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The Committee beg to refer to the evidence of Mr. Telford for an explanation of the mode by which the contracts have been managed, and to the evidence of Mr. Milne for an explanation of the manner in which payments have been made to the contractors.
An account, which is given in the Appendix, contains the salaries and other charges paid under the direction of the Commissioners.
It appears that the total sum paid for works amounts to 697,637/. 10s. 6d.; and that the sum paid in fifteen years for charges of management amounts to 28,460/. 4s. Id. This charge is something under four and a quarter per cent on the expenditure. The sum of 4,583/. 4s. Id. has been paid for parliamentary fees in passing Acts, and for exchequer fees; and 2,821/. 8s. 5d. for solicitors bills for passing Acts of Parliament, and other general business.
The Committee find that the Commissioners, immediately upon the harbours of Holyhead and Howth being placed under their management, in the year 1823, reduced the amount of the salaries to officers 611/. 7s. 6d. a year, and that they have subsequently dispensed with the services of two assistant engineers: the number now employed is, one between London and North Wales, another in North Wales, who has the care of the suspension bridges and the harbour of Holyhead, and superintends all the road business of the Commissioners; and a third, who has the care of the harbour at Howth, and of the road from Howth to Dublin.
In the Appendix an account is given of the additional Tolls levied for the repayment of loans advanced for the improvement of the road between London and North Wales; the amount of the loans advanced by the Commissioners for the loan of exchequer bills on the credit of these tolls is 44,000/., and the amount of the repayments which have been made is 32,781/.
Sir Henry Parnell and Mr. Telford have been examined on the present state of the roads, embankments, bridges, and harbours; and the Committee have to represent, that these works are in a perfect condition, and likely to continue so, in consequence of the complete and durable manner in which they have been constructed.
The Committee beg to refer to the letters, which they have inserted in the Appendix, of several coach proprietors and coachmen, as showing the benefits derived from one of the last pieces of road-work which have been executed by the Commissioners.*
The Committee have to observe, that, although the expenditure on these works, in the course of the last fifteen years, has been considerable, great advantages have been derived to the public from the improved state of the road, and the more rapid and regular communication between England and Ireland; a large saving has been effected by several measures of public economy which have been adopted in consequence of the improvement in the communication between London and Dublin: such, for instance, as the abolition of the separate revenue boards, and the transferring of the chief management of all the revenue affairs of Ireland to London. An annual sum of 12,000/. has also been saved, which was expended, before the roads were improved, in maintaining an express establishment for carrying the correspondence of government between London and Dublin; and the postage revenue on letters passing between Dublin and England has considerably increased.
As all the works have been executed by contract and competition, and as it appears that several of the contractors have failed, the Committee consider this a proof that the prices at which the contracts were made could not have been beyond what were fair and sufficient.
* This alludes to the Archway road: a few of the letters referred to are given in a previous chapter.
The Committee, on the whole, feel themselves justified in saying, from their inquiries into the proceedings of the Commissioners, that the works executed by them afford an example of road-making on perfect principles, and with complete success; and, in making this Report to the House, they cannot conclude without stating their high sense of the public and permanent benefit which has resulted from the unexampled exertions of Sir Henry Parnell, in discharging his duties as a commissioner of the Holyhead road, and from the great skill displayed by Mr. Telford in overcoming the seemingly insuperable difficulty of erecting a bridge over the Menai Strait, and also in every other work which he has executed.*
* Since 1830, further Improvements have been made by the commissioners on the English portion of the road, viz. at Flampstead Hill, Chalk Hill, High Ash Hill, Denbigh Hall Hill, Geese Bridge Valley, Knightlow, Willenhall, and Allesley Hills, and at Mountford Hill.
THE FOLLOWING ARE THE EXAMINATIONS BEFORE THE COMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS IN 1836 OF MR. JOHN PROVIS, MR. JOHN M'NIELL, AND DR. LARDNER.
Mr. John Provis, clerk and surveyor of the Shrewsbury and Holyhead road, called in; and examined.
What situation did you fill before you were appointed to that office ?—I was employed upon the improvement of the Holyhead road, and also in proving the iron-work of the Menai Bridge, under Mr. Telford.
For how many years were you under Mr. Telford ?— Fourteen years.
You have received a regular education as a civil engineer ?—Yes.
I believe you inspected several of the large contracts, under Mr. Telford, for making the Holyhead road?— Several of them.
Will you describe to the Committee the process of making a road under a contract, namely, the sort of contract and specification, drawings and inspecting, when a new piece of road is to be made; what course did Mr. Telford take? —After the survey had been made and decided upon, the first operation was that of forming the road; after that, of setting on it a pavement of sixteen feet in width, and averaging six inches in thickness, that is seven inches in the middle and five inches on the sides; and upon that six inches in depth of broken stones, with a slight covering of fine gravel, to prevent the horses feet beine injured.
What was the width of that road ?—Thirty-two feet, c c
What were the fences ?—Stone walls, four feet six inches in height, including a coping on the top.
Was this mode of making the road described in the contract?—It was.
How?—It was described in the contract by drawings and a specification pointing to each particular, and the manner in which each separate work was to be performed.
And how was the work superintended, so as to secure the performance of the contract strictly according to the agreement ?—As soon as the contract was made there was an inspector appointed to superintend the work.
And what did he do ?—He had to examine it daily, or as often as it was necessary; and then, if he found any thing wrong, it was his duty to point it out to the general surveyor or engineer.
Did you act as inspector in any contract ?—Yes, I did, to several contracts.
So that you were always enabled to see whether the contractor had faithfully performed what he had agreed to do ?—I did; I saw it properly formed before the pavement was put on, and I also saw the paving before the broken stones were laid on.
Was there any particular regularity about the pavement, about the size of the stones ?—There was; that none of them should exceed four inches in its upper surface.
In breadth ?—In breadth.
What length ?—Generally about eight or nine inches in length.
How were they set?—All set by hand, with the broadest edge downwards.
What class of workmen were employed in setting the pavement?—Labourers who, from long practice, had been accustomed to it.
The upper part of the pavement, how was that managed? —The paving was laid by hand; the stones were laid as close as they could in parallel layers, and after that the