Friday 1st February 1878
The Level Railway Crossings at Radstock
Major ALLEN asked whether it was the fact that the Lord Chief Justice and Mr. Justice Mellor, in their judgement of the 19th of November last, re Bristol and Somerset and the Somerset and Dorset Railway Companies ruled that the law was powerless to protect the public from the danger and nuisance at Radstock, where those competing lines obstructed the turnpike road in the middle of the town with two level crossings within 60ft of one another; and whether he could see his way to remedying the grievance complained of.
The ATTORNEY-GENERAL As I appeared for the Board of Trade in the case to which allusion is made in the question of the hon. and gallant member, I have been requested by my right hon. friend the President of the Board of Trade to reply on his behalf. The application which was made to the Queens Bench Division of the Court, and with reference to which the Lord Chief Justice and Mr. Justice Mellor gave judgement on the 19th of November last, was an application under the Railway Clauses Act, 1863, Section 7, for a mandamus to oblige the Bristol and Somerset and the Somerset and Dorset Railway Companies (whose lines cross the turnpike road in the town of Radstock at a very short distance from each other on the level) to make a bridge for the purpose of carrying the turnpike road over their lines. It was clear from the nature of the case that a bridge over one of the lines of railway would be of no service, - indeed, could not be made, and in order that a sufficient viaduct should be constructed it was essential that both companies should join in the work. It appeared, however, that the Bristol and North Somerset Company was absolutely without funds and practically defunct, having made over its undertaking to the Great Western Company in perpetuity, and that if a mandamus were issued against the Bristol and Somerset Company it could not be enforced. The Court, therefore, decided, in the exercise of its discretion, to refuse the application altogether. With respect to the Great Western Company, the advisability of applying for a mandamus against them was considered by the legal advisers of the Board of Trade; but these gentlemen came to the conclusion that there is no obligation upon that company to make or join in making the necessary works. I fear there is no remedy for the grievance complained of unless the Legislature be resorted to. It is to be regretted that the railway companies originally induced Parliament to sanction the crossing a highway on the level by two lines of railway placed so near to each other as to create danger. (Hear).
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