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CHARLES E. ALLAN, M.A., LL.B.,
Barrister-at-Law, of the Inner Temple.
THE scheme adopted by the Authors has been to deal I in a series of short Chapters with the main features of the Act, and to point out the powers given by the Act, making from time to time suggestions as to what provisions it will be found necessary or convenient to have inserted in the Orders to be made by the Commissioners authorising light railways under the Act. These Chapters are followed by the Act itself, which is printed with short notes to the sections, and with the necessary references to the earlier portion of the book, to the rules of procedure made under the Act, and to the somewhat numerous statutes which it will be found necessary to consult in discussing or framing proposals for light railways under the Act.
The notes have intentionally been made as brief as the circumstances would permit, in order to avoid rendering a complete consideration of the Act as a whole difficult to the practitioner when dealing with schemes placed before him, or when before the Commission; and instead of repeating matter to be found elsewhere in the book, cross references have been inserted.
The Act is followed by a concise summary of the general purport of the Rules made under the Act, and then by the Rules themselves, briefly annotated.
Then follows an Appendix containing the important Acts which may be wholly or in part incorporated in Orders for light railways, and also those which will have to be consulted in framing or opposing schemes for railways
under the Act, or in constructing the lines after the scheme has been sanctioned. These, from the mode in which the Act is drafted, are necessarily somewhat numerous; but it is believed that all the more important will be found in the Appendix. The Act itself is so drawn as to leave to the Commissioners much discretion as to what enactments should be incorporated in their Orders, and as to how far in thus incorporating them their provisions should be modified or varied, though in the matter of the compulsory taking of lands their discretion is somewhat fettered by the provision forbidding variation of the clauses of the Lands Clauses Act, 1845, as to taking land otherwise than by agreement, a provision, it may be noted, which was not contained in the Bill as originally brought in by the Government.
It is intended by the Authors to provide a convenient book of reference for legal practitioners, members of councils, landowners, and others who may have to consider, promote, or oppose schemes for light railways, and to enable them to dispense with the necessity of having to consult numerous volumes in order to see the various Acts of Parliament bearing directly on the matter, and to afford by the notes, and by the cases referred to, some assistance in solving some of the more important of the difficulties that may arise in the practical working of the Act.
The Act itself points out in intelligible language with what modification the sections are to be applied to Scotland.
Of the value and importance of the Act there will be but little question, though it may be interesting to speculate as to how far the railways made under it will be or will become the property of the local councils as representing their communities, or as to how far existing railway companies will take advantage of the Act to extend their systems, or as to whether new companies will be formed in most instances to apply for and act under the powers afforded by the Act. The Act itself gives no special preference to either of these methods, but is open to the adoption of all or any of them, or of a combination of them.
It is no part of the duty of the Authors to form any opinion as to which method is likely to be preferred, or is, in general, preferable, even if they had the means of so doing; and they do not pretend to offer any opinion thereon.
It will, however, be of interest to mention that the Right Hon. W. L. JACKSON, M.P., Chairman of the Great Northern Railway Company, a gentleman of great experience and authority on railway matters, stated at a Conference convened to consider the question of Light Railways by the Board of Trade in 1894, that the general impression made upon his mind by what he learned with regard to light railways in Ireland during his period of office as Under-Secretary of State for Ireland, had been in no way altered by subsequent observation and consideration, and that was, that wherever arrangements could as conveniently be made that the lines to be constructed should be worked in connection with, and by the adjoining existing railway, as by any other means, that that arrangement should be adopted, and that in most instances an existing railway could make arrangements for the construction of the line more cheaply and more satisfactorily than an independent company, and generally work it more cheaply.
It may, perhaps, be added that the value of a light railway as a feeder to the company owning the main line should, in many instances, afford a powerful incentive to existing railway companies to render what assistance they can to well-considered schemes.
In Belgium, a country where lines similar to the proposed light railways are in successful operation, it may be noticed that the lines have been assisted or promoted by a national company formed for that purpose