rail. We have come to look for railway-accidents in May and June as confidently as we look for the budding fruits and flowers and, unfortunately, we have not this year been disappointed. The first of the railway accidents which now occupy the public mind occurred at midnight on Whit-Tuesday, on the Great Western Railway, near Bristol. The 'down passenger train which left London at 8.10 p.m. was stopped on a steep em- bankment, the driver believing that there was either some imperfection in his engine, or an obstruction on the line. He left his post to ascer- tain the cause that had suggested his fears, and, finding everything right, returned to continue the w journey. Meanwhile, the passengers-had become alarmed at the stoppage of the train. Some of them were aware that a special mail train left London about half an hour after their own, and that it must now be close upon their heels. They besought the guard during the stoppage to open the carriages, and let them leave the train, which was clearly in danger of being run into at any moment. The guard refused, and most of the travellers were compelled to retain their seats. In the rearmost passenger carriage, however, sat a commercial traveller, who happened to have a key which would unlock the door. He used it to liberate himself and his companions in the same compartment, and in this manner, apparently, their lives were saved. The train had scarcely resumed its motion when the mail train ran into it from behind, doubling up the first-class carriage from which a few passengers had just escaped- cAshing, we are told, a hat-box that remained jn}t, like a piece of board. Many of the passen- gers who remained in the train sustained very serious injuries. To show how little margin is left for safety in the ordinary management of railway traffic, it must be added that shortly after this accident, the mail train was itself run into by a line of empty carriages from Bath, and further injuries to passengers were the consequence. Now, with reference to this accident, we should like to know by what right the travellers in a railway carriage are made prisoners for the time, .through being locked in by a company's servants. We are not aware that there is any clause in any Act, which gives a railway company power to infringe in this manner upon, tt.,It liberty of the subject which is a priihary principle of the law of the land. In this case it is clear that some of the passengers were indebted for their lives to the accidental possession, by one of their number, of the means of escape from confinement, in which, as we believe, they had illegally been placed. This is by no means the first occasion in which railway passengers have been perfectly aware of an impending danger to life and limb, but have been unable to avoid it by leaping from the train. If it is argued that such attempts to leave a train, in motion or otherwise, would be too frequently r!or»rr<vp ia the inability of the passengers to leave the car- riages when a breakdown occurs. Hardly any one but a madman would think of recklessly jumping from a train in motion; and for the companies to argue that such cases would often occur would, prima facie, be to say that few others will, as a rule, make excursions by their trains. In candour we must add that the com- panies appear to have been doing their best to ensure that no persons urtpossessed of a certain amount of recklessness will venture on travelling by rail. The two far more serious accidents which followed closely upon this— the one on the Shrews- bury and Chester, and the other on the South- Eastern Railway near Staplehnrst-appear to be attributable to nearly the same cause, the repair of the rails occurring at a time when the exigencies of the traffic demanded that all should be in proper working order. As the circumstances attending each of these accidents are now being sifted before coroners' juries, we will, for the present, make no attempt to attach the blame to the proper quarters but the lament- able loss of life which has occurred is sufficient to show that the public safety should not be left to measures which may be adopted by the companies at their discretion. The Government are, in our opinion, bound to take some steps, through the Board of Trade, to ensure that the companies shall adopt all those precautions which experience has shown necessary. One proline cause of accidents is the wants of proper intelligence or. vigilance on the part of railway servants. As a rule they are both underpaid and overworked. It is impossible in the latter case that the tenison of the faculties which their duties demand can be maintained for a sufficient period and if the pay be reduced, as it generally is, to the lowest amount for which lllPn can be engaged, it is hardly likely that the services of competent and responsible men can be sscured. The companies appear to have much yet to learn in these particulars and the sooner the .lesson is enforced upon their attention by the Board of Trade, the better for the public.



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