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Railways provide easier travel for the working classes

Taken from the Annual Register, 1832.

In a great majority of cases third-class passengers are conveyed by the same train as other passengers. In fact, the Great Western and London and South Western Railways are the only lines upon which third-class passengers are conveyed exclusively by heavy luggage-trains, and the Directors of the latter Railway have signified their intention of discontinuing the practice immediately and providing accommodation for third-class passengers in the regular passenger trains.

Upon the London and Birmingham Railway, third-class passengers are conveyed by a special train along with cattle horses and empty return waggons, but not with heavy luggage trains.

Upon all other lines where third-class passengers are carried, they are taken by mixed trains along with other passengers.

With regard to the extent of accommodation afforded to the poorer classes by railways, it will be seen that a large third-class traffic is earned on by most of the lines in the manufacturing districts of Yorkshire and Lancashire, in the coal districts of the North, and in Scotland. These lines are in a great measure dependent upon third-class passengers, who are conveyed by all or nearly all the trains at fares averaging from 1d to 1¼d. per mile. ...

The Manchester and Leeds Railway passes through or near 15 towns, between which there were formerly several carts, waggons and vans passing every hour of the day and night, with manufacturing and market produce, of which the humbler people could avail themselves at a trifling expense of money and a considerable sacrifice of time. These are now almost entirely swept away, and the market people load one or more of the railway trucks among them, paying 3d. or 4d. per ton per mile for their goods, and in many instances less than 1d. per mile for themselves. The effect has been to bring a supply of fruit, fish and vegetables within reach of those who could never obtain them formerly, and to afford very great advantages to the market people and towns.

In fine weather respectable tradespeople, clerks, etc., avail themselves of the third-class carriages to a considerable extent; but the bulk of the half a million third-class passengers who are carried on this railway in the course of the year are strictly the working classes, weavers, masons, bricklayers, carpenters, mechanics, and labourers of every description, some of whom used formerly to travel by carts, but the greater number on foot.

The fare from Manchester to London by railway and steam-boat via Hull is 14s; and many of the labouring classes avail themselves of this mode of conveyance, especially during summer. In one respect a remarkable use has been made of the facilities afforded by railway communication. On the occasion of several strikes, when there was a press of work, bodies of workmen have been engaged in London and carried to Manchester, and vice versa ...

But upon the long lines, which form the main lines of communication with the metropolis, and upon which there is a great through traffic, the case is very different, and the number of third-class passengers is inconsiderable. The whole number, for instance, of third-class passengers carried on the London and Birmingham and Grand Junction Railways, between London, Manchester and Liverpool, is less than the number carried by the Arbroath and Forfar Railway and not a seventh part of the number carried between Newcastle and North Shields.

Upon these lines it is questionable whether the interests of the proprietors will ever induce them to encourage the development of a large third-class traffic. It is satisfactory, however, to find that there is a growing disposition among railway companies, thus circumstanced, to afford the accommodation of at least one tram a day by which the poorer classes may be conveyed at reduced fares. We are informed that the result of the experiment of running a third-class train upon the London and Birmingham Railway has been very satisfactory, the persons who have availed themselves of it having been, with few exceptions, of a class who could not have afforded to pay second-class fares; and it is expected that the number of this class of passengers will greatly increase when the advantages to be derived from the great saving of time are more generally known.

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Last modified 4 March, 2016

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