The Ashburton Guardian. MONDAY, JANUARY 10, 1881. The West Coast Railway.
TOWN EDITION. .. [lssued at sp.m. ]
A very commendable desire on the part of many Canterbury and West Coast residents to connect the two districts by a line of railway, has recently impelled the taking of steps to form a company for the construction of the line. The official report supplied to Government on the subject of a railway to jhb West. Coast was not favorable to the linebut there were many men, who. though not engineers, knew every foot of the way over which the rails should travel, and were perfectly satisfied that no very serious engineering difficulties would be encountered, and no disastrously costly works required. These men saw also the value that such a line would be, both to the East and the West Coast, and, believing that the results of the line, as a commercial speculation and as an agency for land 1 settlement and development of the West Coast industries, would recoup them for the outlay, they have moved in the direction we now find them. They have procured the services of two engineers, than, whom we believe none more thoroughly acquainted with the route are to be found, and those engineers have dispelled the fears that have been conjured up by previous reports, and in a few words lay before us the statement that the construction will be an easy matter. They state “ that a good, practicable line of railway can be constructed, keeping within the maximum gradient of one in fifty throughout; that • there shall be no expensive tunnelling, no central rails, and no stationery engines.” The report they laid before the public meeting held last Friday in Christchurch, is one calculated to inspire the reader with confidence in the undertaking. Mr. W. N. Blair’s report gave us to understand that the construction of a railway from Christchurch to the West Coast was simply not tc be thought of because of its cost. But at the date of his report it was not politically advisable to make that railway, or any other railway of any consequence. It is easy to understand, when we consider this* .why Mr. Blair should not have chosen to select the Cannibal Gorge as a pass to the West Coast but contented himself with : a gradient sufficient to frighten anybody who did not know that a more kindly ' passage could be obtained. Feeling ourselves justified in accepting Messrs. Thornton and Brown’s report as thoroughly reliable, and believing that the agitation, now going on proceeds from a genuine desire to connect the East and West Coasts of the Middle Island, with a patriotic view to make a wealth-producing district out of a now unprofitable wilderness, we say that a company for the formation of such a line deserves every encouragement at the hands of the public, and a fair amount of aid from Parliament But when the promoters of the scheme come forward and ask that crown lands equivalent to the amount of their outlay should be given them along the route, we unhesitatingly say that they ask too much, and what will not be given them if Parliament act loyally to the colon;'. If all that is said about the prospects of the West Coast Line as a paying concern be true, then the promoters ought to be content with those prospects and such aid in land as Parliament may choose to give them. But to ask for an equivalent in land for the cost of the railway is simply to ask Parliament to make the line for them and allow them to pocket such profits as may be made from the traffic. There are many districts in New Zealand that would supply themselves with railway lines on these terms and hand them over to Government when completed. No. If a company is to undertake such a line as a railway from the Hurunui to the West Coast would be, then let it receive such aid as a Parliament kindly to the scheme may grant it, but let it bear the responsibility of working it itself. We could find a dozen routes for railway lines in New Zealand and thousands of people to back them up, and clamor for their construction—assure us That a fortune lay at the feet of Government if they would only construct the tracks. But most of the lines how made were initiated amidst talk- of this kind, with the Railway Commission’s report as a result. We like to find men believing sturdily in the future of the districts they are interested in, and we like to hear them dilate oh the resources of those districts ; but we like better to see them have the courage of their opinions, and put their own hand to the plough. Now that Government has ceased for a time to become railway makers, and has determined on a period of rest from all expensive public works, toallow the colony to recruit itself after the bleeding she has been subjected to, it is unwise to again start to the construction of all sorts of railways, and the West Coast scheme with its equivalent of Crown land is tantamount to Government doing the work if its promoters’ terms are agreed to. We should like to see the two Coasts connected ; we believe a great amount of .good would be done by such a connection ;. th?re is a large trade to be opened up, and an extensive area of land to settle; mining industries ofevery kind would be fostered and developed by the line, • and the interests of Westland and Can*
terbury would bepome more and more identified—but all this may be accoi iplished, and yet the line be a financial failure ; while at the same time it may turn out, who knows, a great financ al success. We contend that the p: > motets' 1 of the line have no right to pet their railway by a side wind at Government expense, and having got it all w it gently to drop into Governmen ’s hands, who would be saddled with .>ll the risks that must necessarily attend it. If they have the courage of their opinions, let them satisfy themselves that the line will pay, and having done so by acceptable evidence they will have no difficulty in finding shareholders, not from amongst those who are specially benefited by the line, but from amongst the general public.
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