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Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

Footpaths Along Railways.
Letter from Dr. A. Russel Wallace. (S482a: 1893)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A letter suggesting the installation of public footpaths to "Mr. Fowler," printed on page 3 of the 8 November 1893 issue of The Leeds Mercury. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S482A.htm

     A letter has been addressed by Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace, as President of the Land Nationalisation Society, to Mr. Fowler, the President of the Local Government Board, in which the great scientist says--"I beg leave to call your attention to a great want in many parts of the country which can, I think, be remedied by means of a clause in the Local Government Bill, of which you have charge. During many years, I have noticed the great inconvenience to which large numbers of persons are subject, owing to the want of footpaths, or rights-of-way, in growing centres of population, and more especially in connection with access to railways stations. Almost everywhere the approach to these stations, from several directions, is very circuitous, involving unnecessary fatigue and loss of time to all foot-passengers; while the difficulties and expense of obtaining new paths are so great that I have never known an instance of one being made. In a great many cases, however (partially, perhaps, in all), the desired short path could be obtained by a right of way along the railway itself. And, for many other reasons, such as affording pleasant walks where footpaths are scarce, or providing a short-cut between villages and hamlets, such right of way would be beneficial. I believe that railways are legally public highways, subject to special conditions of use. If the company does not provide means of transit, they are bound to allow the use of the road on fixed terms to those who will provide it, and Parliament has interfered in many ways to protect the public. Unfortunately, the use of the lines as footpaths was not specially secured to the public, but I submit that such use follows from the general principle that Railway Acts are granted not for private gain, but for the public benefit, and I urge, therefore, that it be now given by the Legislature in all cases where the Parish or District Councils think it would be useful, such Council making the necessary gates or stiles, and keeping the path in order. The path might in most cases run alongside the railway fence, where there is usually ample room for a single person to walk either at the top of the cutting or the bottom of the embankment, as the case may be. It is hardly likely that the companies would seriously object, since everything that facilitates access to their stations must be for their benefit. It they ask for compensation, the reply will be, 'You obtained your powers solely for the public benefit; your lines have in many ways affected the public injuriously; the convenience now claimed for the public will do you no injury; you will be put to no expense; nothing will be taken from you; for what, then, do you claim compensation?' It may no doubt be objected that such a clause will add to the difficulty of passing the bill. I am inclined to think, however, that it would satisfy such a very common want as to be exceedingly popular, and therefore would not be seriously opposed. In no other way can so great a public convenience be obtained with so little difficulty and expense."

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