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Log-Rolling Railways.

At every election, and not seldom in the House itself, log-rolling has been made the text of very declamatory speeches. More especially has the denunciatory power been directed against log-roll-ing as connected with railways It has been said, and not without good foundation, that members have often come to an understanding with each other, and as an outcome of such understanding there have been railways laid down in various parts of the colony, which, though greatly benefiting the particular districts they run through, have been notoriously barren of returns to the “public exchequer. The Minister for Public Works, in his statement delivered last Tuesday, made a threat that ought to exercise a very wholesome influence, if given effect to, in stopping log-rolling in the future. He hinted al levying a tax upon the districts enjoying those unproductive railways, with a view to remunerating the public funds for the outlay those lines have caused. In fact, his threat would have the effect, in other words, of making certain districts pay out of their own pockets, by direct taxation the difference between their railways’ return, and the amount Government may consider a fair return for the money expended. There are railways working in the colony at this moment that are only beneficial to a very limited area of land, and they have not conduced in any way to more extensive settlement, for the simple reason that in the districts they pierce there is no land of any use for settlement by agriculturalists. Ou the otherhand, there are extensive tracts of land in other parts of the colony that woulc' afford large areas of settlement, but no railways are near them, and the finance of the colony is not in a position to find railways for them. The whole country has thus to pay for the benefit given to those districts whoso railways are unremunerative, while the advantages of railway communication are not enjoyed by all alike. The Government seem to have determined, as far «ts thej T can, to stop this sort of thing in the futiirCj by only consenting to the construction oi such lines as will assured'y give a good return, both by the extension of settlement, and in hard cash as profit on their working ; and it is with much pleasure that we remark the whole tone of the Statement in relation to railways, which evinces a wide-awakeness to the state of affairs we can only regret has not been shown in the past, for warnings have not been wanting that “white elephants” were *here and there being fed. The following

;r.t',i L 'U"ro:n (he siaVniyut is inifii.t;. ,-juv !-.-'-.arks . * ( 7 < * 1 ’ - * • ■ J. !*(>**•' n. ■ ~ aat ua or T'T/ ill ways >■., ,1. •' >r •• ibu'ibu towards 'he : . akiUiil and economical management, and of submitting all future proposals for new railways to the same rigid scrutiny as private investors •would make, and firmly rejecting them unless a strong probability can be shown that they will prove remunerative. It must not, however, be forgotten that the demands of the public have forced on the Government the adoption of a more expensive mode" of constructing railways, and greater speed in transit than was at first intended, thus necessarily interfering with the paying character of these undertakings. No doubt great collateral advantages are gained by the construction of railways, but after all the practical test of usefulness is their being or not being used.. If, therefore, it is found that the traffic on any railway is so small that great loss results from its working, it may, I think, be assumed that either it is badly managed, or that, being useful only to a few, it ought not to have been constructed.”

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Log-Rolling Railways. Ashburton Guardian, Volume I, Issue 34, 13 December 1879

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