The Ashburton Guardian. Magna Est Veritas, Et Prevalebit. FRIDAY, JANUARY 13, 1882. Our Railway Tariff.
TOWN EDITION. [lssued at 4.30 p.m. j ■ WHI 111 HIM
The subject of the passenger rates on our railways is a question that has been brought prominently under notice since the present Government commenced to run the cheap night trains at holiday times. The number of people who availed themselves of the opportunity to visit distant parts of the colony on those occasions was undoubtedly very large, and consequently we should think the experiments were a success from a pecuniary point of view. To judge by the long trains, with their living freight, which passed through Ashburton north and south on Christmas aud New Year’s eves, we should say that the fares only need “ popularising,” and there would be an end to the beggarly array of empty carriages we so frequently see drawn up at the railway platform. Of course the whole matter resolves itself into this : Is the number of the travelling public in New Zealand sufficiently large to warrant a reduction of the fares ? Taking the Middle Island, we have a population of about 245,000 in round numbers, and the total number of passages booked on the Amberley-Bluff section of the railway during the last financial year was 1,896,000, as against 2,028,026 for the preceding year, being a dimunition of 132,026. This, it will be conceded, is a miserably poor result, when we consider that included in the section under notice are three short port lines —Lyttelton, Port Chalmers, and the Bluff, each carrying a large number of the floating population. Looking at the success of the experiment in the matter of cheap fares on the recent holidays, we certainly think the railway authorities would do well to give them a twelvemonth’s trial, commencing say from the beginning of the next financial year. Various methods have been propounded by which the railways would be made to pay working expenses and interest on the cost of their construction, one of which was that the North and South Island lines should be placed under separate management. For this we see no necessity. In our opinion the railways, both of the North and South Island, will pay handsomely if a change is made in the direction we have indicated. Possibly, as an experiment, the authorities, might try a reduction of say a penny a mile on the slow trains on the mainline and the branch trains, letting the express tariff remain as at present. This, we think, would have the effect of lessening the number of stoppages by the last-named train, thus enabling the journey to be performed in much less time than at present. What we have written with regard to the passenger rates applies equally to the goods tariff. Bring down the rates so that the road cannot compete with the rail, and in a few months’ time there will be an appreciable difference in our railway returns. We hope the experiment may be made, and if it is, we have little doubt the result will fulfil the expectations of those who have long advocated a reduction in the tariff, both for goods and passengers.