Joseph Locke, M.P., President of the Institution of Civil Engineers,' of England, in an address on this subject a short time ago, gave some highly interesting information, the pith of which we present to our readers. In England, when a company are desirous of forming a railroad, an act of Parliament has to be obtained, and this costs a vast sum of money. The line is then constructed, and when in working order, it would seem to be the aim of each company to spend as much as possible in legal contention. From a return published in 1854 we learn that no less than $20,000,000 were expended by 99 railways in legal and parliamentary expenses, exclusive of the London and Northwestern, Great Western, and several other of the largest com_ panies. Taking all lines into accpunt, it is supposed that not less than $50,000,000 has been thus extravagantly thrown away. The parliamentary and legal expenses of English railways have varied from $5,000 to $12,000 per mile. In like manner exorbitant prices have been paid for land. There are instances on record where property worth $25,000 has, by favor, been obtained at the slight advance of $600,000, and of land fetching from $10,000 to $50,000 per acre which was not worth one-tenth as much. In this style the shareholdershavebeen swindled; consequently the stock of English railways has depreciated in value, for want of proper and vigorous legislation on the subject. The system of opposition there so largely practiced, brought about the railway mania of 1845, and subsequent panic. In Franco, how different! There the government gives a fostering care to this species of investment and national wealth, and will allow of no railway being constructed where none is necessary ; neither will it permit two companies to run to and from the same places. The government decide* broadly on the route, and the authorities of each town through which it passes give all the assistance in their power. The preliminary survey is exhibited in each town, where it remains for eight days, and the mayor communicates the objections of the persons through whose land it passes, to a board consisting of the mayors of all places interested, the members of the Council of the Department, and the engineer of the road, when all the objections are discussed, and receive proper attention. Much more business has then to be arranged, and when everything is decided so that there can be no disputes, the line is commenced. There are now in France about 7,000 miles of railway, which have been conceded to companies, the average cost of which is $123,000 a mile; $98,000 of this amount has to be provided by the shareholders, and the remaining $25,000 is furnished by the government. In return for this, the government has the free transmission of the mails, and lays a tax of ten per cent on passengers and first class goods. As a comparison as to how these two systems have worked, it is stated that the estimated average cost of French railways has been about $123,000 per mile, while the English roads have cost about $158,000 per mile. This at once tells which system is best for the community and most profitable to the shareholders. We are happy to state that facts such as we present above have awakened the British capitalists, who are now seeking for such legislation on the subject as may place their railways on a safe basis ; and we have no doubt the House of CommonB will be unable to resist the appeal, but must form some protective measures for the public and holders of railway stock.
This article was originally published with the title "French and English Railways" in Scientific American 13, 26, 206 (March 1858)